Case Study: Data Software Has Eyewear Seller Seeing Clearly

Safilo, a seller of eyeglasses and sunglasses, rids itself of bulky reports in favor of business intelligence software from Cognos.
Posted September 14, 2001

David Aponovich

The Canadian unit of Italian eyewear maker and distributor Safilo used to be a paper manufacturer's best friend.

Each quarter, its IT department would print reams of sales reports for the 30-person traveling sales team. The reports were stuffed with critical sales information -- customer orders, pricing information, delivery status. They were as hefty as big-city phone books.

The trouble for Safilo's sales reps wasn't just the logistical hassle of lugging around such thick reports. The bigger problem was effectively using these data to stay on top of their accounts, manage orders and keep their clients -- 2,500 opticians and optometrists across Canada -- informed and happy.

Today, Safilo's paper chase is a memory thanks to an implementation of Cognos business intelligence software and software from Safilo's IT partner, Today, rather than lugging around a thick pack of papers, Safilo sales staffers carry an IBM laptop loaded with current sales information viewable in clear, relevant, easy-to-understand formats. "Our salesmen are really happy with the solution. It is fast to find the information," says Claude Groppi, Safilo's IT manager.

Old-style sales, old-style data-mining
You might not recognize the name Safilo, an Italian company with more than $625 million in annual worldwide sales. But you'll likely recognize the brands of eyeglasses and sunglasses the company handles: Smith, Carrera, Polo Ralph Lauren, Diesel, Max Mara, Pierre Cardin, Burberry, and several other lines.

The company covers the Canadian market with a team of 30 traveling sales people who rely on personal, on-site visits with their customers. The way the sales system operates provides a glimpse into the logistics tangle of collecting, managing, and distributing data to key people.

The 30 sales people each handle a different line or lines of frames. That mean each of Safilo's 2,500 customers in Canada might get a visit from three or four different sales people three or four times per year to cover all product lines. Each visit generates a report on orders, delivery status, payment information, ordering history, and other sales-related statistics. The result: 10,000 or more "accounts" to manage and analyze. That generates a lot of paper.

Safilo's technology partner, Montreal-based, has for several years provided business software, called Distribution Management (SDM), to manage Safilo's sales and distribution in Canada. (Founded in 1972, specializes in enterprise resource planning, supply chain management, and business intelligence and data warehousing.) SDM is a melding of ERP, sales, financial, and other applications.

The Challenge: Better Analysis
The challenge facing Safilo's IT department and Groppi, its IT manager, was to find a technology that delivered to the sales team reports that were easier to produce, use, and analyze than printed copies. (It used to take three days to print a new batch of reports.) Safilo turned to to help find a solution.

Corey Mendelsohn,'s assistant manager, technical, for business intelligence, recalls the old way Safilo pushed sales data to its sales team. "Each report was the size of a phone book for each rep. They used reams and reams of paper. The paper company loved them," he said.

The problem was "there was so much detail in these reports, the reps were just going to the back (pages) to get a summary." In effect, they were not always using the data -- the business intelligence -- to maximum advantage. "What they needed was the high-level summary, then get down to details on a case-by-case basis," he said.

Mendelsohn said Safilo had specific requirements of what the company needed from a technology solution. "What was needed was to know what each customer was buying, what brands they were buying, and which reps were selling to each account," he said.

The big books filled with reports were causing Groppi another headache. Rather than sift through the data themselves, some sales staffers would call in from the field to ask him to produce specific intelligence reports, giving them specific answers they were looking for. It was not an effective use of his time. proposed that Safilo adopt Cognos PowerPlay, a business intelligence solution that helps users manage large amounts of sales data and view it in various formats for reporting, analysis, and forecasting. is a certified Cognos reseller and has had great success marrying Cognos software to its own SDM package.

"Cognos has let us expand the life of the (SDM) product. It's one of the most robust software packages around for distributors," Mendelsohn said. "Cognos was able to take the SDM package to the next level."

Safilo's decision to implement Cognos was made in early 1999. Within three months, Safilo rolled out the new technology to its entire Canadian sales team. Safilo ditched the paper reports and bought every sales rep an IBM laptop loaded with Cognos PowerPlay.

Sales team puts intelligence to work
Keep in mind, this technology was rolled out to a sales team not entirely comfortable with computers. To get everybody ready, Safilo gathered its entire sales force at one location and, over the course of a weekend, taught them how to use the software.

Staffers quickly realized the software could help them easily analyze data and track their accounts -- and ditch the paper reports. A big advantage comes when they visit a client. Before the sales call, they're able to retrieve relevant data from the laptop and print out a report to carry with them to refer to during the meeting or call up on their laptop.

Now, Safilo sales people can find the key information they're looking for, such as what's being sold to whom, the status of backorders, and other features, without dealing with reams of paper. And no more calls to the IT department for assistance.

The system lets reps tap into only their accounts (sales managers get a broader view). The information is updated monthly (adequate for their purposes) and delivered via the Web.

Mendelsohn said Safilo's reps are using Cognos PowerPlay Client and Impromptu Client, applications that access data and customer profile information. The software is installed on each rep's computer, and helps them show customers their sales history. The "cubes" of information are undated monthly via a download procedure to each laptop.

Mendelsohn said the total implementation cost was $170,000 CDN ($108,000 US). Among the costs: $80,000 on software ($2,000 for each of 30 users, plus $20,000 for a DataMirror for replication software); $75,000 for hardware (including laptops and server); and $15,000 for services.

It appears to have been money well spent.

"The information helps them sell the products," said Safilo's Groppi. "The information is good and accurate, and I think sales are better." He notes that the implementation wasnt done with the specific intent of boosting sales. "It was just an improvement they needed." It also helps sales managers, who can get a quick and detailed look at the activity of their sales people.

In the end, good analysis and relevant information are helping the Safilo sales team thrive.

David Aponovich is senior editor of CIN, an site.

0 Comments (click to add your comment)
Comment and Contribute


(Maximum characters: 1200). You have characters left.