All in with online, can J.C. Penney get up to digital speed?

I had a few occasions chatting with the IT people of the company in the past few years. They were reluctant to adapt to the on-line trend of the retail market. One year, they wanted to expand their on-line catalog business; the next year, they closed the on-line catalog business and moves the majority of their IT people overseas in the following years. This time, it appears that the new SVP, Mike Amend, hired from Home Depot, is ready to face the on-line retail business challenges.

This article highlights a lot of positive actions for the company to transition itself from a traditional retail business to an on-line one.

  1. Recognizing its market strength: Research from comScore tells Penney that its customers have household incomes of $60,000 to $90,000, and they tend to be hardworking, two-income families living both in rural and urban settings. They don’t have the discretionary income to commit to membership fees.
  2. Last month, Penney added the ability to ship from all its stores, which immediately made about $1 billion of store inventory available to online customers and cut the distance between customer and delivery.
  3. About 80 percent of a store’s existing inventory is eligible for free same-day pickup.
    Last week, it offered free shipping to stores with no minimum purchase. Large items like refrigerators and trampolines are excluded.
  4. JCPenney.com now stocks four times the assortment found in its largest store by partnering with other brands and manufacturers.
  5. More than 50 percent of its online assortment is drop-shipped by suppliers and doesn’t go through Penney’s distribution. Categories added range from bathroom and kitchen hardware to sporting goods, pets and toys
  6. JCPenney.com now has one Web experience regardless of the screen: phone, tablet or desktop.
  7. Its new mobile app and wallet include Penney’s new upgraded Rewards program. Customers can book salon appointments on it. The in-store mode has a price-check scanner.
  8. Penney set out to “democratize access to the data,” so that not only the technical staff could understand it, now dashboards and heat maps allow the artful side of the business — the merchants — to measure such things as sales to in-stock levels or pricing to customer behavior.

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One-Page Data Warehouse Development Steps

Data warehouse is the basis of Business Intelligence (BI). It not only provides the data storage of your production data but also provides the basis of the business intelligence you need. Almost all of the books today have very elaborated and detailed steps to develop a data warehouse. However, none of them is able to address the steps in a single page. Here, based on my experience in data warehouse and BI, I summarize these steps in a page. These steps give you a clear road map and a very easy plan to follow to develop your data warehouse.

Step 1. De-Normalization. Extract an area of your production data into a “staging” table containing all data you need for future reporting and analytics. This step includes the standard ETL (extraction, transformation, and loading) process.

Step 2. Normalization. Normalize the staging table into “dimension” and “fact” tables. The data in the staging table can be disposed after this step. The resulting “dimension” and “fact” tables would form the basis of the “star” schema in your data warehouse. These data would support your basic reporting and analytics.

Step 3. Aggregation. Aggregate the fact tables into advanced fact tables with statistics and summarized data for advanced reporting and analytics. The data in the basic fact table can then be purged, if they are older than a year.

Read more at One-Page Data Warehouse Development Steps

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INFO GRAPHICS WITH EXCEL

I’m not always the biggest fan of info graphics. Many of the posters-sized info graphics released these days have issues. But lately I’ve also received several requests on how to do info graphics with Excel. Many people don’t know where to start.

How Info Graphics are Different
Info graphics differ somewhat from your usual dashboard-style reporting. When we report with business tools, we use the data points–charts, tables, etc–to investigate a problem or monitor a system. That is, we use data to find results. Info graphics are used when we already know the results and we want to present it in an interesting, sometimes even artistic, way. Info graphics, then, are more about style and appearance–they wouldn’t necessarily find a good home on a dashboard. But they do work well in magazines, newspapers, and some student projects.

Info Graphics and Excel
Many info graphics are made with graphic editing programs like Adobe Illustrator. As far as I know, these illustrations are static. So each change in the underlying data won’t be automatically updated in the graphic. You would just have to redraw the graphic. Excel provides a benefit here: if we use Excel’s charts to make our info graphics, we can update the underlying data and the result appears automatically.

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What’s the Difference Between Business Intelligence (BI) and EPM?

