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Pret a Manger separates BI systems from core IT to power real-time reporting

Scott Carey | Feb. 9, 2016
Pret's head of business intelligence, Julian Pimm-Smith, reveals food chain's business intelligence strategy

The head of business intelligence at the extremely popular high-street sandwich chain Pret a Manger explains why he has kept his analytics platform out of the cloud to deliver truly real-time reporting for shop managers.

Julian Pimm-Smith has only been the head business intelligence (BI) at Pret a Manger for less than a year, but the first thing he did was "hive off" business intelligence from the rest of the IT environment.

pret a manger wikicommons
© Wikicommons

Speaking at SAP's Innovation Forum in London, Pimm-Smith explained his strategy, saying: "As soon as I got to Pret we purchased our own set of servers, and it's all physical - we got everything off virtual, which is incredibly important to us in terms of the power we needed."

This runs counter to many IT vendors' party line that business critical processes should be moving to the cloud. Pimm-Smith offers an alternative strategy: "So anyone out there who's not looking at cloud, I would recommend if you're ever looking at refreshing your BI set up, to hive it off and operate it outside of your IT infrastructure."

Pret don't use SAP for enterprise resource planning (ERP) but Pimm-Smith's team uses SAP's BusinessObjects enterprise [version 4.1] and runs a SQL server underneath as a data warehouse.

Pimm-Smith says that running on-premises allows for the speed he requires but also, with the BusinessObjects mobile app, this information is available across the business in real time. "So if any of your IT department are telling you that you are not allowed real time data then you can happily show them this kind of example," he says.

Boring reporting

Despite calling it "boring reporting" Pimm-Smith recognises that reporting is the foundation of what his team does. He says: "It is what differentiates a successful business from a not so successful business. Making sure that the staff who do the work, understand how they are performing on a daily basis and how that rolls up."

Pimm-Smith has moved to a self-service model, where Pret shop managers can monitor their key performance indicators (KPIs) at the end of every working day. He explains: "As soon as they close their day they're getting a full breakdown of their financial performance." So instead of a prescriptive model where actions are dictated, shop managers have the information to make decisions relating to stock and labour for the next day immediately.

To serve this, Pret uses SAP's BusinessObjects to deliver mobile reports. Pimm-Smith wanted to avoid serving complex dashboards to staff, preferring to deliver "just the information they need, when they need it." 

This information is primarily live sales performance for each store, including historic and mapped information. "It's an incredibly simple report," says Pimm-Smith, "but it was so popular that we had to go back to SAP and buy more licences for BusinessObjects because every single operations manager is on this all the time, from 5am through to close of their shop, through to the weekends." 


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