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BI Trumps ERP For Ski Maker

Executives at Rossignol North America get sales and inventory information from PivotLink, a software-as-a-service-based business intelligence system.

For more on business intelligence, see Intelligent Enterprise.

We're approaching the height of the ski season, yet ski and snowboard equipment maker Rossignol is a long way from being able to kick back and count the profits.

"We take customer orders six months before we ship them and we get paid six months after the goods are received," explains Jim Hunter, vice president of operations and Chief Financial Officer at Rossignol North America. "I don't know who invented that approach, but I'd like five minutes alone with that person in a dark alley!"

Between the quirks of the industry's revenue cycle and the unpredictability of snow conditions, ski executives have to keep a firm grip on the numbers. But rather than turn to the system of record -- an aging, home-grown ERP system -- executives at Rossignol North America get all their information from PivotLink, a software-as-a-service-based business intelligence system.

"We started using PivotLink in 2002 as a way keep a remote and scattered sales force in touch with inventory and order status information, but in the last few years is has become our standard for reporting and information access from top management on down," Hunter says.

Hunter credits Pivotlink's ease of use -- compared to the "inflexible" ERP system to which it's integrated -- with its gradual expansion into the all-purpose interface of choice. The latest wrinkle in the deployment is a pending move to PivotLink 4.2, which offers more analytic capabilities and dashboard displays than the version Rossignol is now using.

Even with the current version of PivotLink, Hunter says employees get a consistent look, feel and navigational approach, whether they are in a far-off ski shop or at headquarters in Park City, Utah. Salespeople and customer service reps check on inventory and order status information. Managers drill down on sales reports to investigate whether gains and shortfalls are tied to particular models, product lines or sizes. Executives drill down on sales compared to forecasts across the alpine, Nordic, snowboard and apparel product lines.

Rossignol North America is one of several regional companies that report up to headquarters in France. But Hunter says PivotLink gives his unit an edge in sharing complete information.

"Executives in France can go in and look at the same measures of performance that we look at," he explains, adding that the system also offers deeper insight compared to what other regions provide. As an example, the North America unit has developed analytic views in PivotLink that spot hot-selling models and product lines. That insight helps corporate manufacturing units respond to the specific demands of the U.S. and Canadian markets.

Once the fiscal year closes on March 31 the upgrade to PivotLink 4.2 will begin. Hunter is hopeful that might lead to broader use of SaaS-based BI within the company. "The dashboards will provide simpler interfaces that will make information accessible to a larger group," he says, noting that there are a number of new managers at the corporate level. "If we can standardize the view of information, it might lead to expanding the use of the product among business units outside of North America."

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