ERP & BI: Integrating Data Collection and Analysis
When you’re developing your retail strategy as your business grows, you’ll need as much usable information as possible to help you build effective strategies and processes. To do so, you’ll need to find the right solutions for not only integrating your operations and collecting data from them, but also for making this data into something usable that you can turn into these actionable decisions. A number of platforms and solutions have come onto the market to solve both of these challenges, but some of the most common are ERPs (for collection) and BI software (for analysis), so today we’re going to look at how they are different and how they can come together to help you create the ideal retail environment.
What’s an ERP?
Broadly speaking, an ERP is a way to integrate key departments and functions within a single platform. The goal is to take the varied goals and tasks of your varied operations and bring them together in the most effective and integrative way possible - instead of having siloed and disparate operations. When implemented correctly, an ERP has the ability to streamline a wide variety of processes to free up value employee time to focus on other endeavours. Another major benefit of such an arrangement? It is collecting data the entire time and storing it in a single database, making it readily available for analysis. One drawback of an ERP? The sheer volume of data and reports, ranging from inventory to income statements to payroll and sales data, can mean that the actual process of making this data into something useful can be slow and difficult.
What is BI?
Business Intelligence, or BI, is the part of the equation that takes all of this very useful data that your ERP has quietly been collecting in the background and analyzes into reports that have context and are relevant for your most important decisions. For the retail industry in particular, this understanding is key because of the clear ripple effect that one decision will have across your entire operational environment. This is especially true when it comes to the time sensitivity of your business, as a BI solution can make quick work of data that could become obsolete if not analyzed in time.
What’s the Difference?
To put it briefly, if an ERP is the brawn of a retail operation, BI would be the brains. All the very necessary tasks that an ERP helps your business to carry out, from supply chain to order fulfilment, are key to ensuring that your customers and employees are able to happily reach their goals within your retail environment. BI, however, will be the solution to your daily and long-term planning woes by giving you data that has been analyzed and contextualized to support your business’s specific needs and goals. In other words, an ERP will keep all of your varied operations organized whereas BI will give you the best outlook for the future possible; to support your ERP in keeping you organized.
Though it is important to note, many modern ERP solutions do include some variety of integrated BI software - or have the capacity to include it as an add-on during the implementation process. However, the inherent functionality in such an environment can be limited, so it’s important to explore from the beginning what your options and capabilities with different solutions are. It may even be that the particular reports that you are in search of in require additional development to be created.
How Can They Benefit Each Other.. And Your Retail Business?
Together, an ERP and BI can provide valuable and highly actionable insights into your business. If an ERP is collecting all the raw data you could possibly need or imagine, it can quickly become overwhelming in its volume - leading to what some might call an ‘analysis paralysis’, whereby there’s so much information available that it is almost unusable. A BI solution will bring together these separate pieces of information, sales reports, inventory management, payroll, and others, and make sense out of them in an easily digested report or dashboard; and in a timely manner. And of course, with clear and understandable reports, the process of making decisions is much easier and can lead to much better results.
ConclusionThough their functions are quite different, ERPs and BI solutions can be integral to helping your employees achieve the best possible understanding of the different pieces of your business and how they can come together. Choosing the right solution can be tricky and having the right partner in your implementation process for either of these is key, so make sure that they not only have experience in the solution at hand but also in the retail industry as a whole.
Interested in learning more about these differences and how they can come together to help your retail business grow? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for your complimentary consultation.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Systems Limited, or any other entity related to Systems Limited.