Hidden Gems - Mining the Wealth of Insight in ERP

By Jack Payne

- Last updated on GMT

ERP systems record all day-to-day activities critical to the operation of the business. Picture: Aptean copyright Getty.
ERP systems record all day-to-day activities critical to the operation of the business. Picture: Aptean copyright Getty.
‘As a food and beverage manufacturer you face significant challenges every day.

Concerns over competitive prices, varying commodity costs and low margins, food safety and traceability concerns, government regulations, and changing consumer tastes will no doubt be familiar.

Most companies will have implemented an integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to address these challenges. These systems record all of the day-to-day activities that are critical to the operation of the business. They contain a wealth of information that can be beneficial to strategic and tactical decision-making. However, not everyone within the organization has the expert knowledge to extract that data and convert it into meaningful insight. Without access to this information, it can be difficult to make fact-based decisions introducing unnecessary degrees of interpretation, risk and speculation.  

Data gap

According to an Aberdeen Group industry survey, 47% of manufacturers recognize the need to become more data-driven to stay competitive, and 27% of respondents believe more data is available within their organization than is currently being used for meaningful analysis. Key decision-makers often demand convenient access to information when and where they need it.

Leading companies are almost twice as likely to have implemented visual discovery methods to simplify decision-making, and they are three times more likely to have implemented analytical capabilities to combine, reconcile, and mine data. Business Intelligence and Enterprise Search solutions are two ways to meet this growing critical need for actionable insight.    

Uncovering data to inform better decisions 

Business Intelligence is defined as the transformation of raw data into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These KPIs - along with any trending information that is discerned - can be used to enable effective insights. This insight feeds into strategic and tactical decision-making to improve overall enterprise performance.

These solutions have been in existence for a number of years, allowing organizations to provide dynamic reports that present the end users with exactly what they want, when they want it. Significantly, leading companies are 90% more likely to implement tools such as Business Intelligence dashboards to improve fact-based decision-making. 

However, Business Intelligence goes beyond simply reporting, by allowing users to actively interact with the information presented. A personalized dashboard, loaded with intuitive visualizations of the metrics and KPIs, displays valuable insight. This delivers the ability to pinpoint areas of opportunity. 

These dashboards can be tailored so the most appropriate data is presented for each individual stakeholder and all in real time. Business Intelligence also brings a high level of consistency of information to the executive suite and management offices because everyone views the same information. Consequently, this improves communication, direction, and decision-making.

Filtering out relevant insight

Enterprise Search is a newer technology that complements Business Intelligence. Executives, managers, and other stakeholders are provided with the ability to find information stored in the ERP system easily via a browser and search tools. It is defined as a technology that relates user queries to many different kinds of information to identify relevant, contextualized information. In the process users are able to perform light analysis. 

Enterprise Search indexes relevant data in the ERP to allow a user to find information without having to be an expert on the nuances of the software. Both busy executives and tech-savvy Millennials expect navigation that is more intuitive, similar to what can be found when they open their favored Google search engine. By 2018, 30% or more of enterprise searches are anticipated to begin with a question - who, what, when, where and how? 

As an example; someone may ask - when was the last time Customer A placed a sales order? Or how much inventory is available in the Bristol warehouse? The answers required are provided without the user having to be proficient in the use of the ERP solution, or from even having to log into the ERP system. Industry analysts predict that enterprise searches will eventually evolve into “insight engines” that apply relevancy methods to describe, discover, organize, and analyze data. This will allow information to be delivered proactively or interactively in a user context at opportune business moments. 

Finding the right data at the right time

Pulling information from a traditional ERP is much like talking to a teenager; you need to know exactly what questions to ask to gather the necessary information. Business Intelligence and Enterprise Search solutions help extract that data from ERP and put it into a format to be easily consumed, which empowers fact-based decision-making. 

Today’s workforce is more connected than ever before; that trend is only set to continue as Millennials view their work and personal lives as closely intertwined. A priority is for Business Intelligence and Enterprise Search tools to be accessible at any time during working hours both at – or away from - the office. With the proper security, these tools also need to be accessible outside of normal working hours from mobile devices.

Better usage of data for decision-making allows leaders in the food and beverage industry to outperform corporate expectations by as much as 15%. This is in addition to lowering costs and improving productivity. All of which makes the insight derived from data a powerful strategic and tactical ally in a sector where competition is intense and margins are tight.’  

Jack Payne is the vice president of Product Management and Solution Consulting, Aptean.​ 

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