About the customer
The aim of the Direct Mail Company, a subsidiary of Post AG CH with 200 full-time and 5,000 part-time employees, is to be the most competent partner for direct marketing in Switzerland. Its core business is the distribution of unaddressed leaflets and promotional material to up to 2.1 million households, spread over almost 5,900 distribution routes. Along with the parent company, it is one of the most relevant players in the market. It fulfils a bridging function between suppliers and consumers, with the capacity to transport the advertising message competently and on schedule.
A central component of corporate strategy is a proactive approach to the future and the adjustments to the corresponding challenges that this entails. Whereas all brochures were previously sorted by hand, this is now mechanised. This speeds up the process, thus permitting shorter reaction times. This also requires necessary adjustments in data processing to assure a solid basis. Until now, the massively large quantity of data could not be centrally evaluated.
The main concern of Daniel Steiner, CFO of the Direct Mail Company and his team, was to create a single internal information platform for all evaluations. This base was to provide all relevant KPIs, diverse types of turnover breakdown and comparisons, target specifications, average prices and CRM data. With this platform, all employees involved have a process-oriented "professional tool" for their daily work. Ultimately, the new facility will allow clear and useful evaluations and help increase the capacity to react.
The following challenges were to be addressed by the new business intelligence solution:
- Different data sources: The Direct Mail Company drew figures on sales, customers, employees, etc. from various programs, but wished to represent everything on one platform which was accessible to all employees. The various interfaces had to be incorporated into the new application.
- Missing consolidated figures: One reason for this was the geographical scattering of the stakeholders. In the past, no daily or automatic evaluation of all numbers was possible. However, the Direct Mail Group requires consolidated and up-to-date figures, so that everyone is on the same page and there is only "one truth".
- Non-uniform evaluations via Excel: Each department compiles its own Excel reports. Data was derived from different sources: Excerpts from the ERP software, logistics data etc. Under these circumstances, a common basis for discussion was often lacking.
- Access for different employees: The solution should be able to be used by all eligible employees. Users are widely interspersed across human resources, marketing, production, finance, senior management and, ultimately, the parent company. All these departments have different requirements in terms of what, how and why they want to evaluate. The application should be accessible to all employees, but with clearly defined authorisation levels.
- Flexibility and speed: Demands on flexibility and speed by employees and customers are on the increase. This tool should improve matters on both fronts, thanks to simpler processes.
"We want a "professional tool" which outputs all the necessary facts and figures at the appropriate levels." - Daniel Steiner, CFO, Direct Mail Company
A strong partner for the implementation of concrete ideas
The idea of a business intelligence solution had existed for some time in the Direct Mail Company - but it lacked the right partner to put it into practice. Technical competence to link the various interfaces was a vital factor, as was an open way of working and the capacity to collaborate closely with internal contact persons. At an initial meeting, it soon became clear that Informatec was the right partner to develop and implement this project.
"Our collaboration has been more than successful. This partnership type of cooperation yields synergies and accelerates processes." - Daniel Steiner, CFO, Direct Mail Company
A business intelligence tool was developed, tailored to the needs of the Direct Mail Company. It has the following features:
- The existing solution of Informatec called iVIEW, which by default offers the analysis of the essential modules of the Abacus business software, was custom developed for the Direct Mail Company to incorporate other relevant interfaces. Thanks to the flexibility of the application, all necessary data sources could be included.
- The tool works on-line with different terminals. The users do not need to download anything in order to use it, which facilitates accessibility.
- The frontend was adapted to specific needs. The dashboards were designed together with the contact person, so that all relevant figures appear and the necessary analyses can be carried out.
- All the specifics of the Direct Mail Company could be taken into account, such as the cost centre structure or the separation of accounts receivable and statistical clients.
- The application has a Management Information System (MIS) function. This is specifically geared to senior management and the board of directors and includes all figures relevant to them, without requiring them to carry out the evaluations themselves. The KPIs were determined by the Chief Financial Officer and the General Manager.
- The data are updated daily.
- A detailed access concept regulates the permission levels and guarantees that the employees only have access to the data relevant to them.
The various stakeholders were closely involved in the process. Right at the outset, in the preparation of the balanced scorecard with the desired ratios underpinning the project, the requirements were obtained from the respective departmental heads. Development took place in close contact with the future users to adapt the software to their needs.
Application areas and uses
The solution developed for the Direct Mail Company is user-friendly and clear. In it, the numbers of all upstream systems are brought together. In this one place, employees can now find the "one truth", which was the target defined at the beginning of the project. The figures and evaluations are consolidated and reliable, which makes planning and communication easier for all involved. The effort of reporting has been significantly reduced. Many reports can be generated automatically. In order to make comparisons, for example with latest annual or monthly data, formerly the appropriate phrase had to be searched for in the folder. Today this is possible with a single click. Daily updates increase relevance and hence responsiveness. This is a big step forward in comparison to the previous monthly reporting. The various stakeholders will benefit from all the new data analysis possibilities:
- The financial department can analyse and process profitability figures with a few clicks. While the workload has been reduced, the reliability of the figures has increased.
- Personal data primarily serves the financial and personnel departments. The former uses the hourly or salary figures for their own business calculations. The latter benefits mainly from simpler evaluations of staff turnover, accidents, daily sickness allowance, number of staff, field inventories, etc.
- The Sales Department uses the tool to carry out its core tasks. Important information, such as the highest sales, sales per month, the number and type of new customers, etc. can easily be viewed. In accordance with the authorisation concept, each member of the sales team has access to their own personal statistics, which can be used to optimise their own sales. Thus a salesperson can correctly assess his or her own performance, which should also have a motivating effect. Previously, this was cumbersome and was only prepared once a month by the sales manager, in collaboration with a financial assistant. In this case, not only the sales department benefits: the supporting activities carried out by the finance department are no longer needed and employees can focus on their real work.
A project is truly successful when it is actually used by employees.
This already became apparent a short time after implementation. To ensure that all employees can benefit, training and an internal contact person are important. Since the tool is demonstrably useful in everyday work situations, it is already clear that the benefits will continue to expand. The basis for a successful future has been created.
The solution should ultimately be a fundamental support for daily tasks, for many years to come. It should automatically show every movement and map all KPIs from the upstream programs. To this end, further data will be incorporated, for example from work rosters or production as well as route management. In addition, relevance can be increased by supplying updates several times a day.
"We are pleased to be able to expand the tool further. We have not yet reached the limits - especially since we shall also map the whole route controlling and customer management on the platform and thus achieve the best possible process transparency." – Daniel Steiner, CFO, Direct Mail Company