Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
CMS realises greater reporting efficiency and improved client services after evolving from MS Access to a custom application.

For over 30 years, Competitive Marketing Services (CMS), has been providing marketing intelligence, in the form of reports, charts and graphs, to their clients – mainly consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers.

Each day CMS monitor newspapers and retailer catalogues across Australia and New Zealand for consumer electronics and whitegoods products. Advertisers generally include retailers such as Harvey Norman, the Good Guys, Dick Smith etc. Once identified, the details of the advertisement are entered into a database and an impression of the advertisement is scanned. The types of details collected include the make and model of a product as well as the list price, sale price and bundled specials.

When exported to a report, this data provides significant strategic insight to manufacturers and retailers about their market penetration, competitive positioning, product lifecycle trends and general market intelligence.

The way it was done

Whilst the existing CMS application had provided long-term utility, it did not facilitate the development beyond current industry parameters – a key objective for future company growth.

With a VB6 interface and an SQL backend database, CMS found it difficult to query and export reports from its existing MS Access-driven application. In order to produce the reports, CMS would export the data out of SQL, summarise it and import it into MS Access, prior to the generation of Excel reports which would be subsequently emailed to clients.

The MS Access-driven system possessed some inherent limitations for CMS. For example, MS Access did not support more than one concurrent user. Also, generating the reports often took a long time as MS Access struggled to process data in hundreds of Excel spreadsheets and often required manual intervention.

CMS tried to automate the process, but if a minor error occurred during the generation of the reports then the error would need to be identified, rectified and the process restarted.

Transitioning from MS Access

Research into the options available suggested a move from the existing system infrastructure to a more robust and flexible database management system which would benefit CMS and promote growth prospects.

Having worked with Solentive for some time, CMS approached them for a more efficient solution. Intrinsic to this solution would be the development and integration of a web-portal through which CMS would enhance its current reporting, utility to clients, and facilitate the development of supplementary industries.

The optimal solution determined was to build a customised operating and user system that would address targeted areas of key functionality.

The making of the new system

Solentive built an automated reporting engine which queried the data directly from the database without having to export it. The reporting engine then automatically generated the Excel spreadsheets for the reports; batch processed them and emailed them to clients. This new robust system saved CMS a considerable amount of time in producing reports, without the dependence on MS Access.

In addition, Solentive added new functionality to CMS’ existing application. One of the new features was the ability to scan the advertisements directly into the system, giving the data a richer reference point to the actual source of the advertisement. The new functionality made it easier and more intuitive for CMS employees to perform their duties. This feature was to be a key element in the subsequent development of the CMS web-portal.

To address the needs of CMS’ clients, Solentive built a secure web interface to allow manufacturers to log-in and obtain the information they required on-demand. The online reports allowed clients to drill down into the data and identify trends on which to base decisions.

With the web interface, clients were able to view custom reports and export in a variety of formats including Excel and PowerPoint. Clients were also able to view the advertisements as they appeared in various media and ‘flip’ through the pages as if reviewing the original printed material.

To ensure clients had up-to-the minute information, Solentive built an alert mechanism that sent an email notification when a pre-designated “flagged” condition had been triggered. For example, an alert would be sent if the system identified the promotion of a new model to the market.

The outcome of the custom development has been greater efficiencies in automated report generation. Equally important, greater client utility access via the web-portal has reflected very positively on CMS, and provided the potential for continued company growth.

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Solentive Software

Solentive specialises in custom software development and systems integration. You'll benefit from our real-world expertise in software built in .Net and Java that is task-matched for affordability and designed to grow with your business.
Kareem Tawansi
P: 02 8217 7500
W: www.solentivesoftware.com.au


Competitive Marketing Services, CMS, MS Access, Microsoft Access, reporting effiiency, custom application, automated reporting engine



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