ERPsystems are designed to integrate all the disparate functions of an organisation within the one centralised software platform. It solves the serious problems that arise when a business stores its data across disparate systems that do not allow for the easy sharing of that data between different business units. ERP gathers, stores and manages all a business’s data from the one place. This enables improved efficiencies, higher productivity and substantial cost-savings, amongst other benefits.
The amount of data that a business typically has stored in its ERP system is vast. Your business’s ERP system may for example hold data relating to accounts, warehousing, inventory, marketing, sales, job scheduling, shipping, delivery … the list goes on. And while it’s great to have all that data, it’s of limited practical value if it can’t be used to make better business decisions. This is where Business Intelligence steps in.
So what exactly is Business Intelligence?
BI is essentially all about turning data into information and information into meaningful, actionable insights. ERP collects data, BI analyses that data and presents it so it can be easily understood and practically applied. Or, put another way, BI makes sense of the data that you already have stored in your ERP.
The ‘easy to understand’ aspect of Business Intelligence is important because it means that BI can be applied by those with a non-technical background. Previously it was largely the responsibility of IT professionals and specialist business analysts to make use of at‑times complicated data. These days that is no longer the case. With a little instruction, managers at all levels will be able to grasp the fundamentals of Business Intelligence and use it to their business’s advantage.
Effective BI is no longer only accessible to large enterprises with big budgets and complex requirements. Just as the application of ERP technology has become widespread amongst SMEs, so has BI. It’s not just for the big boys anymore.
Businesses use BI in a wide variety of ways, from improving day‑to‑day operations through to long‑term strategic planning. Business analytics, dashboards and the smart use of reporting are some of the primary means through which BI achieves its objectives. Using these methodologies, managers can interrogate their business data and identify relationships between different data sets. They can then use their accumulated knowledge to detect trends, identify inefficiencies and reach conclusions that can lead to better informed decisions.
Now if all that sounds a little abstract, let’s get more specific. How can you apply BI in your business to make it more successful?