Power BI and Enfo’s specialists assist Carlson with effortless and versatile data leveraging
Established 160 years ago, Carlson is a traditional family business centered on wholesale and retail trade. The company is an affiliate of Veljekset Halonen Oy and the largest privately owned department store chain in Finnish Lakeland. Carlson needs up-to-date data and reports on sales, profit margins, customers and online sales to support their business and decision-making. Azure data warehousing and Power BI reporting are the tools that offer all of this.
Carlson started the process of developing their reporting while they were renewing their ERP system. “As we began to get more comprehensive data, we also wanted to be able to use it,” says Erkka Sarnola, Development Director at Carlson. “We used to have an open source reporting tool, but our IT department did not have the time or resources for large-scale development and maintenance. After looking into a few different options, we eventually decided to go with Power BI.”
Right from the start, it was clear that the scalability of the Azure environment would enable cost-effective optimization. Power BI also scales well and thanks to its low costs, there can be a large number of users. Because Carlson’s staff uses the tool in department stores and other locations, the company requires many credentials.
In terms of cost-effectiveness, this is the best performance I have seen in any IT project so far.
Enfo helped Carlson start using Azure data warehousing and Power BI and is also responsible for maintenance and development. According to Sarnola, Carlson chose Enfo as their partner because the negotiations went well right from the beginning: “Enfo truly understood our needs and was able to calculate the actual costs of the project. In the end, the project was not far off from our budget. In terms of cost-effectiveness, this is the best performance I have seen in any IT project so far. These projects can often go well over budget.”
Easy and time-saving solution
Power BI offers Carlson the ability to view and utilize data in various ways. “In sales, we use data on customers, sales personnel, product returns and profit margins. For our online store, we monitor such factors as order volumes, return rates and net euros. As for our purchases, we are monitoring euro amounts, inventory data, inventory turnover rate and efficiency ratios,” Sarnola explains.
Saving time has been the biggest advantage. “We get data from various sources and can easily combine it. With Power BI, we can consume data in a single view and also drill down into data through identification numbers and date and time dimensions,” Sarnola says. “Thanks to this user-friendly tool and a good data model, we can create reports effortlessly. We no longer have to combine information from four different Excel worksheets. Instead, we can quickly create insights that can be used in business control.”
Enfo is a reliable collaboration partner. With Enfo, everything goes smoothly and as expected.
People at Carlson have been pleased with working with Enfo. As a partner, Enfo has helped the company with both deployment and maintenance.
“Enfo has provided us a highly skilled developer who responds to our requests quickly and is clear about our projects’ timetables. Enfo’s Senior Consultant Mikael Paavilainen genuinely wants to understand things, and as a person coming from a different sector, he is also able to suggest different approaches and solutions to us,” Sarnola praises. “Enfo is a reliable collaboration partner. The client is kept up-to-date about projects as they progress. With Enfo, everything goes smoothly and as expected.”
Data belongs to everyone
Sarnola has five tips for companies looking to adopt a new reporting tool:
- At the beginning, it is a good idea to organize a project initiation meeting and create a mind map to determine what the goals are. You should always invest time in the early stages to make sure that dimensions and other factors are taken into consideration as much as possible. It will be much easier to continue building with that approach as your foundation. Our project had an architect, a developer and an Azure expert involved right from the start, allowing us to take different perspectives into consideration.
- Start with sprints. We started with a sales sprint and moved on to inventory and purchase data after that. This enabled us to understand how the data model should be created. We would do development and testing in cycles. Without breaking the project down into smaller parts, it could have gotten out of hand.
- Be prepared to invest your own resources into the project because the supplier cannot complete everything for you. Good project management can understand the different needs of different business operations.
- Data is a project that involves the whole staff: no one can escape from it. In our department stores, we wanted to find out how data could help make the work of sales personnel easier. Organizations utilize data even at the grassroots level, so people should be able to use it quickly and wisely.
- This model could also be imagined the other way around so that the data pipeline would be built from the practical level upwards. This would be an interesting idea to try out.
Carlson is a wholesaler and retailer known for its expertise, providing jobs for almost 400 commercial sector professionals. Carlson offers a wide selection of leisure and home improvement products as well as clothing and appliances.
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