Olde Thompson, a family-run spice manufacturer operating since 1944, had their processes of planning and selling inventory mastered. However, after a recent acquisition by a private equity firm and the ensuing creation of new management roles, it became clear to Olde Thompson’s Director of IT, Marcus Merchant, that enterprise analytics improvements were long overdue.
“After the acquisition, the stakeholders needed to see a common reporting structure among all their portfolio companies to guide them in making daily business decisions,” said Marcus.
Although Marcus knew that enterprise analytics and data modeling were the way forward, many challenges lay ahead. As Olde Thompson’s data landscape involves inventory, sales, and units on a colossal scale from a variety of sources, Marcus decided the primary focus must be on forecasting financials from days and weeks to months in advance.
“When dealing with big numbers, which have a tendency to become abstract and splinter down the pipeline, the goal was to extend financial forecasting to our managers, enabling them to dig into data to spot trends and easily anticipate hurdles,” said Marcus. “Olde Thompson has been in this business for decades. While we were comfortable forecasting from a demand planning side, we needed to greatly improve our financial planning side.”
Olde Thompson needed to address several data challenges. See how improving enterprise analytics with Power BI helped empower and advance their organization.
Cleaning Up Reports Instead of Gaining Deep Insights
Many organizations needlessly struggle with data-related challenges, such as wrangling multiple data sources, poor data accessibility, and communication silos that thwart collaboration between teams.
It was time for Olde Thompson to step into an automated financial forecasting environment, allowing for greater data accuracy, accessibility, and opportunity for the enterprise to achieve moonshot goals. Marcus was interested in an evolving enterprise data analytics platform that would encompass all aspects of data analysis and insights—including manufacturing analytics, inventory analytics, financial reporting, and revenue analysis—with an eye for the future.
“Our main issue was that different reports were being sent by various managers within the company, each pulling their data from different origins in our ERP system to try and manage the same area of the business,” said Marcus.
“Consequently, everyone was looking at different numbers, whether they be volume indicators, gross sales, gross margins, even inventory levels or how many units were shipped. The result? Managers were wasting hours each day cleaning up reports instead of gaining deep insights to drive business decisions.”
As Marcus dug into these data inaccuracies, he realized users were unintentionally manipulating inventory data sets when adding new products, resulting in severe data disparities across the enterprise. Trailing the source of these discrepancies, Marcus identified that data challenges often came down to inconsistency of product units.
When scheduling shipments of cases of garlic seasoning, the user may select a shipment of bottles instead, causing a mismatch in product units. To achieve successful analytics, there needed to be greater consistency among data sets—with all products aligned to a common unit that every department subscribed to, even if they were outside the ERP system.
A Single Source of Truth for Accelerating Business Needs
The time of various departments debating over data trustworthiness was over. It was painfully obvious that a single source of truth was needed so that all stakeholders within the enterprise could base business decisions on the same data.
After a positive meeting that spotlighted the Collectiv team’s Power BI consulting skills, Marcus brought Collectiv on board. Together, the teams would build a foundation of rock-solid data integration and ETL. That way relevant players across the enterprise would be provided with the single source of data points needed to fulfill accelerating business needs.
“To consolidate reporting, we knew we didn’t want to involve a consulting team that would do whatever we told them. We needed partners to challenge us and make sure we were taking a future-forward approach while following industry best practices and standards,” said Marcus.
Given the breakdown in reporting due to a lack of common units, Marcus and Collectiv decided that this issue was critical. It was a matter of getting creative and creating consistency in the master data…no more manually going in and changing the data set to accommodate a new product.
Collectiv built out a full Power BI forecasting and enterprise analytics environment—leveraging Sage 300 and Plex ERP for enterprise resource planning and integrating Azure Data Lake so that data was directly imported or exported into Azure Data Factory and Azure SQL. This gave Marcus and the Olde Thompson team the flexibility to scale up or scale down depending on the workload, delivering more accurate reporting.
Effective Enterprise Analytics with an Entirely Remote Partnership
Collectiv has always been a virtual consulting firm, so the team never missed a beat in 2020 as other organizations learned to build a remote workforce. Collectiv’s proven remote working process style allowed a seamless transition to a remote project for the Olde Thompson team, who was still getting acclimated to working remotely as an organization.
“One of the reasons I love working with Collectiv is because they take ownership of the project and are willing to push us on those pieces that we need to deliver in order for the project to be successful. Their experience working and managing projects from a remote standpoint gave us the confidence and support we needed to get this project off the ground.”
Prior to partnering with Collectiv, Olde Thompson stakeholders were working for their data instead of allowing their data to work for them. They spent hours each day cleaning up data and never being 100% certain whether the numbers were accurate. Now Marcus and his team have an effective Power BI forecasting and enterprise data analytics environment to deliver valuable insights into future trends.
“As director of IT I haven’t taken a traditional role. Since I worked in more of the operational side of the business, I was brought in to help with financial reporting,” said Marcus.
“Collectiv has done a great job helping us reach our targets. I’m confident that we’ll be in a much better place at the end of this year than I ever thought possible. Kudos to Collectiv for helping us achieve our goals.”
Follow Olde Thomson’s successful path by renewing your commitment to effective enterprise analytics. Try a Collectiv program.