When your organization invests in operational software solutions like ERP or CRM, a large part of the acquisition process is focused on the Return on Investment (ROI).
The Return on Investment is most often measured through characteristics like efficiency (e.g. man-hours saved), standardization (e.g. document or process handling) or infrastructure stabilization (e.g. system uptime, security administration or ease and cost of maintenance). Likely all of the above.
There is often, however, an unconsidered Return on Investment waiting to be realized. It’s a return that is substantial and often has equal or even greater value than the more traditionally considered returns. It is all about the data – and what your organization can learn from it.
In modern operational ERP and CRM applications, practically every action taken results in data collection in the underlying database, including data about the action itself as well as data representing the operational business task that is executed. For example, sending an invoice to a customer stores data about who created the invoice and when (action data) as well as all details about the invoice itself (action item data). Both types of data are very valuable and help paint an accurate picture of the way the organization works and how it goes about its business.
When looking to start realizing the value of this data, it is common and logical to assume that the application that stored the data is also the best bet at consuming it and making it available for the entire organization to start learning from it. That’s not necessarily true, though.
- First, it is rare to find organizations where all employees have access to the operational systems. Typically, only certain employees with operational responsibilities have access.
- Second, the typical ways of accessing the data is either from the bottom up, starting at the single transaction level (e.g. opening a specific invoice or ledger posting), or through some sort of highly rigid, low-performance reporting interface that, in many cases, require development type skills to change even small aspects of reports. The best thing that can be said about the latter approach is that the aforementioned employees that have access can at least share some of the information with their colleagues – even if it means printing the reports and cutting a few trees down to do so.
- Finally, you would be surprised at how many systems actually do not even allow user interface or reporting access to all aspects of the data stored in the database.
For those reasons and many more, the task of consuming and working with data should be moved to a different platform – the type of platform most commonly referred to as Business Intelligence. Today, most systems use open connectivity databases for storing the data, allowing for easy third party access. There is really no excuse for not starting the optimization of your business by using that data – today rather than tomorrow.
The best Business Intelligence platform is designed for working top-down with the data and for users to very easily create and change analyses and reports as the organization develops. It also allows an employee to explore unique aspects of the data in the solution depending on their area of focus and organizational position. It also needs to be able to successfully use the software itself to help monitor and communicate changes in key information that influences the day-to-day operation of the business.
It might seem counterintuitive for your organization that an additional software investment is needed to realize the full return on a previous investment. I know, however, that the results you can achieve will be very convincing.
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Dennis de Gier
Head of BI Acceleration
My BI journey started in 2000 as a consultant and instructor, implementing SQL Server based solutions and training our customers and partners in using our product. The often challenging mix of business related and technical work quickly made me feel that I had found my professional place in the world working in BI. In 2002, we conceived Business Intelligence Acc..