Connor Co. has been around for 75 years and is a wholesale plumbing, heating and industrial company, carrying a broad range of lines across 24 locations. With around 5000 active customers and 300 primary vendors, Connor Co is successfully using Activant Eclipse ERP.
Three years ago, they adopted a business intelligence tool to complement Eclipse. Julie Driscoll, Director of IT at Connor Co shares her experience with Phocas BI and the benefits it has brought.
Why bring on board Phocas?
Everybody knows that the data is in Eclipse. But accessing it in a meaningful way is not always easy. I found that people were hesitant to kick-off a report within Eclipse. Some find it cumbersome and time consuming to run reports, re-sort them and run them again, and sometimes you are constrained as to what the report will allow you to print. A lot of training was required. There was also a worry about performance - running certain reports can impact server speed.
This led us to select Phocas as our business intelligence tool, and for the past three years, Phocas has been working alongside our existing Eclipse system. It organizes our data, puts it right at our fingertips, and in just a matter of seconds. With little or no training, users are able to just drill in to exactly how they want to see the data. Non-technical users will just jump in and not have an issue with trying it.
Who uses Phocas?
Senior management and other key managers, such as the plumbing manager and the HVAC manager. We also allow some of the corporate employee and branch managers to take a look. Once we installed the link on their desktop they migrated to it very quickly.
How was the integration with Eclipse?
It was seamless. Phocas knew the Eclipse layout (it was obvious they had worked with many other Eclipse sites) so there really wasn't any learning curve for either one of us. We sent them the data, and it just went smoothly. Implementation was just a matter of weeks - but that was just because we chose that pace! It was very straightforward.
In fact, we haven't yet come across anything that Phocas has said no to!
How does it complement Eclipse?
Yes definitely anyone who has worked with Eclipse even for just a short amount of time would find that same consistency within Phocas. Fields that we use a lot are Bill To, Ship To, the Writer of the Order, Product Line, Buy Line, Price Line. With just a couple of clicks, our team has become familiar with the Phocas environment, and the way they are able to sort, and organize and view the data.
How has Connor Co benefited?
Phocas gives us the ability to discover our data, rather than just look at static reports. Ultimately we can use Phocas to identify where to focus our efforts in order to increase sales.
For example, upper management might notice a branch going up or down in sales. They would then quickly pop into Phocas and get immediate answers to questions. For example, what is shifting? Are we gaining new sales in certain areas? Or is something trending downward? In tough times, we have really noticed which customers are struggling, which products aren't being sold as much. We can start to analyze lines of products within specific vendors, and this helps us to know when and where to target efforts, and to make better business decisions.
Another example is our marketing department, who often run sales promotions (right now we have a sales promotion going on as part of our 75th anniversary celebrations). We can monitor this regularly in Phocas, to see where they are at and how close they are to achieving their targets, in real time. There is no easy way we could do this in Eclipse.
We even use Phocas live in sales meetings. And we would frequently analyze a customer's sales, export it to Excel and send it over to our customers. We would also use it on the phone with a customer, live.
Sometimes we have customers that purchase in different territories. We want to see why. Phocas gives us the ability to analyze this, and to find out whether their home branch is not stocking certain items, so that it has to be shipped from another branch.
We actually had trouble with one vendor. We used Phocas to track those sales being lost - and we were able show them exactly how much business they were missing out on! It was an excellent negotiating tool. Although we didn't have any reports set up to specifically deal with this problem, we were still able to jump in and get straight to the point within a few moments. If we had done that in Eclipse, it would have been hours of reporting.
To sum up, it is a great user friendly BI solution, especially for the price, and it allows us to analyze sales and purchasing within a matter of seconds - something that people wouldn't take the time to do in Eclipse. We have the ability to look at variances and compare the data at the click of a mouse.
The minute we saw it, we thought it was too good to be true. Seriously, and then it was just up and running in a matter of no time! In fact, if we tried to remove Phocas, it would not go over well! I think if other Eclipse users can see it, they will be very impressed.