Putting insight into CPG with advanced analytics from Avanade

Many CPG companies have yet to take full advantage of analytics capabilities to run their businesses more effectively. A new solution from Accenture and Avanade aims to change that, giving companies the tools they need to gain valuable insights from their data

Rebecca Lambert
Rebecca Lambert
By Rebecca Lambert on 26 May 2015
Putting insight into CPG with advanced analytics from Avanade

This article was first published in the Spring 2015 issue of OnWindows

Without the right data in their hands, consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies struggle to be effective. Yet many organisations don’t have a sufficient means of capturing and harnessing business-critical information. One recent survey by Accenture found that while companies have some localised analytics capability, fewer than half use it regularly in their day-to-day operations or believe it to be a differentiating capability within their organisation. And only 25% habitually rely upon analytics for more effective decision-making.

So what are these companies missing out on? More than they probably realise, according to Avanade’s senior director of consumer products and retail Fabio Chiodini.

“Most critically, they lack a true picture of what’s happening in their organisation as well as all of the factors affecting their business,” he says. “That means they’re unable to make smart, informed decisions, which ultimately affects top- and bottom-line performance.”

As Chiodini explains, the reasons many CPG companies have not yet fully embraced analytics are threefold: they tend to lack sponsorship and governance of analytics within their organisation. Their IT does not integrate seamlessly, which makes gathering data from numerous sources a costly and time-intensive exercise. And finally, many also struggle to find analytics expertise in the market to point them in the right direction.

While many CPG companies have yet to realise any more than limited returns on their analytics investments, there is a new solution available on the market from Accenture and Avanade, which can help them get back on track.

Drawing on their expertise, both in the CPG industry and in analytics, together, Accenture and Avanade have created a cloud-based analytics platform built on Microsoft technology that is designed specifically for companies operating in this space.

In a nutshell, the solution has three integrated components: Accenture CAS, a sales platform for the consumer goods industry, which lays the foundation and captures all of the critical data on sales and distribution activities; the Accenture Analytics Platform built on Microsoft Azure, which provides the horsepower and platform capabilities; and front-end analytics capabilities based on the Avanade Touch Analytics application that provides easy to use visual analytics with mobile capabilities, plus Microsoft Power BI.

“With this solution, what Accenture and Avanade are doing is proposing an end-to-end approach for CPG companies to track activity and gain true insight into their operations,” says Chiodini. “Available as a service, our solution brings together data from across the entire supply chain, providing them with integrated analytics capabilities that give them accurate, meaningful insights into the performance of their business.” Designed with flexibility and ease of use in mind, the solution is capable of pulling structured and unstructured data from numerous sources and presenting it in useful, easy-to-understand visuals via intuitive dashboards, which can be accessed on the go on a tablet or back at the office. Suitable for field sales, key account managers and senior executives, the system allows employees to quickly access the information they need, and tailor it according to their role or particular task they are undertaking.

Together, Accenture and Avanade presented the solution to CPG companies at this year’s National Retail Federation conference in New York, demonstrating how the industry can take advantage of analytics capabilities to better understand their retail distribution channels, execution, merchandising, and pricing and promotions operations.

In particular, the companies shared how the solution can be used to tackle one of the biggest issues CPG companies face today: getting the most out of their merchandising and promotional deals with retailers. Investments worth millions of dollars are at stake if their products are not properly displayed, or their promotions are not correctly executed by the retailers selling their products. And it’s up to the CPG companies to check that they’re delivering on these commitments.

According to Thomas Ettlich, senior manager at Accenture CAS, one major way in which the Accenture Avanade solution can help is by giving CPG companies, and their account managers, transparency into all of the agreements and promotions they have in place with retailers, providing them with a powerful tool to ensure each promotion is being executed as per the agreement. The solution integrates this information with the tools account managers use to manage their account relationships and sales calls.

That means that when an account manager walks into a particular store, they can very quickly check what promotions should be running, how sales in that store are performing, how the products should be displayed, and so on. This, ultimately, helps field teams to sell more. Accenture CAS also gathers data on field sales activities, from owned or third-party distributors. Companies can use this information to track performance, improve route planning and order efficiency, limit out-of-stocks, and feed market and customer insights into the system.

Traditionally, CPG companies found gaining insight from unstructured data sources, such as raw sales data from distributors, a key challenge. With this solution, the Accenture Analytics Platform, collects the data and information from other sources, analyses it, and helps them to proactively work with distributors and create a more efficient supply chain.

“Usability is definitely the game changer here,” says Ed Bobrin, who leads Avanade’s Global Analytics Studio. “In many instances, we are helping companies and their account managers gain insight into their business data for the very first time. And with the solution’s intuitive user experience, workers can access and manage the data themselves. With its touch-based user interface and customisable dashboards, Avanade Touch Analytics is ideal for accessing and sharing key information on the go. From simple visual representations, users can easily pick up nuances in the data and quickly see the bigger picture. This is particularly important for account managers that may have short windows of time to access the information they need. What’s more, they can access this information whether they’re online or offline.”

Of course, there are instances where employees, particularly managers, want to drill into more detail and interrogate the data to understand more about what’s going on across the business. “This is where Microsoft Power BI and the Accenture Analytics Platform come into play,” explains Luke Pritchard, director of Avanade’s Global Data and Analytics practice. “These two components are ideally suited for scenarios where managers want the opportunity to get more detailed information.”

Accessible via a browser, the Accenture Analytics Platform data warehousing solution integrates across the Microsoft technology stack – including Azure, SQL Server and SharePoint – to provide detailed information about core business processes, such as trade promotions management and retail merchandising.

“The trade promotion portal, for example, is a very sophisticated application,” says Pritchard. “With this, users can see the data they need in calendar style views, graphs and charts, detailed dashboards, and even match the data up with pictures of the products in store.” Ultimately, Accenture and Avanade have set out to create a flexible, easy-to-use, industry-specific solution that CPG companies can deploy in a way that suits them best – whether that be on premise, via a software as a service model, starting out with a single module, or quickly scaling out to several markets and geographies.

“Most customers now see data as one of their core assets; we’re helping them to turn it into a true business differentiator,” says Chiodini.

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