ERP BI: An Overview

Unless your starting point is zero reporting or data analysis capability, your business intelligence capability at an ERP go-live is likely to be both (a) less than you have today and (b) less than you promised you would deliver. This doesn’t mean that you won’t eventually make good on your promise of improved business intelligence (BI); it means that few ERP vendors really understand business analytics, and the problems and challenges with converting ERP data to useful information. As a result, you likely own an over-promised ERP BI package which is far less capable than you expected, and getting it to the point of providing even mediocre but reliable information in the short run will require enormous patience and persistence.

The One Armed Builder

Did your software vendors lie to you? Probably not. As stated before, part of the reason vendors are not clear about capabilities is because they don’t understand the process of creating business intelligence. Imagine that someone has sold you five hundred two by fours, one hundred pieces of sheet rock, and seven rolls of carpet, and told you that if you are willing to invest in a hammer, a saw, and some nails, you can have the house of your dreams. Has that person misled you? Legally, that would probably depend on whether or not you had taken the time to contractually agree on what constituted a dream house. Most people’s dream houses would also include electrical, plumbing, and a roof, but your vendor may not have thought about it that much (and if he has, you will likely be told those modules are in development and will be released next year). Like this hypothetical house, building out your ERP BI will take far more time, tools, and materials than you originally planned - just as it is not realistic to build a dream house with only a hammer, saw, and some nails. Lastly, owning a hammer, saw, and nails does not confer upon you the title of “carpenter”; skill in using them is required. It is not likely that you can build your dream house if you are not already a skilled carpenter.

This may sound like an overly negative assessment of what you face in the Business Intelligence/ERP arena, but better you be cautiously persistent in your questions about ERP BI capability than to assume that ERP data is magically swept into BI and out pops an executive dashboard on day one. The fundamental problem is that you cannot even understand the major weaknesses of your BI system until you have a full volume of data flowing through the system that you are trying to analyze – after ERP go-live. The good news still is that you have an incredibly robust data collection system; you just have to figure out how to organize it into a world-class information management system. It may be a little bit of a winding, crooked path to get there.

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Tom Stephenson

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Tom Stephenson