As I talk with perspective clients, one of their common concerns is related to data. They tell me that inaccurate data is their main impediment to efficient business processes and a faster close. They also claim they either don’t have the necessary data to analyze their business or to make informed business decisions. This leads to discontent in the boardroom, arguments amongst middle managers about whose numbers are correct and general distrust of the company’s numbers internally. Inaccurate data can come from a number of sources, but a common cause is multiple spreadsheets or multiple systems across entities within an organization. So the simple logical solution would be fixing the data conundrum, but how? In this article I will outline three solutions to help solve data issue and help streamline the decision making process.
Simple Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Solution
The first option to help with inaccurate data is to implement an EPM or analytical solution that leverages proven OLAP technology to collect data in a structured database where incoming data feeds will be harmonized. This solution is ERP agnostic and can be deployed with minimal IT support using cloud services or Microsoft SQL server database technology. The implementation process will help company executives think about what is important in their business, what sort of questions do they want to answer and how they want to communicate results. These conversation should lead to internal alignment and common understanding of priorities within the company. It should also uncover inconsistencies on how data is used by various parts of the organization. This approach is usually a good first step for companies that mainly rely on an Excel infrastructure to report, consolidate and plan their business.
Data Warehouse Solution
Due to their flexibility and ease of use, just like Excel models and workbooks, similar proliferation of analytical or cube environments can happen. Some of the driving force behind this proliferation is the power of the easy to use but structured models. Depending on how these cubes are designed, developed and deployed, the models might not be connected by common principles across the organization. As these environments are mostly business or department owned and operated, the focus or purpose of the cubes can be fairly narrow and specific. Although the narrow focus is plausible and desired, some organization prefer a bit more governance when it comes to planning and reporting, hence a more robust data warehouse solution such as SAP Business Warehouse (BW) is needed.
Using an enterprise data warehouse solution, the discovery and conversation will shift from a local or department discussion to a more strategic enterprise-wide discussion. The role of IT systems and their governance are more relevant here but also provide best practices and common methodology when it comes to how data is used and consumed in the company’s business processes like closing, consolidations, planning and reporting. Using the enterprise data warehouse platform like BW, BPC NetWeaver Standard or Embedded can be deployed to provide solutions for these business processes.
The advantage of this solution is the user-friendly interfaces are preserved; robust data warehousing concepts and tools will ensure data harmonization, consumption and even tighter integration with data sources. The more robust governance will ensure acceptance of standards for reporting and business support processes. This approach best suites clients who are willing to embrace more focused IT governance while users still have control of their applications.
The last option to help eliminate inaccurate data is a product of innovation that allowed SAP to integrate S/4 HANA ERP with a BW based planning and consolidation suite based. In this scenario, all activities are performed in a tightly integrated system where data replication only happens virtually, which ensures that data always ties back to the single source. Workflows and business processes are seamlessly incorporated via a unified user interface. Users of this system will require high levels of governance and process control. Also, ERP implementation take considerable time and financial resources as well as requires considerable change management efforts. However, at the end, these types of systems will provide the most complete solution in terms of integration and data quality.
Conclusion about Inaccurate Data
There are multiple ways that a company can address its data issues with SAP solutions depending on their needs, available resources and scale of change and project size. Obviously technology alone will not solve all your decision making needs, but a well-executed project makes life a lot easier. If you are ready to find out more about your SAP Business Objects Planning and Consolidation Options, sign up for an EPM alignment review to learn more.