Data Integration Creates Enterprise Opportunities
Integrator Litco Systems builds incremental sales with enterprise customers by offering flexible BI (business intelligence) solutions that integrate with ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems.
Linking content to line-of-business applications is an emerging strategy for document and content management VARs who want to realize incremental sales and increase services margins. One way to drive the end user returns that increase a VAR's sales is by linking content to ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications to improve decision making. Responding to this trend, systems integrator Litco Systems (Markham, Ontario) began offering QlikView from QlikTech Inc. (Raleigh, NC) in 2002. A tool for compiling and analyzing data from diverse sources, QlikView integrates with back end systems such as ERP or CRM (customer relationship management). "Offering a business intelligence solution was a natural extension for us," says Luca Loria, president of Litco Systems. "We have been providing data and output management for 17 years."
Litco Systems has been able to demonstrate and sell QlikView to a number of enterprise customers, including one international automobile manufacturer with operations in the Toronto area. The manufacturer has a multitude of high-end systems to collect sales, marketing, manufacturing, and financial data. The company wanted to use the data in a unified way to analyze sales and purchasing habits and adjust the manufacturing process accordingly. However, collecting and collating the reports from these various systems was time consuming and complicated, affecting the company's ability to react quickly to market needs and make the best use of resources. For instance, the company can compare sales and demographic information to see if certain colors, models, and options are more popular in specific regions or one model sells better in cities with a defined population profile.
Lower Cost, Faster Rollout Overcome Resistance To BI
What the manufacturer needed was a BI (business intelligence) solution, but it was wary of the prolonged implementation times and high price tags associated with most BI initiatives. "The issue with traditional BI solutions is they are like looking up a word you can't spell in the dictionary," says Loria. "You have to know the answer you're looking for before you ask the question. In the standard OLAP [online analytical processing] architecture, you need to construct the data cubes based on the question you need answered. This could be a long, expensive process."
Instead of a style schema, QlikView extracts data from various sources and associates it in a flat format. Using QlikTech's associative query language, users can test various questions in an ad hoc manner. The interface allows users to see where relationships exist by pointing and clicking on the data fields.
Loria says the manufacturer was drawn to QlikView's sales and analysis application because of the promised quick implementation and low cost. Its concern was that the solution was too good to be true. "We provided a demo and a technical discussion and left the technical staff with an evaluation copy to work with themselves," recalls Loria. "They took it apart and tested it. After they were able to develop an application in short order, we knew we had their understanding."
Regional Sale Could Become North American Rollout
QlikView can access data in mainframes, ODBC (open database connectivity) databases, flat files, and Excel spreadsheets. The product supports incremental additions of data sources, and the company is considering a nationwide rollout.
In addition to consultation in designing the GUI (graphical user interface), Litco provided end user and administrator training. "Standard training for end users takes about three days to learn the basics," comments Loria. "Additional and more advanced training for administrators and programmers follows."