Levi boosts reporting

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Before levi strauss & Co. began using Notara software, it was a lot easier for licensees to play fast and loose with the numbers.

Each quarter, Levi Strauss' product licensees sent in paper reports describing how much merchandise they sold and how much in royalties they owed the jeans marketer. If a licensee forgot to send a report, someone in Levi Strauss' licensing department had to get on the phone with a friendly reminder.

In 1999, the company began using Notara's Licensing Suite software. The software allows marketers to administer contracts with licensees, track budgets, approve new licensed products and analyze sales reports. It's Web-based and works with an Internet browser.

Levi Strauss now requires all its U.S. licensees to use the Notara system to report sales. Each month, 18 licensees tap into the system and file a report, and the system calculates royalties automatically.

"We have nearly tripled the number of licensees in the last three years," says Murrey Nelson, Levi Strauss' director of licensing. Using Notara provides consistency of reporting, she says. "You can imagine the creativity on the piece of paper from licensee to licensee. ... Now we can compare apples to apples."

The biggest savings from the software has been time, she adds. Since each licensee is uploading its own data, that leaves licensing staffers more time for other tasks.

And since Levi Strauss finance executives in the company's various product lines also have access to the system, they can tap in at any time to monitor sales, saving a phone call or an e-mail to someone on Ms. Nelson's staff.

Licensing was a good entry point into marketing-resource management for Notara because it's a business that involves a lot of collaboration between marketers, manufacturers and product-licensing companies, says Jordan Harris, Notara's CEO. After launching the Licensing Suite in 1999, Notara launched its Marketing Suite this January, aimed at marketing departments.

Marketers are spending an inordinate amount of time micromanaging projects and processes, says Mr. Harris.

Automating things such as collaboration, brand-asset management and knowledge management makes it easier for them to do their jobs, he says.

So far, Levi Strauss has only adopted the licensing product. And while it's proved a valuable investment, it's still being used by a very small group. Four people use the software regularly, while six additional employees tap into it occasionally, Ms. Nelson says.

Notara has helped the company standardize the way Levi Strauss' licensees report their monthly sales. But upgrading to a newer version of the software is challenging because Levi Strauss' internal software isn't fully compatible with Notara's, says Ms. Nelson.

Levi Strauss uses Notara mainly for the sales-reporting function; Ms. Nelson says she's not ready to use the Internet for something like product approval, which requires very specific design and color checks.

"The paperless society is never going to become a reality, but I see these kinds of tools being used more and more," she says. "It's very fast and you always have access to it as long as you have a computer."

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