Business Intelligence (BI) tools are not for individuals or for departments. They are for an enterprise as a whole. Same as ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning. The information these applications store is in a single repository but provide information with multiple angles to view the same information.
This is the utility of such Corporate Information Systems.
To illustrate, let us take a simple example.
A Senior Official is scheduled to visit a Branch Office of the Company. This is one information, stored as a Transaction in ERP.
Below is the visual representation of activities related to an senior official visiting branch office.
The same transactions can provide different information to different functions, as follows:
|1)||Department Head||To approve the visit|
|2)||Departmental Colleagues||To prepare to manage while this person is away|
|3)||Cash||To arrange to provide Travel Advance towards expenses|
|4)||Administration||To arrange for Lodging & Boarding, Travel|
|5)||Branch Office||To prepare for the visit|
|6)||Time Office||To treat the employee as “On Duty” while he is away|
Besides these, it also serves as a reminder to the employee to submit his Travel Expense Bill once he returns.
For the above mentioned activities, a company has to have following activities:
- Someone needs to track budget vs actual for travel expenses
- Someone needs to record the action items that were finalized during the meetings
- Any new targets that were finalized as part of the meeting, need to become part of the reporting going forward
This – precisely, is the beauty of the Enterprise Software Products. The information is stored just once in ERP but BI can pick it up, rearrange it, filter it and present it in the context of the user who is having a specific need for the information appropriate for his function. BI can present the same information in a manner useful to him.
So, wherever there is any need for information, it is always a need for the right information. Right in the sense that it is timely, brief and to the point, relevant to the context in which it is being sought, easy to grasp and comprehensive.
The information fetched and processed is, in keeping with the end use. These processes are different for short term, operational information and for long term, strategic information, although the source of data remains the same.
So short term, operational as well as long term, strategic information – both are equally well supported by BI and can be of a great assistance to the users in their decision making. This is true for all functions.
Above example used to happen in our company on a regular basis when we were in the process of introducing Six Sigma quality initiative. As part the initiative, Master Black Belts used to conduct “Champion Reviews” at many plants. For each visit, there were projects that had to be reviewed. Finance had to track the promised benefits of the projects. For completed projects, auditors used to validate the claims made by the projects. There used to be slew of activities related to projects for these visits.
The finance person associated with the initiative, used to have data coming in from various sources in Excel and then arrange it for all the reporting that had to be done. An integrated BI tool with Excel which is used today, used to help him get better information, allowed him to collect data from multiple sources as well as transform data before it is ready to be reported. Many times, finance people find that the data from different sources needs to be homogenized/harmonized in order for it to be report ready. Though, that is a discussion for some other time but I am sure you know that harmonizing & homogenizing data from multiple sources is a task by itself.