The Cloud Networks
Founded in 2003, The Cloud Networks has evolved from an indoor hotspot provider into European’s market leading provider of public access Wi-Fi services.
The Cloud builds and operates low-cost high-performance public access Wi-Fi networks for international retailers, restaurants, leisure and hotel chains. With the expertise and a variety of outdoor city networks, including Gothenburg, Stuttgart and The City of London, The Cloud has services operating across 7,000 locations with 22,000 Wi-Fi network access points in 12 European countries. In addition to working closely with device manufacturers seeking to deliver high quality and easy-to-use Wi-Fi access, The Cloud partners with and delivers seamless services to world leading telecommunication companies.
The Cloud has offices in London, Munich and Stockholm with around 100 employees.
Bespoke ad hoc reporting database and KPI information system
Almost 5 years ago, The Cloud recognised that its phenomenal growth, coupled with an explosion in the demand for high-performance public access Wi-Fi networks had resulted in it amassing vast amounts of information – information that would allow the Cloud to take smarter, faster business decisions. However, as is the case with many medium-sized enterprises, the business critical information resided in multiple, disparate databases, making it extremely difficult to obtain an accurate, up-to-date and detailed summary of the business.
“In a business like ours, information is key,” explained Dr Katja Mueller, The Cloud Network’s Business Intelligence Analyst. “We receive huge amounts of information from our ever growing customer base but accessing this to produce reports and analysis of usage was an extremely difficult and time-consuming process. We needed a business intelligence solution that would consolidate all of our information and provide fast, easy-to-use, flexible and user-friendly internal reporting capabilities. With a requirement for a database that had trusted and clean data to facilitate both KPI reporting and ad hoc querying as required, The Cloud approached Consolidata for the design, development and implementation of a bespoke ad hoc reporting database and KPI information system.”
The right information in the right place at the right time
“Our existing analytics and reporting system could not support our growth,” continued Katja. “Whenever we needed reports, we had to pass the request up to our development teams, who were always heavily involved in core business projects. Depending upon the complexity of these projects it could be weeks, even months before the teams were able to divert their attention towards the building and running of the report, and by that time, it was probably too late for the report to have any real value.”
Following a detailed analysis of The Cloud’s immediate and long-term objectives, Consolidata proposed the use of a data warehouse and OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) cube to ensure that The Cloud would be able to analyse its data in a multi-dimensional way.
“Cubes are extremely efficient entities when it comes to storing summary data and hierarchies, and would allow The Cloud to slice and dice data for analysis,” explained Dwain Goulbourne, one of Consolidata’s SQL development specialists. “A traditional relational table has two dimensions, whereas an OLAP cube can have much more, giving The Cloud unrivalled flexibility in the way that data is analysed, evaluated and compared.”
Although The Cloud has considerable in-house IT resources, it did not have the highly specialised expertise that the design, development and implementation of an OLAP cube based solution required.
“This is an extremely complex development process and although we considered recruiting permanent specialists, it made far more financial sense to partner with specialists who would also be able to deliver on-going support and development services as well as provide knowledge transfer so that our in-house IT team could manage and maintain the solution themselves,” added Katja.
A partnership for the future
Working in partnership, The Cloud and Consolidata mapped out the initial concepts of the solution that would provide the required levels of powerful, flexible and easy-to-use reporting capabilities. As The Cloud receives data that includes details of every internet session on the network and every voucher that was sold or used, the solution had to provide reporting and analysis of usage across geographic locations, product types, etc. allowing The Cloud to understand how its networks are used and to gain valuable insight that could enhance customer satisfaction, network availability, profitability, revenues and business growth.
In addition to defining the required KPIs and identifying the supporting data sources, the Consolidata/The Cloud partnership had to establish and document the necessary business rules before designing the data cleansing and transformation routines, designing and developing the KPI data warehouse and developing a set of standard report templates that could be run by any authorised member of The Cloud’s staff at any time and from any location.
“In addition to a library of standard report templates, we also wanted to give staff the ability to build their own report designs so that they could extract the precise information that they required,” explained Katja. “This dynamic approach was a radical departure from our out-moded reporting process but if we are to identify trends and anomalies and capitalise on them we needed this level of flexibility.”
Savings in cost and time
The Cloud’s data warehouse/business intelligence solution has transformed the way in which the company accesses and analyses data. The previous solution with disparate data repositories limited user access to information making it extremely difficult to generate reports. It was also almost impossible to determine whether the information used to drive these reports was the latest and most up-to-date available. Today, users can obtain the information they need, when they need it and in a format that they can readily understand.
“The benefits have been huge,” concluded Katja. “Staff can now access the information that they need and make better smarter decisions. As an organisation, we have become more efficient and have our fingers on the pulse of the business. Thanks to our Business Intelligence solution, our people have become more productive, we have a better understanding of our business and we have improved our internal communications through the flow of accurate, reliable and timely information.”