So Zuritsky decided to hire a CIO, for the first time in the company's history, to develop software that would make it possible for executives to better understand and cut costs and to segment and cultivate its customers. Parkway has two types of customers: garage owners who hire Parkway to help them manage their lots, and drivers who park their vehicles in one or more of Parkway's 100 surface lots or garages.

In 2000, Zuritsky chose John Bryer, a former software applications developer familiar with business intelligence systems, both for the Pentagon's satellite program, in nuclear engineering, and more recently for health insurance giant Cigna Corp.

What Bryer found when he got to Parkway surprised him. "We were antiquated," he says. "The company was not generating the kind of information that the owners and managers of our facilities could use to help them understand what was really going on." How bad was it? For example, he says, one garage owner might call one lot by one name, but Parkway executives back at headquarters might refer to it by another label, making simple cross-tabulations of operating reports nearly impossible.

Further, individual lots might be measured, but executives couldn't easily get a fast, single view of how all lots were doing in total or compared with each other, across the Parkway network. There simply wasn't the capability. And strategic information, such as which lots worked best, which garage designs were most profitable, which customers were the most profitable and which employees were driving the most damage claims and overtime costs, was information that was scarce or anecdotal, if available at all. "Intuition, gut instincts and experience had ruled for too long," Bryer recalls, while hard data remained difficult to compile. Acknowledges Zuritsky: "It was my lifelong quest to try to control a difficult business to control. The frustration of trying to do it manually, with all the holes and problems you ran into doing it that way, had finally become intolerable."

Today, 18 months into the rollout of Parkway's new BI system, Bryer is already starting to cut costs and turn Parkway's old business culture on its ear. Thanks to a new business intelligence and data warehousing system he began phasing in during 2001, Parkway profits have gone up 4 percent, overtime costs have gone down 65 percent across Parkway lots, employee embezzlement—a problem in cash parking operations throughout the industry—is down nearly 15 percent, revenues are up between 5 percent and 10 percent, and car damage claims can now be tracked by employee, garage and time of day. Further, the number of empty spaces per lot per time period are also on the wane, thanks to improved yield management strategies that enable garage managers to manipulate price and customer mix and better keep parking spaces filled. In addition, monthly operating reports, which used to take up to a full week to prepare cross-enterprise, now take just hours. "It's been sort of like having the scales lifted from our eyes," says Bryer.

While many companies are still plodding along trying to get business intelligence to help them make better, faster decisions—IBM says in a recent survey that most businesses actively use only 7 percent of their data to inform strategic business decisions—Parkway is one of business intelligence technology's early success stories, both with the lots it owns and with those it manages for others.

"Technology in the parking industry is a pretty big deal because it saves money," says parking industry analyst Childe. "In an industry that's been slow to implement information technology, it certainly can give a company a competitive advantage." Especially, she says, if like Parkway, the business model depends in part on how well you manage properties for others. Adds Mark Yedinak, cochair of the technology committee of the International Parking Institute, an industry trade group: "Most parking companies still don't know what they need to automate. Only a handful of people in the industry even know what the technology is all about. Not Parkway. In that respect, Parkway—and Bryer—are pioneers."

This article was originally published on 02-14-2003
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