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Better BI: Boyne Resorts

Marketing staffers can view customer behavior patterns at each of the company's ski and golf resorts.

By Thomas Hoffman
September 1, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - BI projects are frequently driven by the demands of executives who want to scour dashboards to analyze sales and other business trends. But at Boyne Resorts, the company's BI directive was marshaled by its CIO.

In 2007, Chris Downing, who was Boyne's IT chief at the time, asked Noah Meister, then an up-and-coming help desk support person, to take the lead on the company's BI effort. Downing wanted dashboards and various reports that executives in sales, marketing and other business units could sift through to get a better understanding of customer behavior.

It didn't matter that Meister had no BI training or experience at that point in his career. Meister says he was given the BI responsibilities after Downing saw promise in the way he attacked technical and business problems on the help desk.

At a Glance

A family-run, mountain and golf resort operator in Boyne Falls, Mich., Boyne Resorts owns properties such as Crooked Tree Golf Club in Michigan, Loon Mountain in New Hampshire and Big Sky Resort in Montana.

  • Project champion: Noah Meister, technical services corporate director
  • Project cost and payback: $22,500 in first-year software licensing and support fees and $2,000 for training. Meister estimates that the project has already paid for itself.
  • Size of the IT group: 16 IT staffers in the corporate office; 24 at the various resorts.

Meister began by trying to find a better way for the company to generate reports and information for its top decision-makers. Previously, reports were generated strictly by using Business Objects' Crystal Reports, which had its limitations, he says.

"Every time somebody wanted something different from a report, we'd either have to rewrite a report or write an entirely new report," says Meister. Plus, business executives questioned why data in some of the reports didn't always mesh, he adds.

Boyne marketers can click on pushpin icons to learn more about customer behavior.
Boyne marketers can click on pushpin icons to learn more about customer behavior.
Click to view larger image

"We wanted to have the same way of reporting information across all of the resorts," says Meister. He evaluated a few open-source BI systems, including SpagoBI and JasperSoft, but he found that it took two to three weeks just to set up each tool and load the data.

In contrast, a test version of Orlando-based Pentaho Corp.'s BI platform came preloaded with "fake" data, which made it easier "to show management what was possible with the tools," says Meister.

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