Retail Execs Crave Business Intelligence Systems

A survey of retail IT and financial executives found that 34 percent do not have an enterprise business intelligence system, even though 72 percent of those without one think their companies would benefit from such a system.

The survey, conducted by SWR Worldwide for Lawson Software, also found that 91 percent of respondents with enterprise business intelligence and analysis systems believe it has made their managers and companies more efficient. The survey defined enterprise business intelligence systems as “solutions or systems that automate data collection and offer management access to cross-functional reporting and analysis on the desktop.”

“Real-time business intelligence and analysis across all stores is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ capability for retailers,” said Tony Marzulli, senior vice president of global marketing for Lawson. “It’s now a must-have for survival in a difficult and competitive economic environment. At the same time, this survey showed that most respondents with a system in place are only somewhat satisfied with them, and we believe that’s because existing business intelligence systems need to get easier to use and better integrated with all sources of enterprise data.”

Not surprisingly, the survey found that efficiency and accuracy in financial reporting is the top priority among several IT and financial areas over the next year (32 percent), but new systems must also leverage existing IT investments. The second priority was integrating and maximizing the usefulness of existing core technology systems (29 percent).

When asked about the possible features of a business intelligence system, ease of use was a common answer. Among a list of possible functions in a retail enterprise system, those considered the most helpful were a browser-based interface that is easy to use, the ability to integrate and work seamlessly with third-party and proprietary applications and the ability to capture and use data in real time for reporting and analysis. Respondents rated these functions 7.4, 7.3 and 7.3 respectively on a zero-to-10 scale, with 10 being the most helpful.

The survey was conducted among 150 financial and IT executives at retail companies with revenues of at least $150 million. Industries included grocery wholesalers, grocery retailers, convenience stores, drug stores, general merchandisers, specialty stores, home stores, auto suppliers, apparel stores, restaurants and bars.

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