One could be excused for thinking that Business Intelligence, data analysis and reporting are all one and the same; surely, it’s just a semantic or a point of view. However, there are distinct demarcations between these commonly used words that help throw some light on your choices when it comes to gaining insight into your business.
Traditional ERP reporting for instance, direct from the application, gives you the factual data in a list; historical information or the here and now of a transaction or event. For instance, I sold 3 red ones in store A on Tuesday.
Data analytics is the slicing and dicing of the information or the manual messing around of that data to look at the information from all sides; for instance, I sold 2 more red ones on Tuesday than I did on Monday.
Then the business intelligence takes it to the next level, tracking and aggregating far more than a single source of data to provide actionable insight; red ones need to be at the front of the store on a Tuesday when it’s raining.
There are many situations when the information that is required is better surfaced as an ERP report. For instance, your standard Dynamics ERP reporting from Dynamics NAV and Dynamics AX shows the standard day to day transactional information. Even when you combine that with Microsoft Power BI (which is included in Dynamics 365), although you have a lot of new reports, the information provided is still operational. That may be all that is required.
Operational reporting however, does not integrate multiple platforms into a single console, but what it does provide is a powerful, user-friendly, easy-to-adapt reporting tool, which allows some users to efficiently complete their everyday operational tasks. Operations being the key definer. Business Intelligence goes beyond operational reporting.
A common example is where a customer is using Microsoft Dynamics AX alongside a management reporter – their challenge is the need to consolidate information as well as report by different sectors, for example, line of business or departments across different currencies. Their widely adopted reporting tools were formatted to produce only a standard set of reports which inhibited real visibility of their business. So, they spent 2 weeks of every month importing the data into an excel spreadsheet and manipulating that to arrive at the information and actionable insight they needed.
Now, using the Precision Point data warehouse that same customer (who built the replacement reports in just 2 hours), simply needs to press “refresh” to get the depth of visibility required. Fundamentally any ERP has a data flow – once a transaction is posted and stamped into the appropriate ledger it is summarised and key details are stripped out. The Precision Point data warehouse joins back the detailed data which gives a more holistic view of information.
Business Intelligence draws an entirely new distinction or interpretation of information, when combined with a data warehouse as it pools the data from multiple sources, from structured to unstructured data. This then allows for the discovery of trends and patterns, as it enables you to view this years’ numbers versus last year and re-present that data in the most appropriate way for the business.
You don’t make far reaching business decisions based on what happened an hour ago in one part of the business without looking first at the bigger picture.
The push of data into a Business Intelligence dashboard is a better way for the busy decision-maker to home in quickly to areas of indifferent performance that can be improved. Business Intelligence gives you not just the report, but the tools to drill down, open and analyse what is truly going on in the business.
A Precision-Point data warehouse with a front end dashboard will give you an executive glance of the business and also the power to drill down to the underlying information to really understand the health and trends in the business.
In summary, Business Intelligence solutions strategically link various inter-departmental components and provide a high-level picture of enterprise performance whereas operational reporting solutions offer a detailed look at particular element of the business and the transactional data. Operational reporting allows business users to complete their everyday tasks easily and efficiently, whereas business intelligence solutions help organizations improve their business performance over time.