Growing a healthy garden is similar to growing a healthy business — you need the right amount of sunlight in just the right spots. The exploding popularity of business intelligence (BI) software is a testament to this requirement, as companies recognize the need to pull critical data out of the shade and into the light.
At The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, a new business strategy focused on regionalization presented the IT team with an opportunity to bring near-real-time BI tools to its sales staff. Building on an existing SAP NetWeaver Portal implementation with SAP BusinessObjects solutions, Scotts was able to deliver a full-featured workbench that empowers its sales staffers to receive and review relevant product information, and act quickly on that information to boost sales.
“This was a major initiative for the company, and we were able to come to the table with proven technology that we knew would work,” says Dave Judson, Senior Director of Business Intelligence & Content and Collaboration Management at Scotts.
For a company like Scotts, a leading marketer of branded consumer products for lawn and garden care, business is highly seasonal — so real-time inventory, shipment, and point-of-sale (POS) data is critical. Insufficient data can lead salespeople to miss narrow windows of opportunity.
“Being seasonal doesn’t mean that we only sell in April and May. For example, we have multiple fertilizer products — some that sell in the spring, some in the summer or late fall. Therefore, the seasonality of products can be all through the year. And some seasons are only four weeks long for some of those products, so our salespeople have to be on top of their game,” says Judson.
|Dave Judson, Senior Director, Business Intelligence & Content and Collaboration Management, Scotts
Opportunity Takes Root
In 2009, Scotts initiated a new business strategy aimed at moving closer to the local consumer, generating consumer insight, and responding to local and regional market conditions. Scotts leadership designed three new regional offices to better support an existing regional sales force — with the organization and BI approach clearly designed to drive a regional focus to gain market share through better field sales execution. Sales managers, focused on selling through to the consumer, work directly with retailers (such as The Home Depot, Walmart, and Lowe’s) and report to district market managers, who report to zone managers and the region VP of sales located in the new regional offices. The company also has a small army of merchandisers and counselors who set shelves and displays at its major retailers, as well as provide guidance to consumers about lawn and garden care directly in store aisles.
By September 2009, Scotts had updated its employee portal, called “The Garden,” to provide role-based workbenches complete with personalized productivity tools, as illustrated in the screenshot to the right. “It has been an iterative process to bring more people to The Garden to do their jobs, to create more productivity, and to continue to provide access to new capabilities through The Garden,” says Kristin Dean, Director of eBusiness Solutions at Scotts.
|“The Garden” is an employee portal that communicates Scotts’ corporate news, links integrated applications, and contains personalized productivity tools
At the same time that Scotts implemented its regional business model, the company began relying more heavily on SAP BusinessObjects BI tools, which would create more opportunity for sales improvements.
“We were looking at SAP BusinessObjects solutions for a while and already were using SAP Crystal Reports and SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius in-house. We leveraged the urgency of the regionalization initiative to quickly secure project funding approval in order to deliver the necessary business functionality in the timeframe requested,” says Judson. “Because we had a strategic investment plan in place and an urgent business problem to solve, we were able to move the approvals right along. We were ready when an opportunity presented itself and were able to deliver on a business need.”
And Scotts was ready when it spotted an opportunity to boost the efficiency of its sales professionals by empowering them with the right data. While The Garden already offered pre-built sales reports, they were too high-level to be useful to many sales managers. To get the right information, sales managers had to generate their own reports from SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse (SAP NetWeaver BW).
“There was a perception that our salespeople were spending a lot of time running reports and not enough time in the stores selling and managing the merchandise. So the sales force recognized the need to reduce the administrative reporting by our sales force so they could spend more time selling,” says Judson.
“This was a major initiative for the company, and we were able to come to the table with proven technology that we knew would work.”
Dave Judson, Senior Director, Business Intelligence & Content and Collaboration Management, Scotts
Customized Reports Delivered in a Role-Based Workbench
Scotts selected SAP BusinessObjects tools because of their ability to push information and deliver exception-based and action-oriented reports. The project team incorporated SAP Crystal Reports and SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius from the SAP BusinessObjects XI 3.1 suite into The Garden to bring the right information to the right type of employee. The goal was to meet 80% of sales employees’ needs with pre-built reports customized to their positions, delivered through The Garden’s workbench functionality.
“The key is that no matter who you are, the workbench is role-based, so you only see the reports that you need to access,” says Judson. “You see a listing of static, pre-run reports available to you. There is a degree of interactivity available to them, but it’s not actually going back into the database, so it’s very fast.”
Every sales professional has access to a high-level dashboard that provides an overview of sales data at the national, regional, district, and territory levels, as shown in the figure below. The dashboard includes a ranking system to help professionals assess their own performance.
|Scotts’ sales dashboard, built on SAP BusinessObjects Xcelsius, helps sales professionals assess their own performance
“As we all know, salespeople are competitive. That’s where their rewards come from,” says Judson. “With this dashboard, they can see how sales and POS data is progressing — and they can also see their ranking within the sales force. And that ranking can be against budget or specific to sales from previous years.”
