Using Data to Weather the Storm: YourDMS and Pets Corner

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In Navigating Change in Crisis, we explore how individuals and companies are adapting to a “new normal.” Learn how organizations, dev teams, and frontline users are adjusting to meet these challenges of our radically altered world.

Pets Corner is a leading brick-and-mortar and online retailer, specializing in pet products of all kinds. Part of the Pet Family group, it has grown substantially over the last 10 years. During that time, it has faced challenges both expected (data volumes growing as the business grew) and not (a U.K.-wide lockdown and some temporary store closures). Getting smarter about its data and how it is used has allowed Pets Corner to be more agile and make the right decisions at the right times to thrive in challenging conditions. YourDMS helped the company clean up, combine, and utilize its data more effectively by implementing the Sisense BI platform.

Soft Stuff Uses Sisense Analytics

The problem: Too much data, not enough insights

Pets Corner had used various BI platforms over the years but was not getting the results it wanted. Systems were difficult to use and often required help from third-party suppliers to extract reports, which wasted time and money. As Pets Corner grew and acquired more businesses as part of the Pet Family group, the organization had more data to manage, and CFO Iain Dougal knew he needed oversight over the whole business on a platform that was easy for him and his team to use.

“I had a fear that some of the decisions I was making could have been made better or sooner with an improvement in the information I had to hand,” Iain explained. 

With ambitious plans for growth and development, Pets Corner needed to ensure it could act quickly, allocate budget and resources where needed, and make the right decisions for the business.

How YourDMS helped

YourDMS implemented the Sisense BI platform to provide Pets Corner with oversight of its entire operation. Iain also wanted to improve access to data across the organization, ensuring that employees throughout the business could easily view, analyze, and use real-time data, regardless of their technical ability.

Extensive cleansing and testing of data have improved accuracy, and Pets Corner now has peace of mind that the Sisense dashboard accurately reflects what is happening in the business.

“If your data is incorrect, you’re going to make the wrong decision,” said Iain. 

Building trust in the accuracy of the data and the BI system was an important step in encouraging departments to begin using the new system instead of spreadsheets and manual processes. 

In accounts, the finance team is using Sisense to report monthly management information sooner, not only for Pets Corner but also for several other companies within the group. Previously, Pets Corner would gather information from multiple systems, then check, validate, and format it to be shared within the management team. With help from YourDMS, the process has now been standardized, and the accounts are now built and added to throughout the month, ready for month’s end. Traditionally, this was published on the 21st of the month, but the company is now able to publish it up to a week earlier, which has resulted in large financial savings in time taken to analyze data and generate reports. Reducing the number of human touchpoints and Excel spreadsheets from different departments in the process has improved accuracy.

BI is also being used by the finance team to deliver accurate forecasting, which is essential for the business and its profitability. Executives no longer need to wait until the month’s end; they can now work with live sales data, as it’s happening, allowing them to make faster, better decisions. So, on the last day of the month, they know exactly what their sales are for that month. There are no delays for the sales team to get the information they need.

In procurement, saving time on reporting has allowed the team to focus on developing new products, improving the supply chain, and performing other tasks that will generate revenue for the business. Employees are using BI to see how products and promotions are performing and can share this useful data with suppliers as part of a supply chain analytics program. YourDMS has combined data from the enterprise resource planning system (ERP) with external data to allow Pets Corner to make better decisions based on deeper insights that they could not have uncovered with just their sales and purchasing stats. 

The insights Pets Corner now uses are generated from a robust system that includes data like seasonal variations and weather, which can affect sales. The system also allows Pets Corner to add other useful reference information or comments (another type of data) from individual stores, such as road construction that has altered foot traffic or competition from a new store that has opened nearby. All this provides context and a more complete picture of why and how stores achieved particular sales figures.

Supply chain analytics

The Sisense platform is being used to improve the flow of information among Pets Corner, the Pet Family Group, and the supply chain.

As the group grew, so did the supply chain that Iain was working with, which in turn meant more costs and data to manage. Iain was eager to improve visibility across the supply chain to optimize business performance for everyone involved. Not only would this help to improve top-line revenue, it would also highlight any areas of risk in the chain, such as fluctuating transport costs, and import/export restrictions and challenges. The more Pets Corner can understand about its supply chain, the stronger its relationships with its suppliers will be. The more a supplier understands the sales process for a customer, the more effectively it can manage it.

YourDMS created a dashboard for each of Pets Corner’s suppliers to show how much of a particular product Pets Corner orders from each and to look for trends in the ordering process. This has allowed both Pets Corner and its suppliers to order the correct amount of stock, allowing it to reduce costs, operate more efficiently, and avoid overstocking (and leaving products sitting on the shelf) or understocking (and disappointing customers). 

For example, if Pets Corner has a scenario where demand is outstripping supply, and it can see that early with real-time insights from its data, it can make alternative arrangements. If a supplier is frequently late with deliveries or short shipping orders, Pets Corner will be alerted so the procurement team can talk to suppliers and manage inventory levels. This allows the procurement team to be very specific with their conversations and discover what’s happening and how they can work with their supplier to overcome the challenges. 

The supply chain analytics program shows one of the ways Pets Corner is working with its data and the Sisense platform to optimize performance. Several of Pets Corner’s pet food suppliers — Canagan, Tribal, McAdam, and Yora — have implemented Sisense within their own businesses.

