Having successfully implemented Ross ERP in 1998 and Ross SCM in 2002—and propelled by an effort to transform the company from a sales-driven to a marketing-driven organization—Litehouse Foods now required a more practical, efficient way to leverage the sales and customer service data stored in its enterprise systems. “Our product is guaranteed fresh,” explained John Shaw, Litehouse Foods’ IT Director. “If it expires while on the customer’s shelf, we buy it back. We therefore work diligently to fill up our pipeline with the right quantity of the right product for each customer location. To do this well, our sales force needs timely and accurate visibility into what we are shipping versus what our customers are actually selling.”
In an effort to improve sales performance visibility, Litehouse had previously invested in a business intelligence application. However, most of the reports coming out of this tool were static. Drilling down into the data wasn’t easy, and often presented challenges, since every salesperson needed to look at data differently. To meet these demands, the IT department at Litehouse had to create and maintain dozens of customized reports. Kim Olesen, Sales Analyst at Litehouse, was tasked with report generation and maintenance. While she routinely met standard report requests within 24 hours, she often received requests for special reports that would take several days to compile. By then, the data was usually out of date and the report no longer useful
Another challenge for Litehouse was the sheer depth of their standard sales reports. Weekly and monthly sales reports were very comprehensive, forcing reps and sales managers to spend valuable time searching for relevant territory information within all of the company data. “To get what we needed, we would have to manually scan these Excel reports, perform extensive filtering and sorting, and then cut and paste until we had the right information in the right format,” commented Daren Parsons, Corporate Regional Sales Director for Litehouse Foods. “This was tedious and time consuming, and would soak up valuable time we could otherwise be spending with customers or brokers.” The company realized they needed to provide the sales force with a means to access actionable information quickly and efficiently—information that would enable them to help customers sell more of the right product at the right time.
Litehouse purchased and implemented Ross EPM (Enterprise Performance Management) Sales in 2005. A big selling point was the fact that EPM came from the same vendor as their ERP and SCM solutions, ensuring a smoother integration. Also, the ability to make transactional data available to the sales team without the need for training on these back-end systems was very attractive.
Currently, Litehouse has over 20 users on EPM Sales, including their sales force, sales analysts, financial staff, the CFO, the marketing director and IT staff.
Placing the Intelligence in Front of the Right Decision Makers
EPM Sales has enabled Litehouse to easily pull data out of Ross ERP, allowing decision makers to view important information whenever and however they need it. Users can also access the information via the Web—an important feature, since most of Litehouse’s sales force is remote. “Enabling users to drill through on their own is invaluable,” said Olesen. “For example, in the past, a sales manager knew what he wanted to communicate at a customer meeting, so he would call me to request a report which contained that information or supported his message. But once he analyzed it, he would often have more questions, requiring further drill through and analysis. This exchange could go on for a few hours—even days—until he had everything he needed. With EPM Sales, now sales can slice and dice the data very quickly on their own.” “Basically, EPM Sales enables us to efficiently make the right information available to the right individual—the sales person or sales manager who needs to make critical sales and promotional decisions,” added Shaw. “EPM Sales puts the power of the information at the fingertips of the person who can make a difference. If they have a question, rather than waiting a day or two, they can find the answer in about three minutes. This translates to faster and better decisions, which in turn translate into improved service and sales performance.”
More Time to Analyze the Data
Furthermore, Olesen estimates she is now saving at least 8 hours every week in data gathering activities alone. This productivity improvement has enabled her to spend more time analyzing the data, pointing out important facts within reports, even generating other supporting reports based on her analysis. She can now spend more time addingvaluable intelligence to the reports so the sales force can make better decisions.
Finally, EPM Sales enables Litehouse to run reports over longer time horizons, something they could only previously accomplish through a tedious manual process. “In the past, most of our reports would only go back one year,” explained Parsons. “While that’s adequate in most situations, sometimes you need to be able to go back in time and show a trend. Now, if I want to go back five years, I can do that. If I want to compare Q2 of this year with Q2 of the previous two years, I can do it without having to find old Excel files and do extensive merging, filtering and sorting.” “The potential of this tool is incredible; we’ve only scratched the surface,” Parsons added. I’m excited about how EPM will help us further improve our customer relationships in the years ahead.