The sales professionals have limited options for creating their own reports, because the point of the project was to free up more of their time for selling. Instead, the project team spent considerable time gathering requirements around which static reports to include (see the sidebar “Be Smart About Requirements” below for more about how Scotts approaches requirements gathering).
Sales professionals at Scotts had been running reporsts from SAP NetWeaver BW for almost a decade, so the project team had a good idea of the types of reports they were using. The final mix of created reports totaled around 2,700 role-based and predrilled report views, including some very specific, heavily formatted reports that would only interest a field-level sales professional, as well as some highly stylized reports for executive-level users.
The reports fall into four categories: sales, POS, opportunity, and a master dashboard. The most useful reports, according to the team, are those that provide actionable insight based on customer needs. The opportunity report, for example, provides sales professionals with a snapshot of their product inventories compared to past years.
Thus far, the sales workbench has yielded positive results, according to the team members — including these main benefits:
- Provided a new customized communication vehicle built on existing SAP NetWeaver Portal technology
- Organized all sales resources into a single, consolidated workbench
- Delivered enhanced web analytics
While the project is still being rolled out, sales professionals have already reported high user satisfaction and greater productivity.
“They’re able to spend more time in the store and rely less on administrative tasks. That has a lot to do with the reporting we are pushing to the users rather than having the users pull and create the sales information themselves,” says Judson.
The sales team tracks its performance with a combination of anecdotal and statistical metrics. A recent annual sales conference afforded the opportunity to interview sales professionals from various locations and job titles about The Garden, yielding overwhelmingly positive and unsolicited feedback. For example, one sales manager from Scotts’ Northeast region said, “Wow, what a fantastic addition to The Garden! The one-stop for sales/POS is a great idea.” The Scotts team can also track usage of The Garden through a metrics-tracking system that offers insight into which pages and views are most heavily used.
|Eddie Kirk, a sales manager based in Indiana, repositioning and updating a product display at a major retail partner’s store
Balaji Srinivasaraghavan, Manager of Enterprise Portals at Scotts, says, “We are still tidying up some things and untying knots, but at the end of this process, we expect to have a survey to gather feedback and see if there is any room for more improvement.”
When Scotts employees either see or hear about the sales team workbenches, they’re telling their coworkers that they want something similar for their group, according to Karthik Palanisamy, Manager of Business Warehouse at Scotts. “That in itself indicates that while we might not be getting direct feedback, the business groups are communicating with each other, seeing the value, and thinking about how they can adapt it for themselves,” he says.
From a reporting standpoint, business users are now looking at IT in a whole new way —rather than just asking for IT to build reports. “I think, with this initiative, they’ve seen that we’re ahead of the game now and that we’ve given them a state-of-the-art, cutting-edge way to look at data,” Palanisamy says. “They’re looking at us more as partners. They want to listen to us and see what we bring to the table — instead of the one-way street mentality where they say, ‘Go build this for us.’”
The project had other benefits as well, including making life easier for the IT staff, says Srinivasaraghavan. “Before, we had five workbenches that needed to be maintained. If we had gone regional with that system, we would have had five workbenches for each of the five regions, amounting to 25 workbenches,” he says. “From a security standpoint, that would have made it difficult to onboard and offboard associates. Now that we have it all in one neat security model, the security team has had a much easier time managing everything.”
The same applies to content administrators and the portal team, who benefit from the efficiency of a central distribution and maintenance point.
The success of the project has prompted Scotts to enhance The Garden even further. In the future, the company plans to integrate advanced Web 2.0 capabilities, including forums, wikis, blogs, and other collaboration tools, plus personal profiles and cross-browser compatibility.
Currently, the company is upgrading to SAP NetWeaver BW 7.01. The team has also created a roadmap for upgrading SAP BusinessObjects XI, implementing SAP NetWeaver BW Accelerator, and integrating SAP BusinessObjects Explorer and SAP BusinessObjects Advanced Analytics.
In the meantime, the revamped portal has already delivered insight from the SAP BusinessObjects BI toolset, empowering Scotts’ sales workers to stay ahead of the competition. For the IT team, the project has not only offered an opportunity to implement cutting-edge BI tools, but also ensured its place as a strategic partner for the business.
“I think, for the first time, we are ahead of the business,” says Judson. “Now, when someone has a request for IT, we can point them to something already created rather than asking for funding to figure it out. Compared to, say, four years ago, we’ve matured. We now have a platform that has the capabilities the business needs.”
|The Scotts project team (L to R): Krishna Thallavarajalla, Dave Judson, Balaji Srinivasaraghavan, Karthik Palanisamy, Kristin Dean, and Dhaya Chandrasekaran