Bringing better business intelligence to automotive sector

Computer science researchers from our University are working with FP Solutions, a business intelligence provider to the motor trader, on a 30-month Knowledge Transfer Partnership. They are developing the next generation of the firm’s Business Intelligence Software (BIS), which will provide real-time web-based reporting and harness new technologies like machine learning and predictive intelligence.

About FP Solutions

FP Solutions (originally FPS) provides business reporting products to the motor trade and works with a large number of car dealership groups, including Pentagon, Drive Vauxhall and Sandicliffe. The company’s solutions help car dealerships monitor and report on their performance against targets, forecasts and budgets.

Established in 2013, FP Solutions initially provided programmable spreadsheet solutions but later developed this into an interactive portal for financial transactions and business intelligence.

The need to upgrade — real-time and big data

When it approached us in 2018, FP Solutions had an aspiration to become a UK market leader for real-time web-based reporting, initially in the automotive industry, and then in other sectors. It had a client base of approximately 100 car dealerships but had ambitions to grow this to 500 by 2020. To do this, it recognised that it would need to develop its BIS further. Through a number of successful pilots, the firm had established that there was a clear opportunity to connect to different dealer management systems and provide real-time reporting on an interactive online platform.

“We wanted to develop our BIS solution to keep pace with market demands around big data and real-time reporting,” explains Mark Coates, Managing Director of FP Solutions. “We were manually processing the data and integrating it into our systems, but this was very labour and time intensive. We needed to access advanced expertise in data warehousing and predictive intelligence, agile methods of data administration, and programming in modern storage solutions.”

Securing funding and expertise

FP Solutions approached the University and together, they successfully applied for over £145,000 in government funding to undertake a 30-month Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), which began in September 2019.

Mark explains the benefits of the partnership: “We only have a small team so collaboration with the University will enable us to draw upon their technical and academic expertise to drive this project through to completion. This project will lay the foundations for future research and development opportunities resulting from our enhanced technology, skills and expertise. We need the University’s support to facilitate and embed this capability and grow the business.”

The two partners used some of the funding to recruit a PhD researcher from the University of Derby, Bilal Arshad, as the project ‘associate’. Bilal is carrying out the day-to-day work, which began with understanding the company’s current products and technologies and then moved on to defining the technical requirements for the financial data integration, data science environments and algorithms. Bilal will eventually create a prototype solution that will be tested with a small selection of the company’s clients using real financial data.

He is receiving academic support from a senior researcher at the University, Professor Stephan Reiff-Marganiec, Professor of Computer Science, as well as day-to-day supervision from Danny Moynes, a Website Reporting Developer at FP Solutions.

“We anticipate that the development of this Business Intelligence Web Portal will lead to a number of benefits,” explains Mark Coates, Managing Director of FP Solutions. “From improving our internal efficiency and customer experience to entering new markets and creating new jobs. Overall, the KTP will put us at the forefront of financial reporting, as we become more innovative and creative than our competitors.”

Employee looking at his computer

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

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