Analysing Performance in Your Business – Wise Up To Business Intelligence

Mid-market companies have moved well past automating their accounting processes and have increasingly focused more attention on automating and streamlining operational processes. The reason is clear; operational efficiency drives costs out of the business, can improve customer service, increase productive capacity and result in higher margins.

Software vendors have responded by adding functionality to their existing suite of applications and offering “end-to-end” solutions that integrate all facets of a business from the warehouse to the web-store. As with most solutions in life, they solve one or more problems but end up creating other problems. In this case, the problem is what to do with all of the data these integrated solutions are gathering, recording and storing in your company’s database?

This problem is not a new challenge for businesses. Fortune 500 companies have been dealing with this issue for decades. Until recently, however, they were the only companies who could afford to deal with the problem of managing all of the data their business systems were accumulating.

If you have heard the terms Online Analytical Processing (OLAP), Business Intelligence (BI), Dashboards, Executive Information Systems (EIS) then you have heard about this problem before. All of these terms refer to various attempts by software vendors to help management and decision makers make sense of all the data their systems hold. But it came at a price. Most implementations would range from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars.

That’s why when the CEO of a mid-market business hears about the latest reporting tools, they generally ask about price first. It’s not that they aren’t looking for a solution. Most CEO’s and Managers are fully engaged and want to know more when the topic of reporting and business analysis is raised. It’s that there hasn’t been a viable cost benefit out there for the mid-market business until recently. Cost not only includes software licensing but also a solution that does not require a lot of technical back-end work.

At first glance, it might seem that only enterprises with deep pockets would be spending their cash on Business Intelligence (BI) solutions, but that’s not the case. Truth is, midmarket players are dipping their toes – albeit tentatively – into the BI waters. Research firm Gartner values the market at $2.5 Billion for new license revenue in 2006 which is a 6.2 percent increase over the previous year. Researchers expect the market to climb to $3 billion by 2009. So obviously something has changed in the BI market.

Business Intelligence has traditionally been defined by the needs of larger companies who wanted “toolset” products that had to be configured and integrated with a reporting solution by programmers. A midmarket company has similar requirements but needs a solution with technology more accessible to the average user so the cost of engineering the solution can be taken out of the system.

There are only a finite number of business activities and ways of measuring them. The goal in improving the cost benefit ratio of implementing a business intelligence tool for a mid-market business is to enable a business consultant or analyst who isn’t a software developer to implement a full solution without going back to the developer for program changes.

This is what Information Manager for SAGE Accpac ERP has been designed to do. It allows consultants to create complex data structures within your Accpac database (called Infoset Codes) and generate a “data cube” for multidimensional analysis of your business at the push of a button. The “Analyser” as it is called, creates the database query necessary to pull the data into the “cube” without the user having to know how to structure these queries. Once generated the “data cube” can be saved for future reference.

The Infoset Codes can also be dynamically linked to Excel with read and write (budget data only) capability between Excel and Accpac or report writers, such as Crystal Reports, which comes standard with SAGE Accpac ERP.

Not only does Information Manager assist in analyzing your business but it has been used to great effect by organizations that budget at a divisional level. Budgets can be created in Excel and sent out to divisional managers for their input. These budget templates are then sent back to the central office, aggregated in Excel to a consolidated budget sheet and written directly into the Accpac database to update budget amounts for the current year.

Information Manager works with the Optional Fields module of Accpac to store and budget against any other data you want to add to your reports. Metrics can be created to measure Sales by Employee, Revenue or Rent Expense per Square Foot, and any other key variable that determines success in your business.

Because Information Manager holds the data right in the Accpac database, all of your back up routines and security measures accrue to this data as well.

If you are a mid-market business looking for a cost effective way to add some intelligence to your SAGE Accpac ERP system, Information Manager makes analyzing your business easy.