A smarter warehouse through data

Pets Corner’s state-of-the-art warehouse is using Sisense to monitor stock levels. Users can quickly check if stock has been delivered, if there is a discrepancy with the amount of stock, where goods are in the warehouse, what has been booked in, and more. Sisense also shows how long suppliers take on average to deliver an order. This allows the warehouse management team to ensure they have adequate storage space. If two orders were going to be delivered at the same time, resulting in a lack of space, the Sisense dashboard would alert them.

Some suppliers deliver products — such as live animals and fresh and frozen food — directly to stores. Others ship to the warehouse. The warehouse is responsible for shipping to all stores, wholesale customers, e-commerce, and individual customers. All stock (including that shipped directly to stores) is shown on the same warehouse dashboards.

This removes the need for individuals to manage their own datasets, usually with Excel spreadsheets, making data more manageable and accessible to the people who need it. Everyone from the CEO to the warehouse assistant can see the information they need right away, every day.

Using Sisense for predictive ordering

YourDMS built a predictive ordering dashboard using data from the ERP system to allow procurement to see the orders that need to be placed each day. The dashboard takes into account the previous year’s sales, the number of items in stock, the number of items needed to replenish stores, the current run rate, and seasonal variations. Now, if a supplier’s run rate steadily increases, predictive ordering proactively manages this so that the procurement team knows the correct amount of a product to order. Prior to this, procurement would have managed this process using multiple spreadsheets. Now, they can use their time, knowledge, and experience to procure the best products for the business at the best price.

In the future, a new warehouse management system will be implemented, and Sisense will be used to provide validation of the information being shared between the ERP system and the warehouse management system. Pets Corner will be alerted to any discrepancies between the two systems. Any problems with picking runs, packing, non-shipments, etc. will be brought to people’s attention by Sisense, allowing Pets Corner to be proactive in dealing with issues. Using Sisense to manage data validation between systems reduces work needed at the end of the process. Pets Corner calls Sisense “the data policeman” because it’s not just presenting information, it’s making a difference in how the data is managed.

Changing course in the face of COVID

When COVID hit, Pets Corner was perfectly set up to use its data to pivot and make the right choices to protect the business and its employees. Although it had to close 100 stores temporarily and furlough staff during the first lockdown due to government restrictions, Pets Corner could see from the data that the business was still viable. Executives also used data to determine which stores should remain open and assess stock levels and staff levels.

Using Sisense meant Pets Corner could see the sales figures of the 50 stores that remained open, providing confidence that the stores were still viable. Pets Corner could also see that its online business grew, where the online orders were coming from, whether that had an effect on store sales, and more. Leaders could see exactly where the business was at that point in time — and what they could expect to happen if they opened all their stores again. 

On the predictive ordering dashboard, Pets Corner also has the ability to go back several years and see variations. Users also have the option to “switch” COVID on or off to see what the data would look like under both circumstances.

Mobile data access

Previously, every store produced an Excel spreadsheet that recorded its sales. The area manager would also have Excel spreadsheets of their own. Now, they just have a dashboard. Area managers can filter it to show individual stores’ sales figures. This has greatly reduced email traffic sharing sensitive sales data and solved version-control issues.

Supplier Canagan’s sales team can now see their fastest-selling products, what a particular store bought this time last year, most popular items in different areas, and more.

Having mobile access to data is essential. Teams, stores, and area managers have the ability analyze data in granular detail. For example, if sales increase by 5%, they can see where that increase has come from and which products they have sold more of. 

If sales decrease, area managers can click on a sales widget to show a segment (e.g., pet food) and drill down to show the performance by brands — they can even see the specific pet food products within that brand. This all creates a fundamental connection between outcomes and the conditions that led to them: how much stores lost on a particular brand, whether items were out of stock, etc. Managers then link these insights back to supply chain management and procurement by joining up the data. In a few simple clicks, they’ve got answers.

Toward a brighter future 

Iain firmly believes that “business intelligence should sit on everything” and is always looking for new ways to use it within the business to give the company a competitive edge.

Sisense gives Pets Corner visibility into its own systems and processes to see what needs to be improved. Is Pets Corner getting the best from that system? Is it using its data correctly? Did it have access to that data? Sisense has brought a lot of questions to the business, but it’s allowed Pets Corner to solve some long-term problems. Pets Corner is always looking for ways to improve and do things better, and Sisense is a perfect fit. 

Sisense has proven invaluable to Pets Corner, allowing it to operate in an agile and proactive way, using insights from their combined datasets to make faster, smarter decisions and inform business strategy. Iain now has oversight of the whole business — in accounts, sales, procurement, stores, the warehouse, and the supply chain. The company can now act on the insights from data within hours, rather than weeks. Sisense has improved access to data throughout the business due to its user-friendly, self-service dashboards. Imagine what the right BI platform, presenting the right insights at the right time and place to the right people, could do for your business.

Stewart Wright is the Managing Director and founder of YourDMS. He has over 30 years of experience in the document and data management industry, having worked with Pets Corner, Charlton Athletic Football Club, and others. He has spoken at RetailExpo and written for Credit Control and IT for CEOs and CFOs.

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