Gartner Finds that Santa’s BI Capabilities Lag Other Shipping and Distribution Operations

Gartner says that North Pole, Inc.’s (NPI) analytic opportunities go beyond naughty or nice and advised Santa’s organization to consolidate its ordering process and explore big data options.

(North Pole Inc. operations. Source: Gartner.)

Gartner has made an assessment of North Pole, Inc.’s capabilities to help the organization in its struggles to support growth and respond proactively to competitive pressures through the use of emerging technologies and best practices. As outlined at the research and advisory firm’s blog, recommendations include expanding analytics beyond “naughty or nice” factors, tapping and analyzing social media streams, and pursuing hosted data solutions for NPI’s 7,700 gift hubs. Gartner also made several suggestions about how big data can help NPI.

Santa Claus, CEO, NPI. (Source: Jonathan G. Meath.)

Santa Claus, CEO, NPI. (Source: Jonathan G. Meath.)

“We do a jolly good job year after year,” comments Santa Claus, NPI’s Founder and CEO. “But I have really put the pressure on my IT management team to achieve better efficiencies and creatively use information to innovate.”

As a long-time Gartner client, NPI has read about how other enterprises have selectively adopted information technologies, embraced new architectures and approaches, and acquired the necessary skills, a Gartner statement notes. “Now it’s our turn,” says NPI’s CIO Frederick Ellefsen. “We’ve now fully embraced ‘big data’ and the significant opportunities indicated by the confluence of mobile, cloud, social and information—Gartner’s Nexus of Forces— along with digital business best practices, so we didn’t want to be left out in the cold, so to speak.”

From a business intelligence perspective, NPI lags others in the shipping and distribution industry, according to the Gartner statement. Its enterprise data warehouse, called “Chimneys”, is really a collection of stovepipe query and reporting systems, some still relying on first-generation BI tools like Red Brick, according to Gartner. The research and advisory firm recommended evolving to a logical data warehouse architecture for most low-frequency queries to enable more insightful cross-functional, federated analytics.

Although NPI does a great job of social media participation, including a multi-channel Twitter strategy (e.g., @santa, @officialsanta, @santaclaus, @santa_claus, etc.), Gartner notes, the firm recommended that NPI begin tapping and analyzing social media streams. Social sentiment analysis will help NPI identify emerging “hot toys” for pre-ordering, and identify early warning signals of quality-related issues. NPI also took into consideration the idea of integrating global economic data to better focus its gift giving on those in the greatest need. However, NPI like many organizations is struggling to hire or train a team of data scientists. “Advanced analytics just isn’t a core elfin competency,” laments Mr. Ellefsen. “We’re definitely going to have to fly-up outside talent for a period of time.”

Among the big data-related recommendations Gartner made to NPI are the following:

  • selecting toys that would encourage naughtier kids to be nicer
  • putting de-identified data online for suppliers to analyze
  • realtime NOD (night of delivery) routing and navigation via integrated weather, GPS and air traffic data to optimize Santa’s 10,200 takeoffs, landings and deliveries per second
  • 3D printers for custom toy fabrication to reduce sourcing and inventory expenses
  • autonomous drone-technology sleighs and robotic Santas to further optimize toy delivery and keep up with growing demand
  • developing an “Internet of Toys” capability to enable better collaboration among kids and self-reporting toy diagnostics

To see Gartner’s full report on NPI, visit the firm’s blog at this link.

Below: North Pole Inc. Core Data Requirements and Database Sizing (Source: Gartner). Click image to enlarge.


Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at or (503) 936-2803.

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