Jenny Craig brings data back in-house to save money and keep up with clients

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

March 6, 2003

3 Min Read

As bathing-suit season draws close, people flock to weight-loss programs in an effort to shed pounds gained during sluggish winter days. Jenny Craig Inc., which operates weight-loss programs at 660 company-owned and franchise locations in four countries, has just gone live with a data warehouse system that will help it better understand its customers and save $1 million a year.

Sara Braziller, CIO of Jenny Craig Inc.

Jenny Craig had lost touch with its data by outsourcing, CIO Braziller says

Until now, Jenny Craig has relied on a service provider to process and maintain data the company collects about its customers and weight-loss centers. But last year, CIO Sara Braziller concluded that the company could get closer to its customers -- and save money -- by bringing the data back in-house. The move is part of Jenny Craig's efforts to evolve from a supplier of weight-loss food products to a service company with long-term relationships with clients.

Jenny Craig collects information about its customers from its weight-loss centers in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, including membership status, program enrollments, and weight-loss goals, as well as information about the centers themselves, such as membership and sales figures. Until now, that data has been sent to the Allant Group, a supplier of data-analysis and database marketing services, which cleans it, puts it into a data warehouse, and uses the information for marketing campaigns.

Saving the $1 million Jenny Craig paid Allant each year was the reason Braziller, who took over as CIO in May, considered bringing the data-management operations in-house. But as she developed the plan, she realized there were more fundamental business reasons for the move.

Allant made changes to the data that made it hard for Jenny Craig to get a comprehensive view of its clients, Braziller says. A woman who changed her name after getting married might be identified as a new client, for example, or even dropped from customer lists. As a result, Jenny Craig couldn't safely use the information for marketing purposes, such as determining the best markets and media for advertising or profiling its clients.

"We found out that over the two to three years we outsourced this, we had lost touch with the data and the business rules," Braziller says. "The issue for us was that we wanted to get closer to our own data."

To build a new data warehouse, Jenny Craig aggregated and deduplicated, or removed redundant information about, 3 million customer records from its U.S. and Canadian operations. Data about clients in Australia and New Zealand will be added later. One challenge was identifying clients who belong to more than one weight-loss center and were listed as separate customers, says IT manager Sophia Ruiz, who's overseeing the project. Ruiz's team used software tools from Ascential Software Corp. to assemble the data warehouse, including Ascential's MetaRecon software to profile the data, its Integrity tool for cleaning up the data and putting it into a consistent format, and DataStage software for moving the data.

The data warehouse runs on a Microsoft SQL Server 2000 database and uses Business Objects SA reporting tools. The project cost $500,000, which means it will take only six months to pay for itself. The next steps involve linking Jenny Craig's point-of-sale transaction system to the data warehouse to keep the data fresh and adding customer-relationship management apps that tap into the client information. A third-party service company, Postfuture Inc., will continue to run Jenny Craig's E-mail marketing campaigns using the data.

Data warehouse projects are notorious for their low success rates. Ruiz attributes this one's success to the amount of time her group spent scrutinizing the data and interviewing the users of the data warehouse about their needs before beginning development work.

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