BI should go beyond graphs to deliver answers and ROI

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Sridhar Rajagopal, principal solution engineer, Epicor Software.
Sridhar Rajagopal, principal solution engineer, Epicor Software.

The right business intelligence (BI) tools go beyond reporting to analytics, measurably improving sales, reducing costs and improving business.

This is according to Sridhar Rajagopal, principal solution engineer at Epicor Software, speaking during an Epicor webinar on the "truth behind data" as part of the ITWeb Data and Analytics Webinar Series.

Rajagopal said while organisations were "drowning in data, they were starving for information". Outlining the challenges, he said: “Organisations still struggle to extract relevant and meaningful data from their business systems. Because of the speed at which business moves, information is quickly outdated. Many organisations are over-reliant on Excel spreadsheets, and suppliers are beating them up on cost, because they don’t get consolidated information on what they need to buy and when. There is no one version of the truth across the business.”

He noted that in key sectors such as manufacturing, organisations had to mature beyond operational reports, moving to descriptive analytics that outline what happened, diagnostic analytics which explain why it has happened, and finally to predictive analytics to answer what is going to happen.

Rajagopal elaborated on how Epicor Data Analytics (EDA) enables organisations to drill down into key metrics to understand the root causes of outcomes. “There are gems hidden in the data,” he said. “In production, for example, organisations typically measure successes such as output, but it is also important to measure and manage bad production metrics, such as the amount of wastage or scrap, and its impact on capacity, costs and output, and then be able to drill down to understand why this is happening.”

EDA comes with ready-made content packs and pre-built dashboards across key business functions, informed by discussions with over 20 000 customers over 40 years, he noted.

“EDA content packs come with ready-made dashboards for areas such as financials, sales, production, materials, field service and preventive maintenance,” Rajagopal said.

“In sales, we go beyond sales volumes and targets, addressing typical problems in sales such as ‘what are my least profitable products and why?’, ‘are there customers we should be selling additional companion products to?’ and ‘is our sales and profit velocity improving?’

"EDA content packs for finance go beyond balance sheets and statements to find which customers are past due, and to place budgets on groups of accounts such as employee expenses, vehicles and materials, and track which accounts are approaching their budget amount.”

He said EDA content packs for material deliver value for business by improving the management and flow of materials from vendors and purchasing habits to ensure on-time shipments and ship to order. Typical problems answered include: ‘is our money invested in the proper inventory?’, ‘do we ship on time?’ and ‘how is our vendor performance?’

He said motivating for the procurement of an advanced BI and analytics system was made easier when organisations could put a measurable ROI to it: “If you look at a key area such as scrap/wastage, and gain the ability to determine the reasons behind it and how to address those, you can build the ROI. With advanced BI and analytics, it’s not just a graph, it’s a tool that saves you money and makes you money.”

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