ERP BI: Requirements

Everyone in your organization is excited about finally getting a world class ERP system that will provide them with reliable and timely business information with which they can make better, quicker decisions. That is absolutely the correct definition of ERP BI success; the next question is, what business information, exactly, is needed to make that vision a reality?

Getting the correct detailed answer to this question is a prerequisite to a successful BI implementation in ERP, and you really have to think for a little bit to understand why. When you ask people what they want from their new ERP system, a lot of people will be at one end of the spectrum, and essentially describe exactly what they have today. You know intuitively that won’t work; what you have today is not going to magically lead to better and quicker decisions because it comes out of ERP. At the other end of the spectrum are the visionary dreamers, who stare off into the distance and wave their hands a lot as they describe an information system much like HAL in “2001- A Space Odyssey”. The reality is that improvements derived from better business information will probably occur because you are able to join together new attributes with ERP that were not easy (or possible) to join in legacy. The key is to define what those attributes are, so that linked information will result in new business clarity and better decision-making.

Listen...but Lead

Even if someone does a decent job of articulating a requirement, be prepared for them to only understand part of the data picture. For example, someone says they want to see sales by product category by region, but in their mind, they are thinking about the four product categories which account for 94% of the revenue, not the other twelve categories that account for the final 6%. When they see the report, (with eight regions breaking down sixteen product categories) they will still blame you: “This is way too busy to tell me anything useful.”

It would be nice to be able to say, “If you just select a really easy-to-use query tool, then you don’t need definitions; users can create whatever they need on their own.” This is directionally correct, but still has one huge limitation – users will only be able to create queries using data which has been appropriately formatted. So even if you know that pallet dimensions are an attribute of material master data, you may not be able to create a “revenue by pallet size” report if pallet dimensions are not part of the data warehouse structure. Adding new attributes in BI is not easy, so then someone must manage and justify which modifications are justifiable within the ERP system, and which just are someone’s special interest.

The point is, none of this is easy. Keep your leadership group informed about the BI requirements list for your ERP implementation. They are your ultimate BI customers, and whether your list is skimpy or unmanageably long, they need to understand what you perceive as your requirements.

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Tom Stephenson

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Tom Stephenson

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