Business Intelligence Emerges From Decision Support

Although there were some earlier usages, business intelligence (BI) as it’s understood today evolved from the decision support systems (DSS) used in the 1960s through the mid-1980s. Then in 1989, Howard Dresner (a former Gartner analyst) proposed “business intelligence” as an umbrella term to describe “concepts and methods to improve business decision-making by using fact-based support systems.” In fact, Mr. Dresner is often referred to as the “father of BI.” (I’m still trying to identify and locate the “mother of BI” to get the full story.)

The more modern definition provided by Wikipedia describes BI as “a set of techniques and tools for the acquisition and transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information for business analysis purposes.” To put it more plainly, BI is mainly a set of tools or a platform focused on information delivery and typically driven by the information technology (IT) department. The term “business intelligence” is still used today, although it’s often paired with the term “business analytics,” which I’ll talk about in a minute.

Along Came Enterprise Performance Management

In the early 1990s, the term “business performance management” started to emerge and was strongly associated with the balanced scorecard methodology. The IT industry more readily embraced the concept around 2003, and this eventually morphed into the term “enterprise performance management” (EPM), which according to Gartner “is the process of monitoring performance across the enterprise with the goal of improving business performance.” The term is often used synonymously with corporate performance management (CPM), business performance management (BPM), and financial performance management (FPM).

Read more at What’s the Difference Between Business Intelligence (BI) and EPM?

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Why Supply Chains Need Business Intelligence

Companies that want to effectively manage their supply chain must invest in business intelligence (BI) software, according to a recent Aberdeen Group survey of supply chain professionals. Survey respondents reported the main issues that drive BI initiatives include increased global operations complexity; lack of visibility into the supply chain; a need to improve top-line revenue; and increased exposure to risk in the supply chain. Fluctuating fuel costs, import/export restrictions and challenges, and thin profit margins are driving the need for businesses to clearly understand all the factors that affect their bottom line.

Business Intelligence essentially means converting the sea of data into knowledge for effective business use. Organizations have huge operational data that can be used for trend analysis and business strategies. To operate more efficiently, increase revenues, and foster collaboration among trading partners companies should implement BI software that illuminates the meaning behind the data.

There is a vast amount of data to collect and track within a supply chain, such as transportation costs, repair costs, key performance indicators on suppliers and carriers, and maintenance trends. Being able to drill down into this information to perform analysis and observe historical trends gives companies the game-changing information they need to transform their business.

Read more at Why Supply Chains Need Business Intelligence

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Bringing Elegance and Simplicity to Problem Solving and Enterprise Technology Adoption

There’s an old expression, “Don’t work harder; work smarter.” Old as it may be, this is one of the adages of New Purchasing: The answer to complexity does not have to be more complexity.

Is this not the reason for enterprise technology? Organizations adopt solutions that enable their employees to work more quickly, more efficiently and with better organization. Really, this is the same reason that many people adopt technology in their personal lives, as well.

If you’re looking to build a website, you no longer need to code everything from scratch. Instead, services from sources like Google and Homestead can do that for you. With Google Domains, you can easily find a domain and build a website for your business, while their innovation services provide developer tools, APIs and other resources for quickly adding novel features. Similarly, Homestead offers you the means to “Get a site. Get found. Get customers.”

Each of these solutions providers offers you a simple, elegant solution for what seems like a pretty daunting task. Wouldn’t you expect the same technology treatment for improving your enterprise procurement?

Just as building a website for a personal blog or corporate website has never been easier, the same is true for creating an online shopping site. Shopify’s solution can help you to create an online storefront for one product or millions – without needing any specific design skills. With a platform like Mobify, you can even extend that digital marketplace with mobile touch points.

Read more at Bringing Elegance and Simplicity to Problem Solving and Enterprise Technology Adoption

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Supply Chain Management in QlikView / Qlik Sense

With complicated structure in a supply chain, it has been a challenge for executives to see and understand the associated changes and movements in a supply chain. Examples are raw materials, inventory, products, marketing campaigns, promotions, and other supply chain activities.

As brands and products proliferate, are spun off, and re-consolidated, supply chain companies find themselves struggling to understand what they have, what they need, and where they’re going. Doing so requires a tremendous amount of data, drawn from both external sources (suppliers, partners, customers) and internal ones (marketers, production managers, supply chain groups). The ability to see all of the data surrounding a brand at a glance is a tall order, one only made harder by the proliferation of systems and processes designed to support it. Before companies can profit from efficiencies of scale, they need to consolidate these systems. This is an area where business intelligence (BI) can help them.

