Hannaford Bros. Co.: Using DSS Web for Remote Decision Support

The Problem

Hannaford Bros. Co. is a $2.5 billion grocery chain with over 140 stores in the eastern United States. Hannaford has spent several months developing and implementing a corporate and store management decision support system (DSS) which provides its decision makers with access to relevant sales, cost, inventory and budget data. Hannaford's goal was to not only roll the application out at headquarters, but also to make the application available to each store in the chain. "We really wanted to put the power of the new decision support system into the hands of the managers who need it the most," said Rich Schilling, project director at Hannaford Bros. Co.

The challenges for deployment at the store level were significant. With low-bandwidth satellite connections between the stores and headquarters, software maintenance concerns, and little or no tech support at the stores, the objective was to find a solution which kept both Hannaford's IT department and the user community happy. There had to be no "penalty" for conducting DSS analysis remotely. Response time, maintenance, and ease of use all had to be roughly the same at the remote stores locations as it was at headquarters.

The Solution

Hannaford turned to MicroStrategy for help in finding a high performance, easy-to-implement solution that would make store-level decision making possible. "DSS Web was the answer," said Schilling. MicroStrategy's DSS Web delivers advanced decision support capabilities via the World Wide Web (WWW) to enable the development of an ideal decision support environment for organizations like Hannaford. DSS Web provides Hannaford's remote users with access to the same reports that corporate end users have access to. Schilling continued, "with DSS Web, we will be providing our store managers with timely information that has never before been accessible to them. DSS Web satisfies our systems and our end-user requirements. It delivers a powerful, fast, and easy-to-support solution for deploying our DSS application."

By minimizing the need for client hardware and decision support software investments, DSS Web dramatically decreases both the costs of deploying enterprise OLAP applications and the overall impact on a company's information technology infrastructure. DSS Web's centralized management and administrative architecture greatly reduces corporations maintenance headaches by eliminating the need to install decision support software remotely.

At Hannaford, DSS Web provides store managers with access to the same data warehouse application relied upon by corporate decision makers. Utilizing DSS Web, managers receive detailed sales, cost, inventory, and budget reports and use this information to make decisions at the store level. "DSS Web offered a perfect solution to our problem. DSS Web provides a powerful, low maintenance solution for the problems associated with remote DSS access, with only slightly reduced functionality than using DSS Agent directly," notes Schilling.

Easy Deployment
DSS Web's server-based architecture eliminates the significant software distribution, installation, and synchronization issues typically associated with application deployment. "We will be able to deploy the DSS application to our stores with substantially less trouble than we would have ever thought possible. The only prerequisite is that the DSS client machines in our stores have a standard web browser," said Schilling.

No Remote Maintenance
Hannaford did not have the technical support resources to deploy individual applications to each of its stores. "With DSS Web, no DSS-specific software is located at the store, so maintenance is not an issue," commented Schilling. Software installations and upgrades are completely centralized on the DSS Web server, so software synchronization concerns become insignificant. "For us, remote maintenance issues concerning the DSS application disappear," he said.

Leveraging Existing Application Objects
DSS Web is completely compatible with the entire MicroStrategy DSS product suite (DSS Agent, DSS Server, and DSS Executive). DSS analysis objects (reports, metrics, templates, filters and agents) in existing applications can be immediately rolled out to DSS Web users without modification. Notes Schilling, "this compatibility gives us total flexibility in terms of front-ends. We can use the DSS Web front end, the DSS Agent front end, or a custom front end to retrieve data from the data warehouse."

Reduced End-User Training
End user training for DSS Web is substantially reduced because the standard web browser interface is intuitive and uniform across all web applications. Additionally, this training is leveragable across all web-based applications, as the interfaces are virtually identical.

High Performance Applications
"Rapid response times for our remote users was a critical requirement for us," said Schilling. Hannaford considered several data distribution schemes, with the goal of achieving near-LAN response time over their WAN. With DSS Web, they are meeting this objective. All DSS Web reports are completely processed on the central server, and only result sets are transferred across the network. Notes Schilling, "our store managers realize performance equivalent to our corporate LAN."


With DSS Web in place, Hannaford can roll the enterprise-wide decision support system out to its stores without the costs and concerns that typically accompany complex deployments. "We can eliminate enterprise-wide maintenance issues, data synchronization problems, and data distribution schemes," said Schilling. "From both a systems perspective and an end user perspective, DSS Web provides a powerful, low maintenance solution for the problems associated with remote DSS."

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