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"Innovative Thinking" A Newsletter from Innovative IT Consulting In This Issue

February 2011

This month's issue focuses on data and reporting. In those deep, dark days of implementation it all too easy to forget that the desire for meaningful information is what drives many ERP projects. We'll give you some tips for making sure you get your money's worth.

Mark Edwards has the tips column this month, and gives you valuable insight "Your Data is only as good as your Reporting."

Paul Sita's blog posts for the Sage Business Management Blog continue to draw attention. Check out the latest post on Total Cost of Ownership - learn a few things that might keep you from getting off track! TCO - Don't Underestimate or Overestimate.

By Paul Sita, Principal, Innovative IT Consulting, LLC. Paul can be reached at 631-549-1685 or psita@innovativeitc.com.

It isn't as obvious as it sounds. One of the drivers most often cited for new ERP systems is the desire for "better information". "Business Intelligence" , also known as BI, is the term for very accessible and actionable data. During the sales process, the ERP salespeople and pre-sales consultants will dazzle you with dashboards and analytics and other things that you have a tough time understanding fully - other than coming away with the impression that it's a lot better than what you have right now. And it is . . . well sort of.

What do you really have? If information access is a critical component of your ERP evaluation, then you need to dig much deeper into what tools are really part of your solution. There are many approaches to BI, and the field is changing rapidly. There are approaches such as add-ons for Excel that allow you to access data within your ERP system. Then there are traditional tools such as Cubes and OLAP (COGNOS, BUSINESS OBJECTS) that provide fast access to aggregated data, but require you to define the dimensions of analysis you want beforehand, which is difficult for most users. Plus I guarantee you it's not clear exactly what the term "built in" means when it comes to BI and your ERP system.

Rapidly changing. The BI landscape is rapidly changing. New tools are changing the rules of the game. Visualization tools (TABLEAU) are making it very easy for end users to work with their own data. And in memory databases make it possible to have ALL of your data available all the time - in detail, (QLIKVIEW) and remove the barrier of having the pre-define what you want to see. Not to mention Software as a Service BI tools are on the rise (BIRST).

A few key questions. With such a wealth of tools available here are a few key questions to ask yourself and your ERP provider.

1) What exactly do I need to purchase to actually use the "built in" BI? Templates, consulting, database licenses, BI engines?

2) Will the BI tools take into account my special system modifications, fields and logic?

3) Can I add external data sources to the BI - such as special Excel tables?

4) Can we integrate other ERP systems into our BI if we acquire a company with a different ERP system? < p class=space> 5) Are there tools for transforming and loading that external data into the BI tool?

Don't overestimate or underestimate your needs. With today'sopen databases and environments, it's not that hard to connect a third party BI tool that really suits your needs to an ERP system. Don't assume that the vendors built-in BI tools are the best answer to your needs. With BI as with many ERP related solutions, understanding your real needs and requirements is the foundation for success. Innovative can help you define those needs and make the right choices.

By Mark Edwards, DataReport Consulting, strategic partner of Innovative IT Consulting, LLC. Mark can be reached at 347-732-9116 or markhedwards@aol.com.

I've been working with Crystal Reports and ERP systems for over 10 years now. I'd like to share some insights gained from working with many clients and situations.

Itís all in there- but that doesnít mean you can use it. No one doubts that an ERP System is an asset, a powerful tool that can be utilized in so many ways. Managing, budgeting, forecasting, customer relations. But often it is the reporting aspect of a system that is overlooked while ERP systems are being aquired and installed. It is assumed that the standard reporting that comes with the systems will work just fine. A rude awakening occurs when this is often found not to be the case!!!

Maintain a business focus. Another critical error that clients make is to focus too much on the technology of reporting. Focus on your business needs and practical tools that will help you make day to day decisions, and simplify business processes. With a background in accounting, I approach report design and utilization from a very unique and beneficial perspective for clients.

A good starting point. There are certain kinds of reports that almost every ERP user can benefit from. Think about your needs in these areas.

1) Variance Reports: Generally Sales or Purchasing activity. These reports present 12 columns of monthly activity and a Grand Total Column. In the case of a Sales Report, those columns would show actual and budgeted sales for Current Year, actual sales Prior Year, and then Variance and Variance %ís for each. Gross profit, and Net profit reflecting marketing and other costs is also critical.

2) Help Desk Reports that summarize how many calls were completed in the initial call versus needing to be escalated.

3) Inventory Lot Reports that document the entire life of a Lot, from receipt to zero. This can be especially important in helping with product recalls.

4) Vendor scorecards and evaluation tools, including emailing of performance reports to vendors.

5) Customer pre-sales call reports. (More about this in another post).

The list goes on and on. If you maintain the focus on what your business needs to be effective, we can deliver the information when and how you need it. Donít forget with ERP, ďItsí all in thereĒ.

"A place to get a snapshot of how your business is doing. "

O A D H S B R A D

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Answer to last month's word scramble.

"Sometimes modifying an ERP system can result in these (2 words)." (UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES)

Look for more timely and relevant content on real world ERP and Enterprise software issues including cost of ownership, change management, Business Intelligence and more . . . delivered right to your in box. Please keep checking the INNOVATIVE WEB SITE for useful tips, and our newsletter archives. Amaze your friends and colleagues with your expertise!

ERP and BI

Now that you have data what do you do with it?

BI and Reporting.

Your data is only as good as your reporting

Word scramble.

 

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