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ERP and BI: 4 reasons you need both.

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When used correctly and in perfect harmony, ERP and BI tools are a true match made in heaven. Here are 4 reasons why you need both.

Businesses today have more data than they can shake a stick at. Transactions, invoices, call notes, social media interactions, customer details and much, much more. Managing this amount of data can quickly become a crippling issue. As such, most businesses are using enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to better manage their mounting data stacks.

While incredibly useful for generating invoices, monitoring transactions and keeping your finance team in check, ERP software is simply not enough for the fast pace of business today, no matter what industry you are in. There’s no denying that an ERP system is completely necessary for businesses of all shapes and sizes. But sometimes your ERP just needs a little love from business intelligence (BI) to really set your team’s hearts racing.

Research has shown that enhancements and extensions to enterprise applications have been a priority for many businesses as a way of driving continued value from initial ERP investments. This added value is exactly what a business intelligence system can provide.

ERP and BI tools are a true match made in heaven. Here are 4 reasons why you need both:

1. Data becomes easier to use

What’s the use in having all this data if you can’t access it? Most good BI systems feed on the data stored within your ERP system: invoice lines, sales values and profit margins. All this valuable data is otherwise inaccessible unless you’re one of those superhuman data whiz kids.

When combined with a BI tool, data instantly becomes powerful information that can inform sales calls, identify opportunities and keep your sales team abreast of your customers’ changing spending patterns. By crunching the data stored in your ERP system, BI solutions churn out user-friendly, actionable chunks of information, including:

• Which customers are down on spend this month compared to last?
• Which customers are buying eggs but not bacon?
• Which customers have bought every month for the last 11 months, but haven’t bought this month?

Excel can be seriously exhausting if you don’t know what you’re doing, and frantically Googling for how to use a pivot table (seriously, does anyone actually know what these are?!) is valuable time that could be better spent elsewhere.

2. Makes data analysis simpler

Any level of data analysis is enough to scare most off. Exports from most ERP systems are a pure data dump with little to no coherent or actionable information. This leads to hours spent formatting and analyzing data to get any kind of useful insights.

A BI tool will actively search your data, day in and day out, to churn out valuable nuggets of information that you can use in a format you can understand. Easy to digest dashboards, graphs and charts allow for instant visual analysis of sales figures, purchasing trends and sales opportunities.

Salespeople and managers will quickly benefit from this level of easy analysis, giving your salespeople back the time to do what they do best: selling.

A good BI tool will free up your team to concentrate on the important stuff: building lasting relationships, personifying your brand and selling more effectively. rather than spending hours slaving away on Excel, writing reports and doing admin.

3. Improves account management

The benefits of using ERP and BI tools in conjunction are not limited to the sales department. With a clear, company-wide view into customer activity, sales transactions, calls made and notes recorded, your customer account management team will have all the information they need to better look after your customers at their fingertips.

While your ERP system will be providing invoices, sales figures and customer details, a BI system will be proactively crunching this data to churn out trends, forecast sales and alert you to any sales opportunities within your existing customer base you may have otherwise overlooked.

With this information, your team can act quickly to secure repeat business before your competition can swoop in. Fully primed on everything from how likely your customers are to buy from you regularly to which products they typically buy, your account managing superstars will always have a step up.

4. Removes reliance on IT

Getting any kind of useful information out of your ERP system typically involves hassling your IT department to extract data and put it into a legible format.

A BI system, however, removes the need to nag your IT team for sales figures for the last month. These kinds of reports are enough to instil a deep hatred of spreadsheets in most sales professionals, and they’re out of date the second they land in your inbox.

Given that BI feeds entirely on the data stashed away in your ERP system, your IT team can breathe easy knowing your sales team won’t be knocking their door down at 4:30pm on a Friday asking for a sales report ahead of their 9am sales call on Monday.

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