ERP and BI: A Match Made in Heaven

Speaking in a broad sense, Business Intelligence (BI) can be defined as the transformation of raw data into meaningful metrics, reflecting upon historical, current and predictive business operations and performance.

Previously, BI-related activities were performed by manually gathering data from multiple sources, manipulating the data in spreadsheets, with an output of a mere static report.

Multiply that by the number of different functional areas within an organisation and the result is countless hours of report generation where, by the time it is delivered, could very well be obsolete.

Today, ERP solutions come with integrated BI modules that enable organisations to provide dynamic reporting, providing end users with exactly what they want to see, when they want and need to see it.

Real-time data allows for fast decision-making

One of the most visible benefits of BI software that integrates with an ERP system is its ability to give managers a real-time look at the data they need to make intelligent decisions for both short and long terms. For example, a production manager in a manufacturing environment will want to monitor closely the floor’s scrap rate.

With a quick glance at the dashboard, they will be able to see the floor’s scrap rate in real time, since workers will be entering that data as it occurs. If the rate reaches an unacceptable level, the production manager can halt the process and identify the root cause before too much time and material is wasted. This data can then be applied to long-term analysis to help identify trends and opportunities for process improvement.

Moving beyond traditional reporting

BI software can also have a transformative effect on a business through their reporting. Modern BI software goes beyond the rudimentary reporting functions businesses used in the past by creating a more dynamic environment for users to manipulate data as needed.

Traditionally, reporting was a static process. Business leaders could get a snapshot of where a certain data set stood at the end of a specific day or week.

However, BI puts all of the collected data at the user’s fingertips in a way that makes sense for each individual stakeholder. This gives access for a real-time look at data without having to pull it out of the system, enter it into a spreadsheet and create a report.

The BI module in an ERP system allows any user to quickly access a customised dashboard loaded with intuitive data visualisations on the most relevant KPIs.

The BI module also brings a high level of consistency to the reporting process. With traditional reporting, if a sales executive needs all of his or her regional managers to deliver a report on sales for the quarter, it’s likely that each report will differ in terms of format and the source of how that data was collected. The executive must then put these pieces together, which could lead to errors and a lot of wasted time.

By using BI software that is integrated with an ERP system, each manager will be working with the same data set and be able to deliver similarly formatted reports… or potentially even eliminate the need to deliver such reports, since the executive could access and summarise that data directly.

The BI software is robust enough that users can enter data from multiple outside sources, such as Excel spreadsheets or reports that come from machine-specific software and associate it with the data in the ERP database. As long as the data can be seen in terms of a logical relationship, users can join data that may be otherwise difficult to cross-reference in its separate forms.

When it’s integrated with an ERP platform, BI gives organisations a user-centric visibility into their data that spreadsheets alone could never achieve.