In the past, GameStop’s business users had to ask IT to build reports; this removed users from the flow of analysis and greatly increased the time taken to get from questions to answers. How could GameStop streamline this process?
GameStop’s business intelligence team transformed from producers to enablers by providing new self-service capabilities that allowed business users to create reports, analyses, and dashboards for themselves.
500 new analysesor reports created by business users in the first year of self-service
2000+ reportsmade obsolete; 43 enterprise reports replaced with user-led analyses
3 IT resourcesrefocused on higher-value analysis work instead of report development
Business challenge story
Game over for IT-led reporting
For many years, GameStop has recognized that the success of its business depends on having timely insight into accurate data. The company has created a culture of data-driven decision-making, built on powerful set of analytics tools that pervade every area of the business, and are used by everyone from C-level executives to store leaders.
GameStop’s demand for insight is constantly evolving, and its analytics philosophy is evolving with it. In particular, the company’s IT team realized that its centralized approach to report development was no longer able to scale to meet business demand.
Kiran Sreewastav, Senior Director of Enterprise Architecture, explains: “For basic reporting, the business would always come to the IT team to ask for data and insights—and increasingly, that was creating a bottleneck. We really wanted to eliminate the culture of asking for reports.”
Over the years, the company had built up a catalog of more than 4,000 reports, many of which had been developed to meet a specific request and were no longer fully relevant to current business challenges.
New requests from the company’s business users were arriving all the time, and the IT team was spending weeks on basic report development tasks, instead of being able to focus on more strategic business projects.
“The time-to-insight was too long, and the business requirements would often change during report development,” says Sreewastav. “Moreover, the cycle of requesting and building reports isn’t a good fit with most business requirements. It’s rare for users to have just one question that they want to answer; more often, they want the freedom to explore a whole line of questioning and keep interrogating their data until they find the insight they need.
“We wanted our IT team to move away from being producers of reports and focus on enabling the rest of the business to analyze data for themselves. That meant we needed to build a platform that would not only help us provide robust, well-governed data assets to our end-users, but would also make it easy for non-technical users to integrate their own data and build intuitive reports and dashboards.”
A power-up for business users
The GameStop IT team aims to be flexible about allowing business users to connect their own preferred analytics tools to the company’s data warehouse—but for large-scale enterprise reporting, it relies on IBM Cognos software.
“In terms of scalability and governance, we’ve always believed that Cognos provides a robust solution,” explains Sreewastav. “But having a user-friendly front-end is important too, especially if you want to give users the confidence to build analytics tools for themselves. We wanted a solution that could combine the robustness and power of Cognos with a modern, intuitive user experience.”
Cresco International, an IBM Business Partner that works closely with GameStop, realized that IBM Cognos Analytics on Cloud could further enhance the company’s analytics capabilities, for both end-users and the IT team. The Cresco team demonstrated the new features of Cognos Analytics and helped to build a strong business case for migrating to the cloud.
“Cresco really helped us understand the benefits of the new features and explore the art of the possible with the solution,” says Sreewastav. “When we decided to go ahead with the project, the Cresco team was with us every step of the way.”
Cresco helped GameStop migrate its users and reports to the new IBM Cognos Analytics on Cloud, eliminating the need to continue maintaining an on-premise environment. This will ultimately allow the company to retire 12 physical servers and significantly reduce its IT infrastructure and maintenance costs.
In addition, GameStop formed an initiative known as “Partner Success”, with a simple charter: transform the BI group from producers to enablers, and help users become confident and efficient in using GameStop’s self-service data and tools. The team applied best-practice methodologies to improve data quality, governance, and user adoption.
For example, the team segmented its user base into several different personas and conducted over 60 training workshops to help each group of users get up to speed with the right skills for their role.
Deep Ghawri, Senior Analytics Architect at Cresco International, comments: "In our experience, there is a single-digit success rate for self-service analytics implementations in this industry. Keeping this in mind, we recommended a three-phased approach: first educate, then adopt, and then re-educate, to ensure that we would cover all business user needs.
