Leading agricultural supplier Kaap Agri has implemented state-of-the-art QlikView business intelligence software, enabling better decision making and freeing up valuable network resources.
Kaap Agri, with a total of 122 business points in 51 rural towns, supplies a variety of goods and services to a diverse customer base of farmers and agricultural businesses in the Western and Northern Cape.
Formed in February 2005, Kaap Agri has a turnover of around R2,3bn and operates on a custom-built financial management system which captures every transaction per item, cost price and customer. The company previously implemented an OLAP-based business intelligence system and, in the words of senior operations accountant Francois Swanepoel, "we thought we had everything we wanted."
However, an early QlikView demonstration convinced the company that "we had not known what we were missing. During the proof of concept presentation, based on our own data, we identified an error in our gross profit figure and were able to trace it to a fault in a single invoice in five clicks. It was a very convincing demonstration that clearly illustrated the power of in memory BI."
Kaap Agri implemented QlikView in May 2006 for 65 users, including branch managers, department heads and departmental accountants. The implementation took around two months of part-time effort, during which three 'very comprehensive' data models were built.
User acceptance was quick: "People like and trust QlikView," says Swanepoel. "The data is reliable and its speed got everyone's attention. What we got out of it in the first week would have taken two or three months before."
Kaap Agri was particularly impressed by QlikView's speed, flexibility and minimal impact on server and network resources. With their previous OLAP-based BI system, "we rebuilt our cubes every night and they eventually got so big we had to do it over weekends. It also completely killed our bandwidth - most of our branches are in small towns where a 64 kb/s line is the best available, and it slowed everything to a snail's pace."
An early bandwidth test proved, by contrast, that QlikView had little or no impact on Kaap Agri's network resources. "We do all the processing at our IT head office in Paarl and users in remote branches have access to the results via thin-client interface," says Swanepoel. "In a ten-minute test with a user in Porterville pushing the system as hard as possible - much harder than would ever happen in a real-life scenario - we uploaded just 56 k of data to the server and downloaded 279 k. It did not even register on our network traffic."
QlikView's ease of use has also enabled users to become proficient with very little training. "Our QlikView end users were proficient after two hours and our developers after two days," says Swanepoel. "We have never felt more empowered. I have no IT training but I am quite happy to write my own scripts in QlikView. We use the developers just for fine-tuning."
With the burden of producing ad-hoc reports now removed from the company's programmer, "they get ahead and program," says Swanepoel, "and our managers are not dependent on others for their information."
In future Kaap Agri intends to start using QlikView for forecasting and market research, not just for historical analysis. "We intend to move towards much more focused marketing based on solid customer data," says Swanepoel. "We have excellent data on who is farming what and where and will be able to offer much more detailed help and advice tailored to each individual farmer."