Connecting Power BI to SAP HANA to make sure a $400M superstore chain in Angola always makes the right decisions.
Contidis is an investment group building the Candando superstore chain in Angola. With over US $400 million in investment capital, Candando means not only big business but also thousands of new jobs, the livelihood of local producers and general access to groceries in a struggling economy. Contidis plans on opening 10 Candando superstores by 2021 but its drive is built on the back of a cautious philosophy: open a store, learn what works and what needs to change, adjust and repeat.
Before opening its first Candando store, Contidis started building a business intelligence (BI) model with tools in its SAP for Retail solution. However, IT staff was taking too long to build reports and data was so scarce business users weren’t able to make informed decisions. The application was far from matching Contidis’s ambition and holding the entire business back.
Far from pleased with the setbacks caused by their BI model, Contidis asked DevScope to design a Power BI solution that could handle all their data needs: an agile platform that could grow as their users move from one challenge to the next.
Luckily, DevScope’s approach was not that different from Contidis’s:
“We like to start small, listen to users, modify the solution in order to solve their problems and scale it to ensure stability.”
– Rui Romano, BI Team Manager at DevScope
Excel was the tool of choice to connect Power BI with data from Contidis’s SAP application, which ran on Amazon Web Services (AWS). DevScope proceeded to connect Power BI to the SAP HANA warehouse in AWS and, within 1 month, over 100 employees at Contidis – including managers and store personnel – were using the BI solution to include data from store inventory, product pricing, purchases and promotions in their reports.
There was still plenty of work to do, though: users were experiencing slower response times, file location was making mobile access to reports a hassle and Power BI couldn’t handle data comparison between Excel files and those in the SAP HANA database. In order to increase performance and circumvent these issues, Contidis needed a single source of information for business intelligence. DevScope opted for building a data warehouse with Azure SQL Database and create a custom PowerShell ETL framework to move data to the cloud. This solution also allowed to configure refresh rates for every table in the warehouse so Candando could access sales data by the hour.
In order to control data access, DevScope implemented a dynamic security model with Azure Analysis Services and Azure Active Directory, ensuring customized BI-access privileges for every user. We also introduced standardized reports and dashboards that help optimize operations (such as sales comparisons that help determine how discounts drive revenue) as well as alerts for unusual balances in order to detect fraud.
Competitive pricing can make or break a new player in the retail market and in order to understand how Candando’s value stacked against its competitors, DevScope built a handy Power BI solution that allowed employees to scan a product’s barcode at any retailer and instantly compare its price to Candando’s using their smartphones. In the near future, this feature will also be able to send data to the Azure warehouse and immediately integrate comparative pricing on a sales report.
These reports allow users to filter views and add the information of their choice such as store location, date, transaction, product, inventory levels, and product orders. Since the solution is so scaleable, Contidis can easily add more users and reports, and save data for the long term, gaining useful insights on trends.
“The first Candando store has been open for less than a year. We already have 14 million records in Azure and adding information about 10.000 sales transactions every day. Even though our data is growing exponentially, we can continue to scale the cloud-based Power BI model to meet long-term requirements.”
– Renato Correia, CTO, Contidis
Automated alerts for IT staff and business users can also be configured with Power BI. For example, if a product isn’t selling, the appropriate people will be alerted in order to act on it as soon as possible. Among the many advantages of using Power BI and Azure Analysis Services is the solutions’ scaleability. Just like Contidis’s expansion plans, DevScope’s solutions started small and scaled up as needed. This allowed Contidis to pay for only what they needed and save money in the process.
“We noticed people weren’t using the service in the middle of the night so we just deployed a script that automatically scales Azure services up and down and turns them on and off depending on traffic and usage. Just by turning our BI service off for 4 hours a night, we’ll save an estimate 3.600€/year. This may seem insignificant to some, but it’s very relevant to us. This change supports our energy-efficient culture and in the long run these savings will be substantial.”
– Renato Correia, CTO, Contidis
Contidis opened the first Candando superstore in May 2016. Its success has been replicated twice and over 1.000 new jobs were created in Angola in the process. Contidis’s plan is to open an additional 7 stores by 2021.
Thanks to Power BI and Azure, Contidis’s IT staff spends less time creating reports and business users can access all the data they need in order to run their stores and fulfill the company’s ambition.
“Since we implemented our Power BI solution in Azure, we’ve noticed a big improvement in business insight and efficiency. Our IT staff spends less time creating reports and our business users have a lot of autonomy, accessing and creating BI whenever they need to, be it from our portal or using mobile devices, including phones and tablets. Our continued growth is due to many factors – and Power BI is one of them.”
– Renato Correia, CTO, Contidis
- Rui Romano – Architect
- Joana Barbosa – Senior Developer & Team Lead
- Fabio Batista – Developer
- Andreia Graça – Developer
- Bruno Ferreira – Developer & Trainer
- Luis Tiago – Intern/Junior
- Ruben Cunha – Developer
- João Pires – Developer