However, melding disparate data sources through business intelligence turns out to be a disaster, when companies are using multiple technologies under one roof. These technologies could be from Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, IBM, Teradata, and others. People are struggling before BI implementation, and people are struggling even more after it. As a result, instead of placing information in the hands of the managers who needed it, they are now locked inside those data and technologies, where they could barely get to the real BI they desperately need. On the other hand, IT departments are struggling with questions like: “how many people I needed to build reports”, “how long it is going to build reports”, and “what those reports should look like”.

To meet the challenges of data and technologies, a possible solution is QlikView or Qlik Sense from Qlik. Compared to other BI vendors, the most unique feature of QlikView / Qlik Sense is that people don’t have to think about the joins of tables; people don’t even have to think about which tables to pull out of their ERP. The appliance just bolts onto the side and sucks the whole thing out. People, or even non-IT people, can spent a week extracting the relevant data tables from the central data warehouse, then loading them into QlikView / Qlik Sense as individual data sets — one for sales, one for materials management, and so forth. And, suddenly, they can gaze across a total landscape of its supply chain before drilling down by product or brand or segment or market — or any combination it liked.

With QlikView / Qlik Sense, companies can train or hire a handful of savvy managers who in time became the trainers for their respective divisions. When the need arises for a report, they’ll point you to an existing report or enhance it or build a new one if need be, if everyone agrees it’s the right thing to do. People are taking reports into their own hands and customizing them to suit their needs.

In addition to this special feature, people can also implement their supply chain management BI by using one of the following templates in Qlik Demo site:

  • Executive Insights
  • Production Insights
  • Forecasting and Planning
  • Sourcing and Supplier
  • Regulatory Compliance
  • IT Management
  • Warehousing and Distribution
  • Transportation and Logistics
  • Merchandise Management

In addition, people can find other supply chain solutions provided by Qlik vendors at the Qlik Market. A screenshot of the Order and Inventory Management Dashboard is enclosed below. You can go to its interactive demo site here.

Order and Inventory Management.qvw

In summary, supply chain management is implemented in QlikView / Qlik Sense as applications or reports in all areas of the supply chain management, which can come from one of a reports template Qlik provides, custom made to match what you have today, or created by one of its vendors. The applications and reports do not need specialized IT departments to create and can be created by your very own people in the field.

References:

 

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Regulate This! A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Regulate This! A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

A battle is being waged between the Internet and the State, and this episode of Freakonomics Radio gives you front-row seats. It’s called “Regulate This!” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

At issue is the so-called sharing economy, a range of services that facilitate peer-to-peer transactions through the Internet. Companies like Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft have seen rapid growth and eye-popping valuations, but as they expand around the world, they are increasingly butting heads with government regulators.

In this episode, you’ll hear from Nathan Blecharczyk, the co-founder and CTO of Airbnb (now valued at roughly $10 billion), and one of the youngest billionaires in the world. Blecharczyk tells Stephen Dubner the story of Airbnb’s founding, how it initially struggled to find investors, and what kind of obstacles it still faces daily. In New York City, for instance, it’s estimated that about two-thirds of its business activity is illegal. That’s a big concern for New York State Senator Liz Krueger, known as “Airbnb’s doubter-in-chief.”

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Freakonomics Radio

Freakonomics Radio

In their books “Freakonomics,” “SuperFreakonomics,” and “Think Like a Freak,” Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner explore “the hidden side of everything,” telling stories about cheating schoolteachers and eating champions while teaching us all to think a bit more creatively, rationally, and productively. The Freakonomics Radio podcast, hosted by Dubner, carries on that tradition with weekly episodes. Prepare to be enlightened, engaged, perhaps enraged, and definitely surprised.

What have you learnt from this podcast? Share in the comments if you have any opinions.

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The Story Of Alibaba

The Story Of Alibaba

A massive Chinese company, Alibaba, is about to have what could be the biggest public offering on planet earth. You can think of Alibaba like Amazon or Ebay, except you can buy way more — you can get a used 747 airplane, or an oil tanker, or 500 million tiny screws. On the show, the company that made it possible for anyone anywhere to build almost anything they want. What that company means for China, for the rest of us and for some chickens in California.

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