CPiO recommended Railston to invest in the QlikView business discovery tool from Qlik
As Wiltshire based Railston can attest, the high street store is thriving – with dynamic retailers increasingly introducing innovative new high street store formats to complement the fast growing online sales channel.
With over 30 years’ experience supplying fit-out services and designing, supplying and installing shop equipment and furniture, Railston Interiors Group operates across the UK and Europe for high profile clients including Primark, WH Smith and TK Maxx – and business is growing fast.
Challenge – Managing International Projects
Whether it is fitting out a new store or updating display equipment across the existing store estate, retailers want to minimise down time and get the new store up and running as fast as possible. Running upwards of 600 projects every year, each lasting around four weeks, Railston’s 25 project managers are under huge pressure to deliver to the retailer’s tight timescales without incurring additional costs that will compromise margin.
As Andy Fox, Managing Director, Railston explains, “Railston offers a range of services from retail shop fitting to the supply of shop equipment and display fixtures. Projects can range from a complete roll out programme across multiple stores to the installation of dedicated display equipment, creating a complex mix of demands for project managers to handle.”
In addition, many of these projects are running simultaneously in different locations – even different countries. “Project managers are constantly making decisions, placing new orders, deciding how much labour is required, making alterations – it is essential to know where they are in terms of spend on any project because in this environment cost can really easily run away from you,” he says.
Solution – Attaining Trusted Information
For the past ten years CPiO has been supporting Railston’s IT environment including both servers and networks and its Sage ERP system. Most recently, CPiO is upgrading Railston from its Sage Line 500 finance system to Sage 1000. The company also uses Microsoft SharePoint to provide a single source of information, such as job quotes, for everyone across the business.
However, gaining project based analytical information from the financially focused Sage ERP solution has always proved difficult, especially for project managers working remotely. Andy explains, “Getting any information from Sage is tricky – you really have to know what you are doing with it. As a result, project managers have been reliant upon spreadsheets when on site – but that doesn’t give the real time information on job spend versus budget required to maintain excellent control.”
To resolve this, CPiO recommended Railston to invest in the QlikView business discovery tool from Qlik. The self-service data visualisation tool provides project managers with real-time access to job cost and budget information from a variety of sources and delivers it in a single solution via iPads.
Andy says, “Using QlikView is really simple. A project manager just clicks on it; puts in a client, or a job, and it brings up all the budgets, the costs – and shows where each project is on margin. And with the graphs and highly visual comparisons, it is easy to see straight away if there is overspend or an overrun in an area. For the first time, project managers have a really clear way of monitoring the costs on each project.”
Benefits – Improving Control
One of the biggest benefits for project managers is the ability to highlight potential problem areas quickly. The highly intuitive, graphical QlikView toolset provides an ‘at a glance’ view of each project, by cost type – labour, materials and so on – against budget. For example, one of the biggest areas of potential overspend is labour, especially when a project manager is under extreme pressure to get the job completed. Yet as Andy explains, the reality may be that labour may not be costed to the job for a reason, such as Railston is not meant to be undertaking that aspect of the fit.
Andy says, “By transforming the way we are tracking project costs, QlikView is providing immediate visibility of a potential problem and enabling the project manager to take the right decision today – rather than discovering the mistake sometime down the line.”
In addition to providing individual project managers with access to information, Railston is using QlikView to provide management with an interactive dashboard view of all projects being undertaken at any time. As Andy explains, “Using QlikView’s graphs provide an immediate overview of the state of any project, whether it is on time and on budget. I can make comparisons between projects and project managers and identify trends in activity and behaviour.”
As a result, the team is now in a position to intervene quickly if a problem is arising in any particular area, minimising the risk of overspends or delays. Furthermore, QlikView will make it far easier to identify problem trends experienced by one or more project managers that may indicate the need for additional support or training – again improving the overall efficiency and performance of the team.
Conclusion – Effective Decision Making
For Railston, business continues to grow, with retailers looking for ever more innovative store designs – and project managers are under immense pressure to meet ever tighter timescales and budgets. Andy concludes, “With retailers such as Primark, the driving force behind these projects is to get it completed as soon as possible – and that makes it very easy to lose control of costs. QlikView is making a real difference to the business. Being able to track variations and identify mistakes as soon as they happen is critical in any project based business: providing project managers with the ability to use QlikView via their iPads when on site, is making everyone more confident in the status of each project, which will undoubtedly result in better decisions that will drive better, more efficient performance.”