Neways Becomes a Cleaner, Data-Driven Company With Webfocus
Hyperstage-Powered Reporting System Delivers Critical Insight to Large Number of Distributors
Whether it’s a lifestyle or technology choice, people are looking for cleaner ways to live. Neways Enterprises designs, manufactures, and sells products that are free of harmful ingredients. Its innovative personal care, household, and nutritional products are distributed to 31 countries worldwide. With headquarters in Springville, Utah, Neways has regional offices in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Belgium, and Thailand.
As a direct sales company, Neways provides lucrative business opportunities to hundreds of thousands of independent distributors worldwide. The structure of the organization creates unique challenges for Neways’ IT team. Internally, business analysts need self-service reports to help monitor finances, anticipate trends, and predict results based on current insight. Externally, Neways’ enormous and globally dispersed user base of independent distributors needs access to real-time production data to support sales efforts and track qualification for monthly bonuses.
To solve both of these challenges, Neways Chief Information Officer Kevin Givan spearheaded an initiative to help Neways become a more data-driven company, with an emphasis on modernizing its reporting environment. Technology from Information Builders is central to his strategy. WebFOCUS provides Neways with a flexible, general-purpose reporting environment that not only keeps the diverse user base informed, but also drives sales and revenue. Thanks to a performance boost from WebFOCUS Hyperstage, the new business intelligence (BI) platform exceeded original expectations.
“We wanted to take reporting out of the hands of our IT department and roll out a self-service BI tool that our business analysts could use,” Givan says. “We had a growing need for consistent, automated dashboard reporting that could track metrics daily, weekly, and monthly. Using Hyperstage, reports that were taking 15 or 20 minutes to return data were reduced to two minutes – and sometimes just a few seconds. It’s a huge improvement.”
Licensing Model Permits Unlimited Distribution
Neways examined reporting solutions from Oracle, IBM Cognos, MicroStrategy, Infor, QlikView, and BusinessObjects before choosing Information Builders. “We looked for visionary leaders in the BI space,” Givan says. “We wanted to make sure we were getting a long-term partner. We selected Information Builders technology based on ease of use, the robustness of the tool to pull from any datasets, and most importantly, for its unique licensing model.”
Because Information Builders only charges for report development licenses, Neways realized they could distribute reports to hundreds of thousands of distributors at no extra cost. That allowed the focus of the BI project to expand from internal-only usage and include a tiered distributor-facing environment with free and subscription-based reports.
“Using BI as a revenue-generating platform is a concept we hadn’t considered in our initial approach,” Givan says. Information Builders’ licensing model, combined with the power and flexibility of WebFOCUS, gives Neways the ability to deliver visually rich and powerful reporting tools to its distributors while letting them decide how deeply they want to drill into the data. “It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate to existing and potential distributors that we are an innovative company and a leader in our space,” he adds.
Creating Compelling Reports for a Global User Base
As part of this IT modernization project, Givan’s team consolidated seven order entry systems into two proprietary systems, one based on Oracle Database and the other on Informix. Information Builders Professional Services helped Neways leverage this production environment by creating an easy-to-read dashboard that delivers eye-catching reports.
“The ability of WebFOCUS to access any dataset is phenomenal,” says Daniel Splattstoesser, data warehouse architect at Neways. “We created WebFOCUS reports using HTML. That works very well for our diverse global user base because they don’t need any special software. The reports display beautifully on tablets, laptops, and PCs.”
This level of accessibility is important to Neways’ highly mobile user base, especially at the end of each month when distributors attempt to close business and qualify for bonuses. Since the bonus payments trickle upward through the distributor tree, distributors need to track the progress of people they brought into the business and their staff. With a few clicks on a smartphone, laptop, or tablet, distributors can determine which salespeople are close to qualifying for a bonus, gather contact information, and give a nudge to motivate them to boost their earnings. They can also filter the data to find and focus on people in their network who are close to a bonus margin. This knowledge helps them to focus time and energy on the deals that are most likely to bring in revenue.
“The WebFOCUS dashboards help our distributors maximize their earning potential,” Splattstoesser says. “It is crucial that they can retrieve real-time information from our production systems, not batch-fed or delayed, so distributors can track qualification in each time period. WebFOCUS enables them to quickly analyze the details so they can be out working.”
Interactive dashboards display crucial information that distributors need to run their businesses.
Building Self Sufficiency With InfoAssist
Internally, Neways is developing a data warehouse to provide information about finance and other domains. Givan’s team is also migrating existing reports to WebFOCUS InfoAssist, where power users can access data in the warehouse and in live production systems. “WebFOCUS is enabling Neways to develop consistent metrics and reporting across markets, utilizing near real-time data and a global standard BI tool,” Givan says.
“With InfoAssist, our business users have access to all the features they need to retrieve and analyze data on their own. It takes complexity out of reporting.”
Neways has trained people to use InfoAssist in the U.S., Japan, and Europe. Training is underway for a group of Australian IT members who will become key WebFOCUS developers and support for markets in their region.
Improving BI Performance With Hyperstage
Performance is essential as Neways scales its new BI system to handle external queries for very large distribution organizations and internal queries that involve large data sets.
“Obviously we wanted the tool to perform properly so it would be well-received,” Splattstoesser says. Some of Neways’ Japanese distributors have hundreds of thousands of people in their organizations, and they are a long way from the data center in Utah. “We were asking our Informix database to return results for those users, traversing very complex trees,” he adds. “It was taking 15 to 20 minutes to turn reports around.”
That’s why Neways decided to use WebFOCUS Hyperstage, a column-oriented database that improves query performance with data compression and in-memory analytics. By compressing data and storing it in a columnar format, Hyperstage eliminates the need to build indexes, partition data, or perform manual tuning. A built-in knowledge grid maintains information about the data as it is being loaded and as queries are run. This permits WebFOCUS to deliver the results without decompressing data or fetching it from disk.
This unique architecture improves efficiency for BI applications that handle high numbers of ad hoc or unplanned queries, or those that consume large volumes of data.
Neways uses Hyperstage for large distributor reports and complex internal reports, such as financial reporting requests that need to be turned around quickly.
“The nice thing about Hyperstage is we can point any data sets to run through it,” Splattstoesser says. “Whenever we deal with large data sets internally or externally, we move the data to Hyperstage and run the reports from there instead of running reports from the original production system. We see immediate benefits.”
From Cost Center to Profit Center
Givan and his team at Neways see their new BI system as a strategic competitive advantage for the company as well as a path to a quantifiable return on their technology investment. “Information Builders helped us define a BI strategy that extended far beyond our initial vision,” he says. “They are very knowledgeable and are quick to help us with any issues, including having people fly out and work with us directly. From a customer service standpoint, we rank them as one of the highest rated vendors we have worked with.”
Personally, Givan is pleased with the quick progress Neways has made, but will measure the ultimate success of the BI project by how well it helps distributors close sales, track results, and build more productive and knowledgeable distributor networks.
“Eventually we will track revenue upswing because of people having better information,” he concludes. “As we continue to develop our custom dashboards, we are not locked into the kinds of boundaries that most reporting tools have. The sky is the limit in terms of how we can present the data.”