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A Common Business Intelligence Library and BI Collaboration Platform for the Enterprise

Meijer

Meijer is a retail giant located in the Midwest, operating approximately 200 supercenters. One of the largest private companies in the United States, Meijer's expansive grocery and general merchandise stores average 225,000 square feet and stock an estimated 120,000 items. In addition to the 40-plus departments including apparel, electronics, hardware, and toys, most stores sell gasoline, offer banking services, and have in-store restaurants. Meijer supercenters are open 24 hours a day, 364 days a year.

Challenge

Having worked with Perficient to improve the SharePoint user experience for the Meijer OneStop SharePoint portal, Meijer approached Perficient seeking to develop a unified business intelligence solution leveraging the SharePoint platform. With decades of operating experience, the client maintains a substantial amount of data across many departments. Approaches to business intelligence within Meijer varied between departments, with each department making distinct technology choices and utilizing an assortment of reporting tools. The client’s IT organization was involved in some of the business intelligence strategies while other departments implemented business intelligence independently. There was no common, centralized platform that allowed users to access and view business intelligence information.

Meijer needed to accelerate access to business intelligence based on data from numerous systems to increase collaboration and efficiency while eliminating redundancy. Although some departments were already utilizing the business intelligence capabilities of SharePoint, others were not. Given that various business intelligence tools existed across the enterprise but were difficult to locate, the retailer sought to find all of the tools, determine which were currently in use, and organize the tools appropriately in one central repository made available through their OneStop SharePoint portal.

Solution Deployed

Perficient leveraged an on-site explore session Meijer to determine the business objectives and align technology choices. In order to take full advantage of the current tools and data sources across the enterprise, Meijer required a comprehensive business intelligence solution that would consolidate data while retaining departmental independence and variation of the business intelligence tools, data sources, and approaches already in place throughout the organization. Perficient recommended a staged deployment strategy and designed a pilot program that provided a working solution to encourage adoption and effectively reduce the overhead required for development and deployment.

After a thorough analysis of the business and functional requirements, Perficient and the client identified the Microsoft SharePoint platform as the architecture option with the best combination of out-of-the-box features to support this type of functionality and provide support for the variety of BI tools in the enterprise. SharePoint offers business intelligence capabilities as well as a generalized plugin model, based on the underlying ASP.NET foundation of SharePoint, which allows business intelligence tools from various vendors to make their presentation artifacts available as “web parts” that can be included in SharePoint-based web pages and dashboards. SharePoint also offers robust metadata and security models that enable browsing, searching, filtering, and personalization features. As an added benefit, the retailer had already invested in the SharePoint platform.

To establish the enterprise-wide business intelligence solution, the Perficient team worked together with Meijer to create a central repository for performance and business data from a variety of business units, business intelligence tools, and data sources hosted in SharePoint. The data included published reports, charts, graphs, dashboards, scorecards, and other analysis items. The repository, or business intelligence library, would give users a straightforward means to finding and selecting items as needed. To reduce the overall complexity of the enterprise solution, the first phase of the business intelligence library was launched in a pilot environment on SharePoint 2007 and then migrated to SharePoint 2010.

By leveraging SharePoint as the business intelligence platform, Meijer was able to maintain its current business intelligence technologies through custom web parts and provide access to these technologies within the portal. Furthermore, by standardizing business data on SharePoint and SQL Server, future business intelligence initiatives could be systemized on the Microsoft SharePoint and business intelligence platforms and existing data migrated as necessary.

Business Value Delivered

The pilot program successfully provided Meijer with a fully operational version of the solution on the SharePoint platform. The business intelligence library enabled the acceleration of access to business intelligence based on data pulled from numerous systems. Through the use of this library, the client now has the ability to quickly and easily locate critical reports covering a substantial amount of corporate and departmental data. The business intelligence solution is expected to promote cross-unit business intelligence collaboration and encourage departments to share information more readily.

The business intelligence library allows Meijer to thoroughly and collectively analyze data and provides a mechanism to do so in a variety of ways. The solution eases IT management while providing critical business insight and reporting capabilities throughout the enterprise. As a result, the client makes faster and more accurate business decisions. Meijer anticipates an increase in business intelligence collaboration, efficiency, and agility as well as a reduction in costs.

Perficient continues to work with Meijer to support the migration of the business intelligence solution from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010. As the retailer moves to SharePoint 2010, the business intelligence repository will take advantage of the new capabilities of the platform without needing extensive modification.