Monday, January 28, 2013

What specific problems are you trying to solve?

How do you fix something, deliver new services, increase efficiencies if you do not know what is broken or worse yet you do not know what you are trying to solve?  When companies look at Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, they are typically looking to increase operational efficiencies in order to decrease costs and overhead in order to drive better profits. 

Full integration of all departments or functional roles in an organization is benefit of ERP solutions.  This may be accomplished over time or all at once, but any solution should address this need.  If you do not recognize this need or its potential benefits, then that is a great place to start in your analysis. 


The left hand needs to know what the right hand is doing.  Management needs access to real time information in order to address critical issues and make better and faster bottom line decisions.


Business Intelligence (BI) software is one module that usually comes after an initial implementation.  It works best when there is a lot data to massage.  Trends only become detectible when there is enough data or information to recognize them.  BI is one of the true gems of ERP solutions in what it can deliver in regards to forecasting and real-time data analysis.


BI comes in many varieties.  Most ERP solutions come with a Sales Analysis module which will give you basic trends and analysis.  That coupled with dynamic report writers and of course your friendly programmer will provide a good transition as you build the volume of information that makes a full BI solution worthwhile. 


A formal BI solution typically requires a data warehouse to store the information.  Many times this data warehouse involves some processing of the core data to massage it into a useable format.  This process of massaging the information can delay the real-time availability.  Size of the data warehouse and physical location, whether on premise or hosted in the cloud all factor into the equation.  A cloud solution may not be a good choice unless the entire ERP solution is based there as the overhead to populate the cloud can be a real hindrance.  Building it in house can generate a lot of upfront costs in labor, equipment, training, support and redundant support systems.


BI solutions may be fully integrated with the ERP solution or may become Add-on solutions from third parties.  Both have plusses and minuses.  Full integration as long as it provides the analysis your organization needs and fits your budget is preferred.  It has to be affordable, but comparing to an Add-on solution is not an apple-to-apple comparison.  There are flavors of Add-on as well.  Some Add-ons are supported by the ERP provider and act closely in functionality as one that might have been developed in house.  There are others that are great packages, but require a lot of effort to integrate and are often time delayed in providing information, from a few hours to whole day(s).  Full integration often allows for real-time analysis. 


One of your analysis questions should be is real-time even necessary?  If you are dealing globally, it may not be that critical.  If you are dealing with retail outlets across a geographic area, then knowing where your inventory demands becomes more time sensitive.


Of course the base of any decision to purchase new software, upgrade an existing solution or add new modules to fill holes should be better customer service. 


Happier customers purchase more, more often and tell others how happy they are with your organization.  What is guaranteed even more than this positive customer feedback is what your customers or should I say former customers will say if they have a bad experience dealing with your company. 


Happy customers like dealing with friendly, happy people that make them feel valued, their business is important regardless of order size as well as on time deliveries, accurate shipments and being kept informed.  


A fully integrated system in which empowers your people to purchase the right materials, pick pack and ship accurately and keep your customers informed is a great step in the right direction.  The primary is goal is good people and has nothing to do with software or hardware.  Good people are happy people.  Happy people have the right tools to answer and solve customer issues directly and quickly (this is where good software helps).


So what are you trying to achieve with BI?  How quickly do you need to look at and analyze your information?  Do you understand what BI is and how it can help? 


A thorough analysis should be undertaken first to build and answer a list of questions.  BI solutions should be able to provide a Return on Investment (ROI) to offset the upfront costs.  This is where Dolvin Consulting can help.  We have experience in Enterprise Solutions and BI to help you define the questions and look find the answers.  Contact us today to see how we can help you help yourself.


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