This case study discusses the work achieved by element61 & Lessius Mechelen together with Biobest. For and not at (!) this customer a BI-Saas solution was created using Microsoft SQL Server Azure technology. The main focus of the solution was Sales reporting & analysis.
Biobest was founded by Dr. Roland De Jonghe, who started this family business in his garage back in 1987. Today they are a worldwide authority in the production of bumblebees for biological pollination and beneficial insects and mites for biological pest control for protected crops.
Biobest employs more than 400 people worldwide, of which a little more than 100 are working in Westerlo, Belgium, where the headquarters of the company is located. Biobest has facilities in Belgium, Canada, France, Mexico, Turkey and Spain. Biobest delivers in over 50 countries on a worldwide scale. They have an annual turnover of approximately 20 million euro. Currently Biobest is owned by Compagnie du Bois Sauvage, Floridienne and Domaine d'Argenteuil.
Biobest was coping with certain challenges and difficulties related to insight in their management information :
- A customized Microsoft Navision ERP system, which is used within different countries and entities in a non-standardized manner. Additionally, not all entities are using the Microsoft ERP solution.
- Forecasting and budgeting is done in Excel.
- Biobest works via distributors on a worldwide scale.
- Security is a key requirement ; a legal entity should only see its own management information.
- Reporting is done in a very time-consuming and ad-hoc way using Microsoft Excel.
- Account managers act too much from a pure advisory role instead of showing a more commercial flair, based on insight of the importance of the relationship, towards their customers.
- Account managers are constantly visiting customers with no direct access to current information.
- Lack of one version of the truth.
- Lack of transparent data definitions ; e.g. product hierarchy classification.
- Lots of data quality issues exist within the current ERP solution.
- Uncertainty about the correctness of certain, current figures.
- Uncertainty about where which kind of information can be found.
- Limited budget for reporting and analysis.
- Internally only 1 FTE (50%) is available for ICT.
The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) subsidies projects that diminish inequalities between regions, increase competition, create employment and reinforce cohesion between regions. The objective of the ERDF project "SaaS BI for Small & Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs)" is assisting SMEs in implementing a Business Intelligence (BI) SaaS platform (software as a service) to enable better business performance management and more efficient management information for reporting and analysis purpose. Often SMEs are frightened to start using Business Intelligence, thinking that such a setup is too complex and too expensive for a SME. This project can helps in fighting these preconceptions.
Promotors of this initiative are Lessius Mechelen together with element61.
Based on our methodology elementary, which combines the best elements from proven industry practices, real-world lessons learnt and leading project methodologies, element61 designed and built a Business Intelligence solution, where the following aspects are worthwhile being highlighted:
- Application of a BI-method, which is able to focus on the core BI-project components in a very short time frame. Here the necessary attention was given to: a correct project scoping, a clear-cut requirement analysis, appropriate data modeling, the necessary source profiling & analysis, a source-to-target definition and finally the design & build of the required reports.
- Only a very short time frame was foreseen for establishing a complete solution, therefore it was quite essential that Biobest, who had no relevant BI nor data warehousing background at all prior to the project start, were guided in this BI journey in a true coaching and knowledge sharing mode. An important part of the efforts were executed by internal Biobest staff; source data analysis and interface delivery.
- A classical & proven Data Warehouse 2-layer approach : a staging area and a Kimball star scheme oriented data warehouse layer.
- Automated error tracking based on the Kimball screening technique.
- The Microsoft SQL Azure reporting solution as a 100% Business Intelligence in the cloud technology platform.
The architecture of the project consisted in combining classic & proven Microsoft technology & BI-cloud specific Microsoft technology.
- Microsoft is used as back-end environment:
- Microsoft SQL Azure DB is used as database
- Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services 2008 is used as ETL tool
- Microsoft is used as front-end environment:
Microsoft SQL Azure Reporting
element61 has been responsible for the following roles & activities:
- Definition of a Business Intelligence roadmap
- Project management
- Requirement analysis
- Definition of the architecture
- Microsoft technology expertise
- Pro-active follow up of new BI-cloud developments at Microsoft
- Installation of all components
- Design & build
- Coaching of the customer
Although Biobest has just taken its first step in terms of Business Intelligence, various benefits are already being established.
To quote the customer - Jean-Marc Vandoorne (CEO Biobest):
- "Data which was scattered across different systems before has now been assembled in one central place and has been turned into valuable information.
- "The availability of information through easy accessible reports triggers new business questions and at the same time questions the way business is done today.
- "Information can now be shared easily between various functions within an entity.
- "Area managers can tightly follow up on their customers needs based on correct figures.
- "Sales persons in the fields have a near 360 degrees view on the customers they are dealing with.