Business intelligence made simple

Posted on 31 Aug 2016 by The Manufacturer

Business intelligence software is all the rage. The problem? It’s not exactly inexpensive, nor is it always easy to use. Which, of course, impacts on ROI. Andy Gough, general manager at Datawright discusses the use of ERP software for business intelligence.

Andy Gough, general manager, Datawright.
Andy Gough, general manager, Datawright.

The relatively high cost of business intelligence (BI) software can make it difficult to generate a return high enough to justify the investment.

That lack of usability adds to the challenge of generating a return. So here’s a suggestion. Instead of using business intelligence software for BI, why not use ERP software for BI, instead?

Radical, maybe. But there are benefits. Let’s take a look.

Familiar functionality:

Especially for smaller manufacturing companies, business intelligence can impose a hefty IT burden. There may be a data warehouse to create, and maintain. There will be reports to write. Queries to run. New and different software to master, and so on.

Yet there’s one piece of software that’s already running in the business, and with which the IT function is already very familiar.

Better still, it already has its own database. A database that already contains pretty much all the information on which a BI solution might be required to report. And that software is? The manufacturer’s existing ERP software, of course.

Business Intelligence - Datawright Listing image
The relatively high cost of business intelligence (BI) software can make it difficult to generate a return high enough to justify the investment.

No power users needed:

Much the same goes for the individual users of ERP.

Take a look at manufacturing companies where BI is in use, and you’ll often find that the usage in question is restricted to a handful of power users. They often happen to be within the finance function—and not within the sales, manufacturing, inventory management or logistics functions, where management are crying out for better insights into how their functions are performing.

But make business intelligence a part of your business’s own existing ERP and two things happen.

First, those power users find it easier to create the powerful analyses and reports that they’re required to run. That’s good news, certainly.

But the better news is that less skilled users, elsewhere in the business, also find it easy to run powerful analyses.

Real-time Reporting Supply Chain ERP Digital Data - image courtesy of Datawright
One of the big challenges of BI is getting people to actually see and use the insights that it delivers.

Because in effect, what they’re doing is working with something that is an extension of a tool they already know extremely well—their company’s ERP manufacturing software.

Business intelligence where it’s needed:

The third argument for incorporating BI within ERP is equally compelling.

One of the big challenges of BI is getting people to actually see and use the insights that it delivers. Which is why, in manufacturing companies already using BI, a huge amount of effort goes into the question of how to publish the information that it makes available.

Reports, for example. Who gets them? How frequently? What goes into them? Start to scratch the surface, and the answers to such questions aren’t obvious.

Dashboards, of course, were supposed to make things easier. But many of the same questions remain. Who gets a dashboard? What should it display? How should it display it? And so on.

Read more manufacturing insights from Andy Gough, including his latest blog Building the Smart Factory of the Future.

Using ERP software for BI cuts across a lot of this. Because, in short, ERP is ‘role based’, providing individual users with the transaction screens to perform their own particular role within the organisation’s overall workflow.

Which to our way of thinking, goes a long way to making clearer the whole question of publishing the information that BI provides.

Make it role-based, in short—driven by people’s existing roles within your organisation, and their own existing roles within your ERP software.

A broader footprint:

It won’t happen overnight, to be sure. But the trend is certainly heading that way.

Because if the experience of the past twenty or so years has taught us anything, it’s that specialist niche software capabilities eventually get rolled-up into ERP manufacturing software.

And in our view, business intelligence is no different.

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