Business Intelligence Platforms Boost ERP.

Author:Hoelscher, Roland
Position:ERP - Enterprise resource planning

The CEO of a business intelligence software provider explores the checkered history of enterprise resource planning applications and concludes that many have failed to deliver on their promises. An integrated business intelligence (BI) platform, he says, offers a solution to a growing ERP implementation issue -- how to easily get critical data into the hands of internal customers.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems brought the vision of a single, integrated processing environment to a diverse mix of business applications. By achieving one information backbone for the organization, the theory went, an ERP system would solve all the organization's information needs.

Encouraged by this vision, many organizations spent millions of dollars on ERP software licenses, consulting services and business process reengineering efforts. Yet ERP systems are far from a magic bullet. These applications are among the most difficult and complex systems to manage, and while they are good at capturing and storing data, their reporting capabilities have often left key users scratching their heads in frustration.

That lack of reporting ease was the crux of a study conducted in 2001 by Hackett Benchmarking & Research, which found that most companies have not truly realized tangible returns on their ERP and decision-support technology investments. Considering the amount of money and time necessary to implement ERP systems, this is not news. What is news is how CFOs and information technology (IT) departments are finding new methods to derive value from ERP installations, quickly and cost-efficiently -- through the application of business intelligence (BI).

Broadly defined as the combination of reporting, data mining and online analytical processing applications, BI brings up-to-the-minute information to centralized repositories (such as ERP data warehouses) to create rich and precisely targeted analytics.

Navigating the complex world of ERP and business intelligence necessitates close watch by the finance department, obviously, since these software investments create challenges in terms of costs, risks and opportunities. Finance executives and their IT counterparts must dodge the obstacles that not only wreak havoc on budgets and reputations, but also erode user confidence. Solutions that ignore user ease and familiarity are doomed, and Band-Aid solutions won't work in the long run.

As with ERP, you can't just bolt on BI applications to existing...

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