Published on 25-May-2011
"The IBM Cognos Express solution that we are building with Intelligent Solutions promises to help Catnic to maintain its dominant position in the market by enhancing our ability to offer the best products at the best prices, backed up by industry-leading technical support." - Julian Parry, Senior Business Analyst at Catnic
Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Optimizing IT
IBM Business Partner:
Catnic, part of the Tata Steel group, is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of steel lintels and other building components. Based in Caerphilly, the company employs 140 people and boasts many of the UK’s largest builders’ merchants among its customers. Catnic also operates in Germany, and has built a network of distributors that sell its products across Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific region. It is the first manufacturer of steel lintels in the world to achieve ISO 14001 certification, in recognition of its leading-edge approach to environmental management.
As a leading supplier of steel lintels and other building components to some of the UK’s largest builders’ merchants and distributors, Catnic aims to maintain customer loyalty by offering attractive discounts and providing added-value services such as engineering support. To manage these aspects of the business effectively, the company needed to improve the visibility of customer-related data.
Catnic worked with Intelligent Solutions, an IBM® Business Partner, to deploy IBM Cognos® Express – a solution designed to provide mid-sized companies with enterprise-class business analytics functionalities at an affordable price-point. The solution integrates data from Catnic’s ERP system and other databases to provide a comprehensive view of customer profitability and project management.
Enables ‘what if’ modelling for major customer accounts, allowing sales teams to tweak discount models to deliver optimum value while preserving appropriate profit margins. Gives field sales teams and customer service engineers easy visibility of ongoing projects via a simple web portal. Provides a single, coherent view across the whole organisation, eliminating error-prone spreadsheets and improving data quality.
Catnic, part of the Tata Steel group, is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of steel lintels and other building components for the construction industry. Based in Caerphilly, the company employs 140 people and boasts many of the UK’s largest builders’ merchants among its customers. Catnic also operates in Germany, and has built a network of distributors that sell its products across Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia Pacific region. It is the first manufacturer of steel lintels in the world to achieve ISO 14001 certification, in recognition of its leading-edge approach to environmental management.
Staying ahead of the competition
Operating in a highly competitive industry, Catnic differentiates itself not only through the quality of its products, but also by offering customers complementary services such as technical support, and by providing extra value for money through a sophisticated bulk discount model.
“Construction is a competitive business at the best of times, and during an economic downturn, the ability to deliver the best product at the most attractive price is absolutely critical,” explains Julian Parry, Senior Business Analyst at Catnic. “Catnic needs to be able to offer generous discounts while maintaining a fair profit margin, and the key to getting the balance right is the ability to analyse sales data effectively.”
Getting more out of IBM Cognos software
Catnic has been using IBM Cognos Business Intelligence software for sales analysis for more than a decade, and recently decided to upgrade to a newer version of the software to provide deeper insight into its discount model.
“Our old sales cube had done good service for over a decade, but we were conscious that technology had moved on, and we were keen to harness the functionality and flexibility of the latest Cognos release,” says Julian Parry. “IBM suggested one of its Business Partners, Intelligent Solutions, and we began working with them to gather requirements and create a specification for the new solution.”
Working with Intelligent Solutions
The consultants from Intelligent Solutions recommended IBM Cognos Express – a solution designed specifically to give mid-sized businesses access to powerful business analytics capabilities at an affordable price point.
“Intelligent Solutions gave us a comprehensive demonstration of Cognos Express, and proved that it was more than capable of meeting our needs,” comments Julian Parry. “It was a perfect fit for our business: we particularly liked the writeback facility, which allows users to enter data directly into the Cognos interface instead of having to log in to back-end systems. Moreover, it offered excellent value for money, which helped us build a strong business case for the project even during a difficult economic period for the construction business.”
Deeper sales analysis
The Catnic and Intelligent Solutions team worked together to implement the Xcelerator and Reporter modules of IBM Cognos Express, which enable the company to analyse sales data and drill down from a top-level overview to individual customers and deals.
“The new solution automatically calculates how the various discounts affect gross and net profitability on each deal, which is a huge step forward,” says Julian Parry. “When it comes to contract negotiation time, we can look at last year’s sales data and apply ‘what if’ analysis techniques to tweak the discount model. As a result, we can make a much more accurate forecast of how profitable each deal will be, which helps us to protect our margins while ensuring that the customer is getting a good deal.”
More automation, more productivity
With IBM Cognos Express as a single, central analytics platform, Catnic avoids the need to collect and validate data from several sources, and will be able to eliminate a number of spreadsheet-based reporting processes.
“We expect to see significant improvements in data quality as we move away from spreadsheets and manual processes,” says Julian Parry. “It should also increase productivity significantly: since Cognos Express does all the number-crunching for us, we have more time to focus on analysis and enhancements.”
Looking to the future
The next step will be to extend the solution to integrate with Catnic’s project tracking system, a bespoke application known as CLASS2.
“Our technical support engineers work closely with customers to ensure they are using the right kind of lintel in every situation,” explains Julian Parry. “It’s important to keep track of how these projects are going – not just for the engineers themselves, but also for our field sales teams, so that they can spot new opportunities. At present, this information is held within CLASS2, and it’s difficult to get access to it, especially if you’re not in the office. So we plan to use Cognos Express to surface the data via a web portal, which will make it much easier for users to keep up to speed on the latest developments in each project.”
He concludes: “The IBM Cognos Express solution that we are building with Intelligent Solutions promises to help Catnic to maintain its dominant position in the market by enhancing our ability to offer the best products at the best prices, backed up by industry-leading technical support.”
About Intelligent Solutions
Established in 1999, Intelligent Solutions has successfully delivered improved reporting, analysis and planning solutions for over 300 customers and partners throughout the UK and Europe. Its dedicated and comprehensive professional services and support teams work tirelessly with customers to quickly and effectively define and realise clear business benefits from their investment and faith in Intelligent Solutions.
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.
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