Turn Data into Actionable Information – Business Objects


Tim J. Smith, PhD
Founder and CEO, Wiglaf Pricing

Published August 18, 2004

Business Objects has become a household name in industrial markets. Founded in 1992, they achieved 20% growth to just below $1 billion in revenue in 2003. Last year, they also acquired Crystal Decisions, the common reporting tool. Russ Hill, Director of Retail, CPG, and Distribution at Business Objects and Tim Beyers, also of Business Objects, described their compelling value offering as turning data into actionable information. To succeed in their markets, they focus on uncovering specific challenges faced by different industry verticals and helping executives overcome these challenges.

Business Objects provides analytical solutions to uncover actionable information within the stores of data collected by companies. In retail, they focus on four key challenges: customer profile & campaign management, store assortment, vendor management, and loss prevention. As an example of the challenges they help companies overcome, they described the difference between having data on theft and knowing what to do about theft. While no manager wants to know that theft occurs, every manager wants to know how to stop it.

To achieve success, they are applying pressure at the tactical and the strategic level.

At the tactical level, they are helping retailers to improve their business operations. According to Mr. Hill, “retail is in survival mode every day.” Competition is a daily, cut-throat, street level war. At the same time, most retailers suffer from razor thin profit margins as low as 0.83%. Mistakes kill profitability. In this environment, any means to improve operations and profitability is valued.

Mr. Hill described the need to “drain the pond”. By this, he meant that retailers have many functional groups that are very strong at their functional responsibility, but the business needs to coordinate their activities across the organization. For instance, tropical storms are typically forecasted days in advanced but retailers continue to suffer from stock outs on batteries after they hit. By using advanced analytics, demand forecasting that enables the retailer to shift battery supplies from one location to another in advance of the storm can occur.

At the strategic level, Business Objects is looking to broaden their solution portfolio.
Tim Beyers stated “customers are increasingly looking for the whole product.” As a company, Business Objects is working to expand their portfolio of analytical capabilities and attack individual industry verticals with a whole product solution. This would include “executive dashboards” customized for particular industries that allow executives to quickly review their operations, drill down into questionable areas, and take action based upon that information.

With the interest in broadening their solution portfolio expressed, I took Mr. Hill and Mr. Beyers to task by asking about their interest in predictive modeling. To this, they replied that most companies are not ready for this level of data intelligence.


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About The Author

Tim J. Smith, PhD, is the founder and CEO of Wiglaf Pricing, an Adjunct Professor of Marketing and Economics at DePaul University, and the author of Pricing Done Right (Wiley 2016) and Pricing Strategy (Cengage 2012). At Wiglaf Pricing, Tim leads client engagements. Smith’s popular business book, Pricing Done Right: The Pricing Framework Proven Successful by the World’s Most Profitable Companies, was noted by Dennis Stone, CEO of Overhead Door Corp, as "Essential reading… While many books cover the concepts of pricing, Pricing Done Right goes the additional step of applying the concepts in the real world." Tim’s textbook, Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures, has been described by independent reviewers as “the most comprehensive pricing strategy book” on the market. As well as serving as the Academic Advisor to the Professional Pricing Society’s Certified Pricing Professional program, Tim is a member of the American Marketing Association and American Physical Society. He holds a BS in Physics and Chemistry from Southern Methodist University, a BA in Mathematics from Southern Methodist University, a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Chicago, and an MBA with high honors in Strategy and Marketing from the University of Chicago GSB.