Just do it - Five reasons to get on and implement BI before ERP

Published 29th June 2017

There are so many positives to implementing BI before ERP, not least the speed of seeing results.  Don't wait for the ERP project to finish, you and your business could be missing out

Rob Howell - Sales and Operations Director

There was a time when talking to new prospects if we heard the words “we are implementing a new ERP system”, we would back off, and contact them again in twelve months. We knew however long the customer thought it would take, that would be the shortest time to get through the ERP project, and reporting was traditionally seen as the last stage. It seemed mad to us when reporting would be the most visible result, and it can be as quick as two or three weeks for BI to have a positive impact, but experience had told our sales team not to waste their time.

That has definitely changed. Maybe our message has been getting through, or maybe senior management now understand the impact of a relatively small investment in BI is invariably rewarded with a huge return of better insight into the business. There are so many positives to implementing BI before ERP, not least the speed in seeing results.

Don’t get me wrong, as an ERP project manager in a previous life, I understand how important it is to have control over your data and processes that a modern, unified ERP system can provide, but it won’t help you understand your business any better.

Here are five great reasons to get on and start implementing BI. Don’t wait for the ERP project to finish, you could be missing out!

1.  Address the most pressing task first, and buy some time

Senior management are most likely clamouring for better insight. They want more information on how the business is performing, and don’t have the patience to wait for the ERP project to finish. The BI solution, although it may contain some data workarounds at this stage, can deliver the key information they require, taking some pressure off the ERP implementation. You can return to finely tune BI later. 

2.  Speed of return vs Investment

For a mid-sized company, the average ERP project costs £100,000 to £500,000 and takes six months to two years to finish. Our customers can invest as little as £15,000 on software licences and start to discover insights into their business within the first week of the project.

3.  Standardise your data with BI

One of the compelling reasons to implement a new ERP system is often to improve information, yet ERP system alone will not achieve that. It’s the data cleansing, standardising, and bringing together disparate data sources during the project that enables the improvement. Bring the data standardisation task under the banner of the BI project, and you will benefit much sooner from the effort put in. We use Cognos as a temporary data mart: we can load data from a multitude of different sources, holding the mapping inside TM1 where it is clearly transparent, auditable, and easy to maintain. You are effectively applying a temporary ‘skin’ over the top of your disparate data sources.

4.  Use BI to flush out data issues

BI solutions, particularly cube technology available in tools like Cognos, are brilliant at showing up exceptions and outliers in business performance, enabling you to drill into results and understand the cause. They do exactly the same for dodgy data! Use the presentation and manipulation tools to help you understand where data needs to be cleansed, and bring a cleaner data set into the ERP system.

5.  Develop and test your standardised structures in BI

Some of our customers developed new standardised accounts hierarchies and product structures and used them in Cognos first, before incorporating into the ERP system. Developing the new hierarchies this way is easier, more flexible and visual.

The business community can get used to the new structures, and any teething problems ironed out. This applies to any other dimensions relevant to your business, such as companies, cost centres, customers. 
Reasons 3, 4 and 5 are fundamental tasks you have to tackle when implementing an ERP system. You’re not duplicating effort, so why not gain the benefits sooner? 

Don’t wait. Get the reporting part of the project underway first, and start delivering results earlier.  

Implementing BI and financial reporting ahead of our ERP has given us insight into our rapidly expanding business within weeks, rather than waiting for our new ERP.  

Peter McDermott, Nuvias Group