Reporting not keeping pace with the business
Rapid growth and global expansion meant an urgent need for an improved reporting infrastructure at Icebreaker.
Icebreaker – a Merino clothing company – is a household name in New Zealand, and has become a globally recognised brand. As is the case for many rapidly growing companies, during the time of expansion Icebreaker faced many challenges in terms of information needs as the business outgrew its reporting infrastructure.
With a lack of Business Intelligence (BI) direction, no clear ownership of BI strategy and execution, and no viable reporting roadmap, the existing initiatives were failing to deliver what the business needed and the timeframe of delivery was insufficient for the rapidly evolving business.
The existing reporting environment leveraged Microsoft technology but had been designed a number of years earlier when the business was much smaller and did not then have such global complexity. An ambitious project to rebuild a new reporting environment had failed to deliver and with a long overdue program of work to upgrade all core business systems underway, it was time to take a fresh look.
Advise, rethink, execute
While helping define a reporting strategy, WalkerScott identified a significant disconnect between the deliverable and what the business was expecting.
The core business systems upgrade included leveraging the standard Microsoft Dynamics AX reporting, a project that WalkerScott was engaged to assist with. Unfortunately, this strategy of leveraging “out of the box” functionality was showing early signs of failing to meet the business needs, specifically around the complexities of a global apparel business and the incorporation of historical data.
Working closely with the AX implementation partner, WalkerScott quickly identified and escalated to the project steering group that the approach being taken would not deliver to the requirements of the business. The strategy was flawed and required new thinking.
WalkerScott’s advice to leverage an alternate set of Microsoft tools – primarily PowerPivot and Tabular models in Analysis Server – resulted in the rapid prototyping of key data marts combining data from the retiring system and the new Dynamics AX database.
Five data marts covering Sales, Finance, Inventory, Demand Projection and General Ledger were created and on passing user acceptance testing were converted from PowerPivot into Tabular databases in Microsoft Analysis services.
To consume the information the initial focus was bottom up using the familiar Microsoft Excel to present, analyse and distribute the information. SSRS was then used for final presentation and scheduled distribution of information to key stakeholders.
Result: a world-class reporting platform
Following the successful change of direction, a series of iterations has now given Icebreaker a powerful reporting infrastructure that meets their business needs.
WalkerScott has remained a trusted and consistent partner throughout Icebreaker’s continuous and rapid change. Having ensured the ongoing availability of information and reports which drive the business and can be refined and refactored as required based around people change, process change and technology shifts, we are continuing to help meet business needs. For example, with a decision to deploy ZAP BI as the reporting solution WalkerScott, due to its extensive domain knowledge and expertise in BI solutions, has been critical to the successful implementation of this solution.
Areas of expertise and delivery for Icebreaker include:
- Sales reporting
- Supply chain and inventory reporting
- Financial reporting
- Global performance reports tied to organisational strategy and KPIs
With a CIO now at the reigns, the direction and strategy for Icebreaker’s IT is clearly laid out and aligned to the business objectives. A continually improving BI environment, a master data management solution, and a maturing approach to integration ensures that a best practice architecture is in place, deployed leveraging the complete Microsoft technology stack.