“The key was for the team to learn GameStop’s business needs so that they could really engage with the business, and this was one of the key success points. The GameStop Partner Success team and its leadership were the guiding star in making a truly successful implementation.”
Sanjeev Datta, CEO of Cresco International, adds: “Team Cresco is in the business of solving problems and enhancing businesses with IBM software technology. We are proud to have served GameStop with the IBM software offering, and delighted that our technical team has added value to the GameStop Partner Success team. It is the technical capabilities of our team and their business acumen that make implementations like the one at GameStop successful."
A new high score for business insight
The results of the Partner Success initiative have been extremely positive: GameStop’s business users have become enthusiastic adopters of the self-service platform with Cognos Analytics, developing over 500 new reports and analyses within the first 12 months of using the new platform.
“Instead of coming to IT for help, we’re seeing real business ownership,” says Sreewastav. “Today, the majority of new reports are designed and controlled by the people who use them day-to-day. There’s 100 percent alignment between the data that users need and the data they see in their reports, because they have made the analytics tools themselves.”
As one example, GameStop has been able to replace a group of more than 100 legacy reports that were originally authored by the IT team with just 43 new reports authored by the business. By reducing the total number of reports while increasing the relevance and quality, GameStop cuts maintenance effort while helping business users focus on the insight they need.
Thanks to the new self-service capabilities, the company’s business planning and analysis group, which is a heavy user of the Cognos platform, has seen its productivity increase significantly.
“The business planning and analysis group used to spend a lot of time working on Sundays or in the evenings to produce simple reports manually,” says Sreewastav. “Now they are freed from all that extra work and can spend their time in the office working on more value-added analysis.”
This leap forward has been made possible by the GameStop IT team’s commitment to user education and cultural change, supported by the ease-of-use of the new Cognos Analytics software.
“Cognos Analytics still offers power-users the same advanced features as previous versions, but the new interface offers a much easier learning-curve,” says Sreewastav. “For a new user, it’s simple to understand and easy to get started.
“It seems superficial, but users used to ask why we wanted them to use Cognos instead of one of the newer generation of visualization tools. It’s great that we can now give them the attractive visuals that they want, while keeping the robust data governance and administration features on the back-end.”
GameStop’s business users also appreciate the ability to blend enterprise data from the data warehouse with their own departmental data, by uploading spreadsheets into Cognos Analytics and creating their own analyses.
“Cognos Analytics on Cloud will give our IT admin and support team 25 percent more time to focus on strategic projects and lets us adopt new capabilities more quickly, because IBM handles all the maintenance, patching and upgrades.”
The IT team can now focus on building an analytics framework that everyone can use, with standardized definitions and robust data governance across the whole enterprise.
Sreewastav comments: “For example, we have a Data Trust Initiative which provides SLAs that not only guarantee delivery times, but also commit to meeting specific data quality metrics. The business can be confident that they are getting correct, consistent answers.”
Adoption of the new platform is well underway, and GameStop is continuously finding new use cases for self-service analytics.
Sreewastav concludes: “Instead of just managing a catalog of thousands of static reports that only partly serve the needs of the business, we are empowering our users to have a real dialog with business data. We’ve set them free to follow their own lines of questioning and uncover insights that help them make better day-to-day business decisions. That’s a priceless advantage in today’s agile and competitive retail market.”
GameStop, the world’s largest video game retailer, offers the best selection of new and pre-owned video gaming consoles, accessories and video game titles, in both physical and digital formats. GameStop also offers fans a wide variety of pop vinyl, toys, collectibles, board games and more. Through GameStop’s unique buy-sell-trade program, gamers can trade in video game consoles, games, and accessories, as well as consumer electronics for cash or in-store credit. The retailer operates thousands of locations around the world under the GameStop, EB Games and Micromania retail brands.
- Cognos Analytics
Take the next step
Cresco International, headquartered in Dallas, TX, provides business management, resources and data technology to organizations. Its offerings include: IBM Business Analytics software, marketing analytics tools, cloud solutions, consulting services, and technology support and training. To find out more about products and services from Cresco International, visit: crescointl.com
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