Epicor unveils smarter BI initiative

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Epicor Software Corporation, provider of enterprise business software solutions for the midmarket and divisions of Global 1000 companies, has announced its Smarter Business Intelligence (BI) initiative that builds on the real-time, embedded and pre-packaged analytics delivered with the Epicor 9 next-generation enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. The new initiative is designed to leverage the model driven service-oriented architecture (SOA) of Epicor ERP, as well as advanced analytic and cloud computing technologies offered by Microsoft to bring more valuable insights, predictability and performance guidance to businesses who are increasingly focused on effective organisation wide execution and growth through innovation.

"Epicor continues to be a leading strategic Microsoft partner, delivering innovative business applications leveraging Microsoft technologies and platforms," said Bob Maher, Sr. Director at Microsoft Corp. "The development Epicor is doing around advanced, predictive analytics that will utilize SQL Server PowerPivot and the Windows Azure platform will help transform the way business users utilise the abundance of data inside their ERP systems, with the ability to model and analyse information rapidly for greater business insight."

"Epicor continues to turn the traditional concept of business intelligence on its head, by taking it out of the hands of a limited number of analysts and technicians and letting all end users easily define, access and act on the information they need, wherever and whenever they need it," said James Norwood, senior vice president, worldwide product marketing for Epicor. "Our smarter BI initiative is about delivering the right information to the right users at the right time based on their business role and their company's business performance goals. It's a unique new approach to comprehensive business insight."  

Smarter BI is for everyoneIn-Context, Role-Based and Available Anywhere
According to a recent report by Forrester Research, Inc., "Business users are demanding self-service BI tools with which they can fulfill most of their reporting and analysis requirements with minimal or, preferably, no involvement from IT. ("The State of Business Intelligence Software and Emerging Trends: 2010," Forrester Research, Inc., May 10, 2010)  

Smarter BI begins with this sentiment in mind and is founded on role based and deeply embedded analytics that are increasingly delivered in-context to the task at hand, and are easy to create, deploy and access by end users. This is in stark contrast with traditional BI systems that often stand apart from the application and business context and require IT specialists to configure and run. Epicor ERP offers a variety of end user focused tools as standard including business activity queries (BAQ), operational reporting and role-based dashboards that can be mashed up with more advanced analytics to create powerful composite applications on the Web, within Microsoft SharePoint or on mobile devices securely, easily and without recourse to IT resources.

Smarter BI Means Better Business InsightsComprehensive Packaged Content puts Users in Control
Epicor Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Server and EPM Performance Canvas combine to deliver an end-to-end analytics platform that offers plug and play operational data store, OLAP cube creation and management, and rich data visualisation of key metrics and trends selected by users. The key value to the Epicor EPM platform is provision of pre-packaged industry analytics that remove the need for additional IT involvement. With more than 40 cubes defined within Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services offering over 400 business metrics backed by more than 1600 dimensions and 800 measures, users are empowered to gain broad insights from every part of the business. Furthermore, with wiki-based search technology and full mobile deployment appearing within Epicor EPM Performance Canvas business insight becomes easier to find, share and understand.

Smarter BI Delivers Fast ResultsFrom Reporting to Budgeting to Planning
Building on the Epicor EPM platform, Epicor plans to deliver a series of advanced analytic applications to deliver broad financial reporting, budgeting, planning and modeling capabilities to business.

The first of these, Epicor Advanced Financial Reporting (AFR) was delivered with Epicor 9.05 earlier this year. Designed for business users, AFR builds upon Epicor Financial Management applications to meet the comprehensive needs of global organisations for advanced financial reporting. Created in the post Sarbanes-Oxley world, Epicor AFR is the first next-generation financial reporting tool that fits the growing financial needs of today's accounting professionals. Epicor AFR is a strong automated finance solution that offers robust, global financial visibility and regulatory reportingto improve accuracy and ensure the integrity of an organisation's financial data.

Currently in development, Epicor Advanced Financial Planning (AFP) is a new Microsoft Windows Azure based service that will offer financial budgeting and extensive operational modeling versions, and is expected to leverage Microsoft's new in-memory and data discovery analysis tool, PowerPivot for comprehensive modeling of extended and larger data volumes. Once again, designed for easy access and update by business users based on their tool of choice, Epicor AFP is expected to offer Windows, Web, Mobile and Microsoft Office user experiences as well as cloud and on-premise deployment options.

Both applications are created with Epicor ICE Business Architecture, which allows extension through Epicor True SOA for use with other Epicor and non-Epicor products.  

Smarter BI Aligns Operations with Strategic GoalsActionable Analytics Leave Nothing to Chance
The last aspect of the new initiative is designed to offer businesses of all sizes access to actionable forward looking analytics and key performance indicators (KPI), previously the domain of larger enterprises with more elaborate IT budgets. By combining the Epicor EPM platform with Epicor business process management (BPM) and Epicor Best Practice models, a complex processing engine that enforces analytic integrity alongside existing transactional integrity rules and directives can be achieved.  

Currently in development, Epicor will tie its best practices models and return on investment (ROI) calculationseffectively combining years of market analysis, industry research and implementation experiencewith its EPM and BPM subsystems to deliver actionable analytic KPIs, to help deliver real-time guidance based on strategic performance goals. Along with delivering a balanced scorecard of metrics reflective of what a company is trying to achieve, the new actionable analytics will provide near real-time updates around what-if scenarios of actual versus plan, and communicate and apply forward looking business rules based on every day operational activity.

According to Gartner, Inc., "When BI and analytic capabilities are integrated into business processes, decisions are more traceable, accurate, repeatable and scalable. So, it is important that any BI and analytic investments support decision-making in the context of business processes.1

Epicor expects its new smarter BI initiative to help businesses establish a culture of high performance where all stakeholders are aware of what's important to the company, how the company is tracking, and where their work fits in to the big picture. It's all about aligning devices, tools and the most efficient processes to end users, and each of the currently available or planned Epicor applications and tools within the initiative are designed to do just that align business processes with business performance goals for maximum business benefit.
1. Source: Gartner, Inc. "Performance Management: Top Processes and Key Performance Indicators" by Nigel Rayner (1 March 2010)

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