Papa Gino's remakes a data hodgepodge into a real BI system so it can go national

2009 InfoWorld CTO 25 Awards: Paul Valle

2009 InfoWorld CTO 25 Awards

Paul Valle

Papa Gino’s

In 2008, Boston-area pizzeria Papa Gino's was ready to go national -- but its IT systems weren't. The task of reviewing the company's IT strategy fell to CIO Paul Valle, who determined that if the company were to expand dramatically, IT needed to develop an enterprise-wide BI (business intelligence) system.

The legacy systems that held the raw BI data weren't pretty. They consisted of ERP software, a 20-year-old homegrown point-of-sale system, and good old Microsoft Excel, which was used so extensively by the organization that it was considered one of the largest data sources. According to Valle, the reliance on Excel created "multiple versions of the truth based on where this data originated and how it was manipulated after receiving it."

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The immediate business goals of the BI system were to standardize reporting across systems, improve customer service, and enhance business decision-making overall. Naturally, that meant deep-sixing Excel as a method for capturing data. Another given: Valle would have to replace Papa Gino's existing wide area network with a fast, reliable broadband solution at all locations. This was accomplished within the first four months of the project.

At the same time, Valle chose IBM's Cognos 8 BI, planning, and financial reporting software and began implementing them in tandem rather than consecutively. "This stretched the timeline and added significant complexity to the implementation," says Valle. "But by implementing them together, we were able ... to take advantage of several integration points between products, making a stronger system that better met our needs."

The first phase of the BI project, which took eight months, is complete. Along with vastly improving data reliability and consistency, Valle has given managers the much-needed ability to analyze and forecast accurately -- to improve delivery-time estimates, to better understand customer behavior, and to determine the quantity of ingredients to order and the number of workers to schedule.

Currently, Valle is configuring the BI solution to implement a "management by exception" system, which looks at all the key metrics that matter to the business and reports on those that fall outside acceptable thresholds. Also on the docket: an online ordering system for customers, a guest loyalty system, and a replacement for the antiquated point-of-sale system. To succeed in these and similar endeavors, says Valle, you need to "gain a deep understanding of the value the organization provides to customers." Pizza, anyone?

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.