Why are so many businesses happy to shell out 100,000 for an ERP solution yet grudge 950 for a single business intelligence software license - and shudder in horror at the idea of a training course? Particularly when so many ERP applications have been purchased because organisations were struggling to attain good business information?
Yes, today's solutions deliver far better standard reports. But BI is not just about good reporting. It is about leveraging a single source of information to attain real business insight; insight that can add further cost benefits and, critically, enable a business to respond faster to change.
ERP benefits don't have to stop once automation has been achieved; the systems hold a wealth of data that can transform the business. Once the process of automating the input of purchase invoices has been achieved, a business has the opportunity to use BI to analyse supplier performance, for example, to achieve further commercial advantage.
But BI's value is hard to quantify; it is intangible. Will an investment in BI enable a company to reduce its payroll, drive harder deals with suppliers or improve customer understanding? Most probably yes, but the deliverables are harder to predict and hence tougher to justify. How much easier is it to employ a new sales person or add new machinery to the shop floor?
Business Intelligence encompasses reporting, dashboards to give management a rapid indication of Key Performance Indicators, and analytics to support proactive assessment of business trends and what ifs? For many organisations, happy with the improved reporting delivered by their new generation ERP solutions, the additional value BI can deliver seems too insubstantial. And yet, in a business environment where ERP is the norm, BI provides one of the few opportunities to attain competitive differentiation and hence advantage.
Without BI how can you guarantee product delivery without incurring massive manual costs? Without automated alerts or real time monitoring of order status the cost of business critical service guarantees is untenable. So how can organisations grudge the purchase of business advantage?