'Business Intelligence' Can Be More Than Just a Cliché

Users' conference panel shows how tools help c-stores turn data into reasons to act

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Chris Kiernan ADD Systems Users Conference 2014 (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores)

Chris Kiernan

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The term "business intelligence" may have already become a mind-numbing cliché, but for convenience store retailers attending a software users' conference this week, the concept became more tangible, as peers in the c-store space talked about developing reports and metrics that lead to real action.

During panel presentations retailer attendees discussed ways they developed reports and automated "alerts" from basic software formats to better track everything from labor hours to product movement.

About 100 attendees--most from the petroleum distribution and convenience-retail field--traveled to Orlando, Fla., for a users' conference hosted by ADD Systems, Flanders, N.J.

"It's about using tools to understand the data they already have" in their point-of-sale (POS) registers and other sources, said Chris Kiernan, director of retail applications for ADD Systems. "It's the old saying, 'You don't know what you don't know.'"

Showing how different retailers have configured reports from a basic software platform, Kiernan showed examples that compared vendor profitability, performances of different products by category compared to a year before and analysis of peak selling activity.

One report from a Midwest company showed sales of roller-grill products over the course of a day, with activity rising from 8:00 a.m. to noon and then dropping off.

Rich Hathaway, director of ADD Systems' business intelligence group, said retailers can develop "exception" reports whereby if any particular cost or sales figure goes beyond a set parameter, the person in charge gets an email.

Retailers asked questions about tailoring reports to meet their needs. Both Hathaway and Kiernan responded to each inquiry either by saying how it could be done through the existing system or offered to continue the dialogue to possibly add the capability to the next update of the software. Kiernan said software updates typically occur quarterly, with its c-store management product having originally debuted back in 2010.

For Hathaway, the term "business intelligence" is not a highly technical solution, but it does involve the ability to draw data from multiple sources, including the POS, different departments and third-party resources.

Retailers even suggested plugging in daily weather reports and other generically available sources.

Elaborating on the Midwest retailer, Hathaway showed reports that addressed customer-service accountability with regard to fuel delivery, driver and cashier efficiency and foodservice waste.

"It's an evolution," Hathaway said. "But we're excited when you can take a [basic] report and create your own."

The four-day conference, which began this past Monday, included an exhibit area of a related vendors as well as consulting time with company experts.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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