Ashfield In2Focus gains greater insight into sales performance

Rapid, easy access to sales data with IBM Cognos Business Intelligence

Published on 17-May-2011

"Going forward, IBM Cognos Business Intelligence will continue to play a key role in helping us deliver the data we need to make good business decisions and further enhance the level of service we can offer to our clients." - Mark Neate, Business Intelligence Manager at Ashfield In2Focus

Customer:
Ashfield In2Focus

Industry:
Professional Services

Deployment country:
United Kingdom

Solution:
BA - Business Analytics, BA - Business Intelligence, Information Integration, Optimizing IT

IBM Business Partner:
EnterpriseBI

Overview

Ashfield In2Focus is the UK’s largest contract services organisation that works with pharmaceutical companies to provide outsourced sales, marketing and medical services. Based in Ashby de la Zouch, the company has more than 1,300 employees. Most of these are salespeople, who work in the field, building relationships with doctors and other healthcare professionals at hospitals and surgeries across the country. Ashfield In2Focus has also expanded internationally, with successful operations in the Republic of Ireland and the USA.

Business need:
As the UK’s premier provider of outsourced sales solutions to the pharmaceutical industry, Ashfield In2Focus requires a clear understanding of sales performance across its different teams – both for clients and internal managers. The organisation had a desire to move away from using SQL Reporting Services and was keen to find an innovative way to format results that was user-friendly and time-efficient.

Solution:
Working alongside EnterpriseBI, an IBM Business Partner, the company built a data warehouse to centralise sales data from a number of core systems, and deployed IBM Cognos Business Intelligence to analyse and present the information.

Benefits:
Delivers a range of key reports, giving a clear, easily comprehensible overview of sales performance, with the ability to ‘drill down’ into more detailed data. Reduces the time taken to generate reports, allowing more time to be spent focusing on analysis rather than data collection. Creates a secure self-service reporting environment, allowing clients to access their relevant information.

Case Study

Ashfield In2Focus is the UK’s largest contract services organisation that works with pharmaceutical companies to provide outsourced sales, marketing and medical services. Based in Ashby de la Zouch, the company has more than 1,300 employees. Most of these are salespeople, who work in the field, building relationships with doctors and other healthcare professionals at hospitals and surgeries across the country. Ashfield In2Focus has also expanded internationally, with successful operations in the Republic of Ireland and the USA.

Measuring sales performance
Ashfield In2Focus had a desire to be able to provide detailed sales reports on a regular basis over the course of its contracts, demonstrating the transparency and freedom that clients look for when working in partnership. These reports are not only required by clients – they also provide invaluable support for Ashfield In2Focus regional business managers, who use them to monitor the sales teams in each territory and ensure that their activity remains on track.

“Sales performance reporting is an absolutely critical part of our business,” explains Mark Neate, Business Intelligence Manager at Ashfield In2Focus. “Until recently, our reporting processes were based on Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services, and the data was output in a format that was not tailored to suit our needs as an organisation. We usually work on six-month or year-long contracts, and towards the end of a contract period, these reports became so large and complex that it was difficult for users to interpret them easily.”

The importance of security
Due to the nature of the security capabilities of the existing solution, setting up and maintaining self-service reports would have been extremely time-consuming. Consequently, most reports were distributed by email. The company wanted to find a solution that offered data-level security, which would allow shared reports to be set up and easily maintained so that field-based managers could access them as and when they needed.

Finding a way forward
The Ashfield In2Focus Business Intelligence team began looking for a new solution, and after reviewing a number of products, decided to implement IBM Cognos Business Intelligence. To handle the implementation, IBM recommended EnterpriseBI, an IBM Business Partner that specialises in data warehousing and business analytics solutions.

“The IBM Cognos solution had the right features to meet all of our requirements, especially in terms of its flexible analysis and presentation capabilities, and its precise control of user security settings,” says Mark. “The EnterpriseBI consultants listened to our requirements and provided the technical skills and training to enable us to complete the project successfully. Their help was particularly valuable when we were creating the data warehouse – the integration was quite complex because we have a number of different clients with varying requirements, and there are several data sources involved.”

A popular solution
Ashfield In2Focus has now rolled out the solution to the regional business managers of its syndicated sales teams, and plans to extend it to the dedicated sales teams in the near future.

“The IBM Cognos system is already popular with the BI team, and the feedback from the regional business managers has been very positive too,” comments Mark. “Instead of being bombarded with reporting spreadsheets every Monday morning, they can log in whenever they want and get the data they actually need. The information is presented in a simple, intuitive way, and it is easy for them to drill down without any need to worry about SQL queries or other technical issues. This helps them compare the performance of their own teams against other areas of the business, and take quick and decisive action whenever they identify a problem.”

Less data collection, more analysis
Mark continues: “From our point of view in the BI team, IBM Cognos gives us much more freedom to focus on real analysis, instead of spending time on collecting and formatting data. We can access the data we need in the data warehouse within a couple of minutes. In general, the process of generating monthly reports for our clients has been cut, so we can spend much more time on developing new, more innovative sophisticated analyses that deliver more value for the business.”

In the near future, Ashfield In2Focus plans to integrate a number of other systems into the data warehouse, such as its HR and finance data.

“As we add more information to the data warehouse, the scope of business intelligence within the company will increase even further,” concludes Mark. “Going forward, IBM Cognos Business Intelligence will continue to play a key role in helping us deliver the data we need to make good business decisions and further enhance the level of service we can offer to our clients.”

About EnterpriseBI
EnterpriseBI specialises in the delivery of performance management solutions to life sciences and social housing organisations. Expert in data warehousing and IBM Cognos performance management solutions, EnterpriseBI provides total support for its clients’ performance management project. With over 10 years experience of building data warehouses and implementing IBM Cognos performance management tools, EnterpriseBI can ensure that your performance management project is implemented quickly and effectively.

About IBM Business Analytics
IBM Business Analytics software delivers complete, consistent and accurate information that decision-makers trust to improve business performance. A comprehensive portfolio of business intelligence, predictive analytics, financial performance and strategy management, and analytic applications provides clear, immediate and actionable insights into current performance and the ability to predict future outcomes.

Combined with rich industry solutions, proven practices and professional services, organisations of every size can drive the highest productivity, confidently automate decisions and deliver better results.

Products and services used

IBM products and services that were used in this case study.

Software:
Cognos Business Intelligence

Legal Information

© Copyright IBM Corporation 2011. IBM United Kingdom Limited, PO Box 41, North Harbour, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO6 3AU. Produced in the United Kingdom. March 2011. All Rights Reserved. IBM, the IBM logo, ibm.com, and Cognos are trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. A current list of other IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and trademark information” at http://www.ibm.com/legal/copytrade.shtml. Microsoft, Windows, Windows NT and the Windows logo are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States, other countries, or both. Other company, product or service names may be trademarks, or service marks of others. IBM and Enterprise BI are separate companies and each is responsible for its own products. Neither IBM nor EnterpriseBI makes any warranties, express or implied, concerning the other’s products. References in this publication to IBM products, programs or services do not imply that IBM intends to make these available in all countries in which IBM operates. Any reference to an IBM product, program or service is not intended to imply that only IBM’s product, program or service may be used. Any functionally equivalent product, program or service may be used instead. All customer examples cited represent how some customers have used IBM products and the results they may have achieved. Actual environmental costs and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. IBM hardware products are manufactured from new parts, or new and used parts. In some cases, the hardware product may not be new and may have been previously installed. Regardless, IBM warranty terms apply. This publication is for general guidance only. Photographs may show design models.