Walker Media is a top 10 UK Media Agency with billings in excess of £300 million and a client portfolio that includes many of the largest and best-known brands. One of Walker Media's specialities is in pay-per-click advertising optimisation and as the media landscape continues to fragment, it is even more important for organisations to adopt a holistic view of media - from the planning to the buying. Walker Media's offerings embrace the whole spectrum of media channels and the company has created a range of models and tools that fuse together both communication objectives and business dynamics.
With such a large client base and billings, Walker Media has amassed huge amounts of data that must be constantly analysed and modelled to ensure that client exposure is maximised, trends and opportunities identified, synergies and relationships across channels capitalised upon, and full, up-to-date reports available to management and clients.
A ‘spot-on’ proposal
Traditionally, Walker Media produced reports by manually extracting information from various disparate databases and keying it into various spreadsheets – a time-consuming and laborious task that was prone to errors. “Accurate, up-to-the-minute and reliable information is critical to our business,” explained Mark Syal, Head of Walker-i. “Reports were being produced manually and automating it was a sensible choice, given the huge amount of data that was at our disposal. Monitoring the data for deeper trends was also time-consuming.”
“We wanted to make the process far more efficient,” continued Mark Syal. “Following internal discussions we decided to issue a tender for the development of a centralised data warehouse with standardised and 'ad hoc' reporting capabilities.”
Several companies responded to the tender. Walker Media drew up a shortlist of six and decided to partner with Consolidata – a Microsoft certified technology specialist with years of experience in the design, development and implementation of business intelligence solutions for organisations of all sizes and in all market sectors.
“Consolidata's proposal was spot on,” said Mark Syal. “They took the time to fully understand our business and our objectives and impressed our technical people with their knowledge of business intelligence solutions.”
Although Walker Media has internal IT specialists, these focus on content creation and do not have the levels of database development expertise that was necessary for the successful outcome of the project. Working closely with the content creation team, Consolidata's consultants began the development of a centralised data warehouse and business intelligence solution using a range of Microsoft business intelligence technologies including SSIS, SSAS, MDX and SSRS. Excel was retained as the most effective and efficient ways of presenting information.
Effective and efficient cube solution
To ensure that Walker Media could access and report against its vast data repository in a multi-dimensional way, Consolidata utilised an OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) Cube. “Cubes are extremely efficient entities when it comes to storing summary levels, hierarchies and allowing slicing and dicing for analysis,” explained Consolidata's Director, Mark Dodd.
SQL Server was designed to integrate with other Microsoft client tools, such as Excel, allowing for advanced analytics to be undertaken without users having to learn the complex technical issues of cube creation. Consolidata has substantial expertise in Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services and we were able to design and build an efficient and effective cube solution for Walker Media.”
Although Walker Media ultimately intended the solution to be its corporate-wide analytics and reporting vehicle, the launch of the solution coincided with two major projects that Walker Media was undertaking for: Barclays Bank and Barclaycard.
The Barclays Bank project required the automation of eight Excel reports covering Barclays home insurance, life insurance, travel insurance, Woolwich, loans, motor insurance, savings and current accounts. Prior to the 'go-live' of its new system, Walker Media manually input data into each of the large, complex Excel spreadsheet templates – now the crucial data is automatically loaded on a daily basis, ensuring that the reports are available and up to date with minimal effort.
The Barclaycard project was similar in scope and used much of the same underlying data. Consolidata developed a flexible reporting system (this time based on web-based reports created in SQL Server Reporting Services) that allowed users to generate reports as and when needed.
Achieving the impossible
Walker Media's new solution has radically enhanced the way in which the company analyses, models and reports on information. A range of reports have been developed that are automatically populated with data from the centralised data warehouse and produced on a weekly (or more frequent) basis, ensuring that all staff have the same reports at the same time. Additional reports can be built quickly and easily without reliance on the internal IT specialists.
“We can now do things that simply were not possible with our old system,” explained Mark Syal. “We have a much more accurate picture of each account and can identify opportunities and enhance campaigns to the betterment of the client with both cumulative and snapshot reports.”
Development of the solution is on-going, with additional functionalities and capabilities being added to meet Walker Media's precise requirements. “Consolidata is a great partner,” concluded Mark. “They have taken our objectives and translated them into a powerful, flexible, valuable and easy-to-use tool. We have saved a considerable amount of time in report generation, reduced errors and have far better visibility of our business information. We can now concentrate on our business, and can rely completely on the accuracy and integrity of our reports.”