Reporting versus Business Intelligence (BI)

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Let’s say you implemented your Microsoft Dynamics ERP system in 2005.  Before it went live, you sketched out 25 reports–every report you would ever need–and gave them to the IT department.  A reporting expert went through them and redesigned them and gave you everything you asked for in 12 slick and efficient reports.  And that’s all you needed…for the next two years.

But since then, you’ve thought of more reports that are essential.  You want reports with different roll-ups and different comparisons.  You want to see some new trend reports and how about some new exception or “outlier” reports.   And you want reports that compare data from Dynamics with the new proprietary operations database that was added last year.  You’ve given 20 new report requests to the IT department.  They’ve created four of them:  the other 16 are on the enhancement list.

In the meantime, the company has re-thought the organization and decided to market by “vertical” instead of by “solution” as it had in the past.  So IT is swamped designing and programming new reports.  But you need the data now, so temporarily, well, temporarily for the last 14 months, you’ve been manually inputting all of the numbers from your current reports into Excel and running your own reports.  But when you take them to the big meeting, no one can figure out why the numbers you have don’t match theirs, so they disregard your numbers completely.  STOP!  Get off this merry-go-round.

A good business intelligence (BI) system will give you the information you need, in the format you want, when you want to see it.  BI’s underlying database architecture is optimized to support rapid data analysis, from the aggregation of large volumes of data to “slicing and dicing” data for trending, comparisons, correlations, and exception identification.  Data from multiple sources can be combined to provide insights not available from any one system. 

With a BI application, dashboards and reports can be pre-configured for quick access to current data in views that are referred to frequently.  But the real power of business intelligence is in the users’ ability to quickly modify what’s on the screen using drag-and-drop technology, calculators with pre-programmed functions, on-screen filtering, and sophisticated graphical capabilities, all with just a few clicks.  Business intelligence provides timely ad hoc reporting and analysis for even the most non-technical user.

BIO business intelligence uses near real-time data from existing systems like Microsoft Dynamics, so everyone is using the same data.  Users can track KPIs and financial and operational status through dashboards and scorecards and can set alerts so they can see at a glance when data exceeds acceptable limits.  Secure, role-based access allows for interactive, self-service reporting and analysis without increasing the IT bottleneck.  And the results can be shared via email, web parts, SharePoint, PowerPoint, or just about any method that works with a web page.

View a short video below for an overview of business intelligence and feel free to email me with your business intelligence questions, even if they are not about BIO specifically.  Business intelligence is an indispensible tool for reporting and analysis.  The more you know about it, the more you will wonder how you’ve done without it all this time.

By Sandi Richards Forman of BIO Analytics Corp., a Business Intelligence (BI) Microsoft Dynamics ISV

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