Leading catalogue retailer HomeChoice has won rapid and enthusiastic user acceptance for its implementation of new-generation business intelligence (BI) tool QlikView. The software has improved efficiencies and enabled better use of valuable skills, says HomeChoice ICT Director Lorraine Cock.

“HomeChoice manages hundreds of thousands of stock keeping units (SKUs) with high order volumes, around 30,000 per month,” says Cock. “We have a very high need for IT systems that can support sophisticated analysis and forecasting, for our marketing and merchandising departments in particular. Unlike traditional retailers, we go directly to our customers and so we need to know them as well as possible.”
The company previously ran an older BI system on top of a data warehouse developed in-house, but realised during 2006 that it needed a more sophisticated, user-friendly tool that would enable it to extract the greatest value from the five years’ worth of detailed data it had gathered.
“We asked several software vendors to do us a proof of concept and then gave our test users a detailed checklist so we could rate the alternatives rationally,” says Business Information consultant Upuli De Abrew. “QlikView emerged as the clear leader among both users and technical staff. They used our own data to create a proof of concept model that actually answered real questions about our business. They produced more in five days than anyone else could in a few weeks.”
Cock says that where no more than ten people ever used the previous BI system, QlikView has rapidly built to 40 users in the six month since its implementation. “Our senior executives and analysts feel very empowered,” she says.
“Our ERP team has seen a drastic reduction in the number of data requests, and yet the business has better information than ever before. What previously took hours or even days of hard work with spreadsheets can now be achieved in minutes. Once people see it in action they’re instantly converted, and it has continued to deliver on the early promise it showed.”
Cock adds that QlikView has also offered much better value for money than its rivals. “In every other case we were looking at tools that offered less, with astronomical licensing charges and heavy hardware requirements. QlikView’s compression factor means a much lower hardware burden in addition to its speed and ease of use. You do need good memory if the in-memory processing is to work at its best, though.”
QlikView’s ease of use has also enabled HomeChoice to be almost completely self-sufficient since implementation. “The technical teams were put through a couple of days of training and they’ve taken complete ownership of the system,” says De Abrew. “They have hardly any need for external support.”