A recent white paper published by Birst, Inc., a San Francisco based provider of “agile business analytics” software and solutions, points up the four ‘foundational requirements’ of a business intelligence (commonly called “BI”) solution. They remind us that our ERP systems are merely a tool, a means to an end, and that end is to extract intelligent information from the underlying data in order to improve our business management decisions.
The article, available here (you’ll have to provide contact info first) points to four key capabilities (along with our own commentary about them):
1.) Historical analysis and reporting. You want information not just on your business performance, but on the key drivers of that performance as well. You need to know not just your results, but your influencers. This usually involves mapping and understanding data over a long time frame, measured often in years. That’s a lot of data.
2.) Forecasting and future projection. Collecting and understanding your data is one side of the task. Projecting into the future is the other. So for example, once you know something about the progress and flow of past sales deals, the size of your pipeline, the length to close… you’re more able to project the progress of future deals. The goal is to align your resources with your forecast for maximum efficiency.
3.) Ability to integrate information from multiple business functions. Integrating the data you need to make better decisions may require multiple data sources. Obviously, this burden is minimized if you’re operating under, more or less, a single (or limited) silo of information. This is where an integrated ERP solution starts to really shine. Often the data there, give or take the contents of a couple of spreadsheets, is more than enough to provide meaningful insight.
4.) Easily explored reporting and analysis. Decision makers need to understand the big picture. Sometimes, they need a good bit of detail to be able to do so. This speaks to the need for explorable reports, drill down capabilities, ad hoc queries and business dashboards. Flexibility and robustness, without being overly complex, are helpful. Today we find the better ERP systems can provide much of this. More sophisticated BI solutions will boost your reporting capabilities significantly, a feature most appreciated in larger, more diverse organizations.
A solution that provides the above foundation, whether it’s part of an ERP system or an add-in, ensures you’ll have the right analytical tool when it comes time to convert hard data into meaningful information that can inform better decision making.
Ironically Bi24 provides all these elements and much more