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Marks and Spencer Empowers Business Analysts with Spotfire
Enables self-service BI, increases productivity, and makes a cultural shift
Retail giant Marks and Spencer wanted to empower its business analysts to learn more about the business and use that knowledge for better decision-making. “We wanted to further improve the productivity of the organization, with a particular focus on IT,” says Keith Goldthorpe, information architecture lead. “That included optimizing the number of people working on projects and improving the speed at which we could deliver solutions.”
M&S started looking for a solution that would supply self-service data access and empower employees to confidently use data to answer key business questions without IT support.
As the search for the right analytics tool ensued, several requirements surfaced, and it soon became clear that TIBCO Spotfire® was the right choice.
M&S wanted its analysts to mashup data sources—data warehouses, Hadoop databases, spreadsheets—without needing IT assistance. Says Goldthorpe, “The solution also had to be easy to support, needing low headcount and overhead.” Agility was also important, explains Pete Williams, head of enterprise analytics.
“We needed to understand the current situation and quickly share analyses. It’s not usually the analyst who’s making the decision, but the analyst is helping to structure the decision for the decision-maker. We needed to create a data visualization, then publish it so that it is automatically refreshed and was always available for a decision.
“We also needed to handle data quality issues and the flexibility to let users look at data in different ways, take their own path to finding the answer that’s right for them,” continues Williams. “So data visualization was very important because it helps people understand the information without needing to interpret it. Now we have that capability, so it’s more than a data-driven decision, it becomes common sense. Spotfire helped enable this.”
Self-Service Agility and Teamwork
Self-service data access has changed the relationship between business and IT. Where before there may have been difficulties expressing a joint requirement and structuring a service, there is now an empowered team of analysts and an IT team providing high quality data to them. “Business units are focused on problems and can turn a solution for themselves with very little IT involvement,” says Goldthorpe.
M&S wanted to bring data into the heart of every business decision, and that has happened. “I can now go to meetings where people have access to information they need and make decisions right there, while they’re in the room,” says Williams.
Greater Productivity, Improved Customer Experience
The key benefit from an IT perspective is productivity. “We have fewer people running this function because we are focused on our core strength of providing good quality data,” says Goldthorpe. “Our part goes much faster than before.” IT resource and time commitment to support business analysis has decreased by 5x.
One measure of business success is the time needed to forecast clothing inventory. In the past, it took 10 weeks twice a year using Excel tools. Today it takes two weeks, in effect gaining 16 weeks of valuable FTE time. In addition, “With Spotfire, we have the confidence that when a customer goes into one of our stores, they can see the product they want and buy it on the spot. The solution helps to ensure M&S is number one,” says Williams.
Better Supplier Performance
Spotfire has also improved supplier performance and collaboration through information sharing, which is completely new. It is proving how important it is to share information, with views of supplier performance both into and out of the business. “We can really see inside the ranges of products we offer. In the past, we haven’t appreciated the aggregation of the range. Now we are making information on what is driving profitability and sales performance more visible, which helps with trading decisions,” says Williams.
Transformation to an Information Culture
“TIBCO has been a great asset to the business’ digital mindset,” says Williams. “People are asking questions they wouldn’t have asked before. And asking one question breeds curiosity, often leading to another 10, 20, or 30 questions. It’s allowed us to develop further solutions and capabilities.”
Both Williams and Goldthorpe believe there will be further opportunities for IT and business to work together, expand the company’s data reach, and take information into new spaces where insightful decisions can be made. “Spotfire started with 10 users at the company, and interest rapidly grew. We have almost 200 users now, and the number is still growing,” concludes Williams.