Many of today’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have business intelligence (BI) features that analyze data across functional areas and enable smart decision making.
For example, visual and intuitive dashboards offer what is referred to as “self-service BI.” These types of tools don’t require IT assistance to enable end-users to gain insights, but do they provide true ERP business intelligence?
As essential as these BI tools may be, they are not true business intelligence – at least on their own. Many businesses have difficulty configuring these tools to provide real-time data. This is partially due to companies’ problematic data management practices and lack of strategic direction.
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How to Ensure ERP Business Intelligence Provides Valuable Insights
1. Ensure You Have Quality Data
ERP business intelligence capitalizes on the data collection of a business. As such, data migration and cleansing are crucial and should happen before ERP selection (or BI selection). It is important to not only index all the raw data necessary for analysis but also to ensure the quality of this data.
Here’s how to get started with ERP data migration:
The first step is the filtering process. Over time, you may have accumulated vast amounts of data that has been dispersed in various formats throughout numerous data sources. If this describes your company, we recommend assigning the task of data cleansing to each department head who can then be backed by the IT team.
Evaluating your source data to ensure its value is also important. For example, are the worked hours entered by your employees correct? Is the information on prospects regularly updated by your sales team? What about data doubles?
During this process, it is essential to put in place internal arbitration to determine if the consolidation should include all the source data or only the most reliable.
2. Determine What Data Insights You Need
Parallel to your data cleansing process, you can determine what business intelligence is necessary to support your business strategy. Indeed, the main advantage of business intelligence is to provide business decision-makers and end-users with relevant analyses to make informed decisions.
All your employees will not necessarily be involved, so it’s important to determine which employees will be key users. What insights will they need? How will they use it? What data will provide these insights?
This is also the time to define your KPIs. These allow you to evaluate your progress toward meeting your business objectives and help you make the best decisions in view of that progress. If KPIs are not well chosen, their use will result in much wasted time.
To ensure the relevance of the information obtained, it is essential to assess the overall business needs and the needs of each department. The main objective here is to ensure the KPIs are aligned with your business’s objectives and adapted to the needs of each business domain.
Determining what those needs are should not rest on only one department. Traditionally, this task was handled by the IT team and CIO – the main users of BI tools. However, for business today, it typically involves your entire C-Suite. For example, the COO will want to use BI to locate production line delays, while the CFO will be interested in the business’s cash flow.
While business goals are unique to each company, there are some common KPIs that most businesses track. These standards can be a good place to start:
- Status of receivables
- Total annual sales
- Backorder rate
- Stock value
Be careful, though, not to draw up a long list of KPIs. Ideally, you should keep it to a list of five or six for each business domain.
3. Focus on Business Process Reengineering
Unclear and inefficient business processes hinder your ability to capture relevant and reliable data. However, improving your processes ensures that you keep only the activities that add value and that you establish processes that simplify decision making. This also aligns your operations with your organization’s long-term goals.
Business process reengineering and BI are actually interdependent. One enables the other, which in turn, enables the other. Yes, BI can actually enable business process reengineering because it allows you to measure the success of your processes and focus on continuous improvement.
4. Focus on Change Management
The implementation of an ERP solution in parallel with a business intelligence strategy can be a source of turmoil for a business because it means significant change for employees. In other words, to take advantage of new data insights, employees will have to follow new processes, use new KPIs and take on new responsibilities.
Therefore, a change management plan is essential for ensuring end-user adoption. While organizational change management has many components, one of the most important pieces of advice we can offer is to communicate with employees as early as possible to ensure they have a clear understanding of how the changes will impact their daily tasks.
Training on the use of new tools also is essential. Customized end-user training helps employees take ownership of tools and ensures their proper use.
5. Don’t Forget Your Integration Strategy
Two options are available to you at this point: you can either choose a tool that is external to your ERP, such as Power BI or Tableau, or you can opt for a tool that is already integrated with your ERP.
The advantage of external BI systems is that they are very specialized (i.e., state-of-the-art in their field). The disadvantage, however, is that you must integrate them with ERP, which could lead to new challenges in data consistency.
If you opt for an external BI solution, we recommend choosing tools that are relatively easy to integrate with your ERP software and your long-term IT strategy. It’s also important to dedicate a strong focus to change management as employees will need to adapt to not just one new tool but two.
Finally, you should define what skills are necessary for integrating the external BI tool. Proper documentation of your database, its structure and its naming conventions are essential to ensuring successful integration. If you don’t have these skills within your company, you may need to call on the services of an ERP consultant.
ERP and BI: The Perfect Match
By following this advice, you can align ERP business intelligence with your business goals. Once you’ve done this, the next step is combining business intelligence and predictive analytics to proactively address issues related to inventory management, the customer experience or any number of areas for which ERP vendors are providing advanced analytics features.
Panorama’s ERP consultants understand the business intelligence and advanced analytics features of today’s ERP systems. They can talk at length about trends like artificial intelligence and IoT. They’re also known for being great listeners, so be sure to reach out to them to tell them about your business goals by requesting a free consultation below.
This post was written by Aude Mazaud, Digital Marketing Specialist at Commsoft Technologies. Commsoft Technologies is the developer of Fidelio, a specialized ERP software tool for wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers based in Canada. Since 1999, the company has been helping SMEs optimize their business processes to improve their performance and competitiveness.
Note: The inclusion of guest posts on the Panorama website does not imply endorsement of any specific product or service. Panorama is, and always will remain, completely independent and vendor neutral.