ERP and Business Intelligence: Freeing Data Analysts from Spreadsheets

Over the next several weeks we’ll look at different ways that business intelligence (BI) helps enterprises drive strategic alignment and increase employee value. To start, let’s consider how BI empowers data analysts.

Many qualified data analysts spend the majority of their time organizing high volumes of disjointed information across spreadsheets. This activity leaves the analysts no time to do any actual analysis. One reason for this dilemma involves the nature of enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.

ERP gives companies a good system for inputs. Pertinent information can be entered into the system at every level of enterprise activity, from procurement and production to shipping. However, many companies that invest in ERP do not have equally good systems of outputs that can access information inside the system.

Without BI, data analysts commonly have to download information from ERP into spreadsheets and perform a series of look-ups in order to locate what they need. Then the analysts divide that information into custom reports that can be sent to specific sales reps or other individual personnel. If a company has 200 sales reps, 200 reports go out in 200 separate emails.

As a system of outputs, BI provides the perfect complement to the inputs provided by ERP. BI takes all of the information that ERP generates and outputs it to the right people at the right time—and in the right combination, thus providing a system of engagement across the entire organization.

ERP typically engages 20 percent of enterprise personnel as core users. BI fills the gap, empowering 80 percent of staff to interact with ERP-generated data. Because companies most often have a system in addition to ERP—such as a syndicated source or specific trade-promotion system—BI brings together all information from all solutions, to more fully align the overall business. Just as ERP integrates operations for efficiency, BI integrates data for decision-making.

With BI, instead of 200 reports going to 200 salespeople, each one of those salespeople can find the necessary information by directly engaging with the BI solution whenever necessary. This saves the analyst a great deal of time, and allows the salespeople on-demand access to the information they need, without having to wait to receive reports. This in turn allows personnel in the field to make better business decisions.

When data analysts live and breathe spreadsheets, they sometimes perceive BI as a threat. After all, if BI seamlessly and immediately integrates the information that takes an analyst hours to organize, wouldn’t BI make analysts’ jobs redundant? Not at all. BI isn’t a measure to reduce head count. It is a resource that empowers everyone in the organization to make better, quicker decisions. Instead of moving data from one place to another, the business analyst can focus on core skills so to provide insight to management.

Of course, data analysts aren’t the only ones who benefit from BI. In the coming weeks we’ll look at how business intelligence helps align the enterprise by tracking KPIs, providing visibility in marketing campaigns, and otherwise aligning data throughout the organization.

For a five-minute tour showing how SAP BusinessObjects solutions from itelligence can empower your entire workforce, including data analysts, click here.

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