Lindt has a team of over 50 salespeople that used to capture risks and opportunities on a weekly basis using a shared Excel spreadsheet. The aggregated data was then interrogated to generate management information, to be used in meetings with senior management.
The primary challenge was that the spreadsheet was prone to crashing, errors or losing data due to not being able to cope with multiple users inputting data at the same time. This would often force salespeople to “wait their turn” before inputting data, which would have a knock-on effect on their other tasks.
The Desired Outcome
As the team was looking to expand significantly, it was important to find an easy-to-use, robust and scalable solution, that would not only handle the current workload, but would be able to cope with a much larger number of concurrent users in the near future.
We identified that the primary goal was to develop a tool that would speed up the generation of the management information, and that the greatest impact would arise from the elimination of the queuing time to use the Excel file, which is why we recommended a cloud-based solution.
Ideally, the solution would also allow for the real-time reporting of data, so that as soon as new data was entered from one end, the reports could be refreshed and instantly update the figures being displayed.
It was clear that using Microsoft Excel as a database was no longer sustainable. After a bit of research, we concluded that an SQL Server was more appropriate to allow the large volume of data to be stored in a structured way.
Although Microsoft Excel can connect to an SQL Server, in order to make the tool as easy-to-use as possible, we decided a web-based application would be more suitable. This is because users cannot edit the formulae or layout of the web application - whereas Microsoft Excel would require locking down and additional VBA code to make it equally robust.
We developed a cloud-based application based on Lindt's requirements. A script was created to automatically pick up the data from the BIS on a weekly basis without any manual intervention.
The salespeople can now log into an intranet site, which presents them with a web-based table allowing them to input their risks & opportunities simultaneously, without worrying about overwriting each other’s data. As a bonus, they can easily see running totals and breakdowns by month and by customer to aid them in their calculations.
The project was completed within a week of commencement, and after working with Lindt's IT team to deploy the solution internally, they have seen the following benefits:
- Improved quality of data - using validators prevents users from accidentally entering invalid data into the system, which would cause issues with reporting.
- Scalable and future-proof - switching over to an SQL Server allows for millions of rows of data without any slowdown compared to Microsoft Excel.
- Rapid reporting - managers have a dedicated reporting section and can instantly see the impact of changes made by the salespeople.
- Multiple concurrent users - by allowing salespeople to enter data without needing to wait for a file to be ready, they can spend more time on their primary role: selling.
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