A World of Pain Points

Originally pitched at finance, BPM software is proving useful across the organization.

When Grand & Toy, Canada’s largest supplier of office products, saw some of its commercial customers defecting to American big-box invaders like Staples and Office Depot, the Toronto-based company brought in a secret weapon: Defector Detector. The software program helps Grand & Toy fight back by ferreting out potential switchers—clients with patterns of declining purchases—and quickly posting a Web-based alert for its commercial account managers and retail stores so that a little TLC can be applied and an account saved.

But Defector Detector doesn’t come from the customer-relationship management (CRM) world, nor is it some specialized, homegrown concoction. Rather, it’s based on the same numbers-crunching package that the company’s finance department relies on—business performance management (BPM) software, in this case from Clarity Systems.

“When we realized the power of performance-management software, its ability to not only present reports but also extract, load, calculate, and format data all within one place and at the same time, we saw that it could solve a whole bunch of problems for us,” says Allan Ramsay, manager of customer knowledge and the person who first hit upon the idea of giving account teams the names of at-risk customers. Since the application was launched a year ago, sales reps have been exceeding their quotas and reducing dormant and at-risk customers at about four times the rate before Defector Detector was implemented. That success has prompted Grand & Toy’s sales team to also look at BPM software for analyzing sales data by region, stores, and products and for other trend research.

BPM software was initially pitched as next-generation budgeting-and-planning software, and plenty of the marketing message behind it is still given over to urging finance execs to leave the spreadsheet behind for purposes of financial consolidation, reporting, and forecasting. But because it relies on powerful database and analytic capabilities to make that happen, BPM is beginning to look like the little-engine-that-could for a surprisingly wide range of business needs. “BPM is like the icing on the cake” in that it adds a valuable layer on top of the data warehouses and other business-intelligence systems that firms have, says Kristen Katz, BPM product manager at GERS Retail Systems in San Diego, a supplier of retailing software that in January added BPM to its product lineup.

Grand & Toy is hardly the only company to tap the powers of BPM for uses well beyond core finance functions. Primedia, Gtech, Genlyte Group, and others have deployed the software for everything from human-resources applications to compliance systems. “Looking at BPM just as a financial application is too limiting. Its real value lies in measuring the performance of the entire organization,” says Paula Rosenblum, director of retail research at consulting firm Aberdeen Group. In retail, for example, companies need to track the performance of stores, employees, merchandise, supply chains, and suppliers. There has long been a wide array of analytic software that can do just that. But BPM can connect that analysis to budgets, forecasts, and reports, and the potential for an all-in-one system appeals to companies, even if they deploy it a piece at a time and connect the pieces later on.

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