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ANDRE W MC A F EE
ALI S ON BE RKLE Y W A G O N F ELD
Business Intelligence Software at SYSCO
Twila Day left the meeting excited, but also a little nervous. Her Technology and Applications Group had just been given approval by the Director’s Council of SYSCO to proceed with a company- wide deployment of business intelligence (BI) software. The effort was intended to help SYSCO, the largest food distributor in North America, make better use of the information generated by its operations and serve its customers better. The Director’s Council, a group of senior managers with substantial power and influence, had been impressed enough by the results of a prototype to recommend full-scale adoption. Day’s IT group would provide the bulk of the required technical support, as well as consulting and training on the use of BI. They would be assisted in this work by the professional services group of Business Objects, the BI software vendor chosen by SYSCO as the new corporate standard.
While there was a great deal of development and configuration work to do on the BI software, Day was hoping that deployments within SYSCO’s operating companies could start as early as July 2003, just six months away. Day was not concerned about the magnitude of the effort—she had been involved in two recent successful IT projects that were both larger in scale and scope—but she did intend to watch progress closely, especially in the early stages. She felt that BI was unlike other types of enterprise software in use within the company, and she wanted to see how it was received and what controversies, if any, arose. The prototype development effort had been remarkably smooth, and she was eager to make sure the full project continued this happy trend.
She also had to decide exactly how much BI software to buy from Business Objects. The vendor was offering Day attractive discounts if she purchased more software modules and user licenses up front rather than later in the project. Day anticipated that SYSCO would eventually use more modules and licenses, but she questioned whether it was wise to buy them all at the start, before business needs and time frames were clear. Would it be better overall to prebuy lots of software at a discount, or to buy only what she knew she needed, when she needed it?
SYSCO was founded in Houston in 1969. It focused on procuring and distributing food and food- related products and services to restaurants, health-care and educational facilities, lodging establishments, and other organizations in the United States and Canada that offered “meals outside
Professor Andrew McAfee and Alison Berkley Wagonfeld, Executive Director of the HBS California Research Center, prepared this case. HBS cases are developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of effective or ineffective management.
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604-080Business Intelligence Software at SYSCO
the home.” The company had over 420,000 customers, ranging from huge chain restaurants such as Wendy’s and Chili’s to “mom-and-pop” diners. In fiscal 2002, the company generated sales of $23.4 billion. (See Exhibit 1 for SYSCO’s income statement and Exhibit 2 for Twila Day’s bio.)
SYSCO’s 8,000 marketing associates worked directly with customers,...