Mind the (Analysis) Gap

By Heather Baldwin

Imagine if the Mona Lisa was divided into four or five pieces, each on display in a separate wing of the Louvre. Each piece would be rich in detail and masterfully painted, but to appreciate the whole you’d need to run from wing to wing. Even then you wouldn’t truly have the complete picture. In a sense, this is the challenge many sales managers face every day with their sales data. They have rich data in CRM, SFA and ERP systems as well as from data from sources such as ACNielsen. But while the data is available it’s difficult to put the whole picture together. In an attempt to perform timely, accurate analysis across all sources, sales managers often must combine data from multiple sources in homegrown spreadsheets in Excel or another database application – a step that can be dense with numbers and time-consuming, if not impossible, to customize.

While the result might be better than nothing, managers who use these spreadsheets usually only scratch the proverbial surface of the information the combined data could provide. It’s a costly mistake and one that now can be fixed, thanks to a new class of visually interactive analysis applications that can accurately forecast sales trends and turn sales data into actionable intelligence, says Mark Lorion, director of marketing and sales analytics for Spotfire.

Products such as Spotfire’s DecisionSite access all the data available both internally and externally, enabling sales managers to accurately drill into company sales, competitor sales, relative market share, changes per product, performance by territory and so on. Curious about a trend? With a few clicks, DecisionSite can provide answers that are visual and complete. “The speed at which questions can be asked and answered and follow-on questions asked and answered, is key,” observes Ian Reid, Spotfire’s head of marketing. “Normally if you have follow-on questions to a spreadsheet report you have to go to IT and get them to run another report. You can’t respond at the speed of business.”

This was one of the challenges faced by Lilly Critical Care Europe, a subsidiary of Eli Lilly that sells pharmaceuticals and related products throughout Europe. With sales growing more than 20% in recent years, sales data was growing exponentially, yet still being analyzed with Microsoft Excel. When the company brought in Spotfire DecisionSite, Lilly analysts immediately spotted a flaw in their sales plan. The company had been targeting a set of customers based on their volume and sales – in other words, the bigger the hospital, the more time and effort Lilly’s sales reps were putting into it. “When they brought in our analytics,” says Lorion, “they were able to quantify customer potential and found that their big customers were as big as they were going to get. They weren’t going to grow any more.” Now, he adds, Lilly is putting its efforts into high-potential markets while servicing and maintaining mature markets, thus improving sales force effectiveness.

The two keys to DecisionSite’s success are its visual presentation of information and its ability to correlate data from all sources. “In a visual view, trends pop out in a way they don’t on a spreadsheet,” says Lorion. “The ability to mix data from various sources that haven’t been mixed before also lets users see correlations they didn’t know were there.” In other words, managers are at last able to see the complete picture.

For more information, visit www.spotfire.com.