Business Intelligence Software
Since the inception of business intelligence software (BI) as an IT discipline, it’s been thought of as the exclusive domain of large enterprises. And, for the most part, that’s been an accurate assumption. BI implementations in the past have been very complex and expensive propositions, involving large cash outlays for hardware and software, with little guarantee of success.
But BI is changing, and as it evolves as a practice and discipline, more and more small and medium businesses are realizing the advantages to be had through the use of BI. In fact, for the last several years, BI implementations have been on the upswing, according to Forrester and other industry observers.
A lot of what’s driving the adoption of business intelligence software has been the development of tools and platforms that reduce the complexity of implementation, and the required implementation timeframes for a BI solution. Tools like eProphet and QVision reduce the data warehousing and analytics development that are traditionally associated with BI, speeding the time to implementation and useful results for the business.
This is a critical development for small and medium enterprises, because they rarely have the bench strength or staff on hand to do this work from scratch. Smaller enterprises don’t have time for the ‘waterfall’ approach to development found in larger enterprises, which would require them to define requirements, architecture, and development methodology. Instead, smaller businesses need to rely on the tools they choose to do much of the heavy lifting, such as the extract, transform, and load (ETL) functions and data warehousing functions. And yet, there are still considerations that any business needs to address before attempting to implement a business intelligence software solution.
Define Your BI Requirements
Even with tools like eProphet and QVision, there is still work involved to develop the right BI system for your business. An ERP system is, in many ways, a reflection of the business it’s supporting, so the data it collects and reports it generates should likewise be valuable to the business. For example, if your business manufactures a product, you’re going to want to see basic reports like inventory on hand, aging reports, and so forth. But you’re also going to want to see reports you might not have been able to see before, such as the impacts of supply chain issues across your manufacturing, inventory and sales. These are requirements that are specific to your industry and business, and these are the metrics that measure the performance and effectiveness of your enterprise, and only you can define these kinds of requirements.
Plan for scale
One of the biggest issues with BI solutions is dealing with scale. Data warehousing can involve a very large amount of data, and that storage can get expensive. Likewise, as your users begin to utilize the BI platform, and realize its value, they’ll start to request more reports of varying kinds, which will in turn lead to more scope, and a likely increase in scale. And then there are the normal changes that many businesses go through, such as the acquisition of another business, or the award of a major new contract. All of this can lead to big increases in the scope and scale of your BI platform.
And that’s one of the major advantages of using a pre-packaged BI system – they’re designed to scale with the needs of your business, so that you’re not faced with a massive hardware/software upgrade every time some new business development arises.
Think About BI as a Business Tool, Not an IT Tool
One of the biggest issues in gaining approval to go forward with a BI system lies in the perception that BI is a neat tool, but it’s really just a reporting platform, and just another IT system. But BI has the capability to do much more than just generate reports – it can generate profits and drive the business, in and of itself.
Retail companies use BI to see analyze buying trends across stores, and adjust their distribution so that the right products are in the right markets. Likewise, management at those retail companies use BI to decide on which products should be displayed, when and where they should be displayed, and which ones should be displayed more frequently.
Manufacturers and distributors can use the POS data captured by the retailers to see inventory levels and sales of their products at their customer stores. This visibility into transactions that are not from their own ERP solution provide unprecedented clarity and invaluable insight into the health and status of their own complete supply chain that is impossible without the right BI solution.
It’s Your Company, and Your Data
Business Intelligence can be a complex topic, and smaller enterprises have even less room for error when it comes to implementing a BI solution for their business. That’s why finding the right partner is all the more necessary.
At MaxQ, we live and breathe the systems and technology that power enterprises of all size, and we’ve developed tools to help businesses implement the right BI environment to meet their requirements, and grow as they grow. And in addition to the systems we provide, we provide professional and consultative services to help you get that platform up and running quickly, so that you can use BI to drive your business forward. If your company is considering a business intelligence solution, contact us here.