In today’s ultra-competitive world, it is vital that businesses find ways to stand out from the competition. Business Intelligence (BI) is key for companies looking to gain competitive advantage and it is playing an increasingly important role in the success of businesses across all industries, allowing them to analyse large amounts of unstructured data to uncover valuable insights that can then be acted upon.

According to the 2017 Gartner CIO Agenda Report of more than 2,598 CIOs, Business Intelligence and Data Analytics is once again the top investment priority for a CIOs this year.
Furthermore, global revenue in the BI and Analytics software market is expected to reach $18.3 billion in 2017, an increase of $7.3 billion from 2016. Gartner also noted that a modern BI and analytics platform has emerged in the last few years to meet new requirements for accessibility, agility and deeper analytical insight, shifting the market from IT-led, system-of-record reporting to business-led, agile analytics including self-service.

 

What is business intelligence and why is it important?

Business intelligence can be broadly defined as “applications and technologies used to gather, provide access to and analyse data and information to support decision making efforts”. Claudia Imhoff, President of Intelligent Solutions, categorised the different types of business intelligence present within the business environment into three distinct categories: operational, tactical and strategic. Broadly speaking, operational BI is concerned with managing day-to-day operations, using real-time metrics. Tactical BI, on the other hand, describes carrying out short-term analysis to achieve strategic goals, while strategic BI is focused on achieving long-term goals. Operational BI considers the here and now, while both tactical and strategic BI evaluate historical metrics gathered over time.

Until relatively recently, BI-related activities were carried out by manually gathering data from multiple sources, manipulating it in spreadsheets and generating a pre-formatted, fixed report. When you consider the number of different areas within one organisation and the effort that would go into generating even a single report, the end result is countless hours of report generation. Furthermore, by the time each report is delivered, it could very well be obsolete. Today, ERP solutions, such as IFS, come with integrated BI tools and modules that enable organisations to provide dynamic reporting, allowing end-users access to exactly what they want to see when they want to see it.

Having a clear BI strategy and the right tools in place can provide an organisation with all the information it requires in order to understand the many changes and challenges that occur within their own business and the market in which they operate. The ability to evaluate large amounts of data and subsequently use this data to identify new opportunities and create an effective strategy based on these insights can provide businesses with a competitive market advantage and long-term stability. BI can support both operational and strategic decision-making and by having a historical, current and extrapolative view of a business, the decision-making process is made much easier.

 

How does IFS deliver on Business Intelligence?

Helping customers visualise information to improve decision making and business efficiency is a key strategy for IFS. This is realised through IFS Applications™ which has excellent built-in visualisation capabilities, such as IFS Lobby, which are further complemented with their Business Intelligence (BI) and Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI) solutions, each adding incremental visual insight value.

Furthermore, for customers who prefer or already own a different BI tool, IFS offers an open information architecture, including IALs (Information Access Layer views) and Information Sources. This means that users of any third-party BI suite can benefit from this pre-packaged metadata from within IFS Applications.

Given that IFS offers built-in capabilities and the opportunity to integrate third-party BI solutions with IFS, knowing which tools are required to build a BI and reporting strategy for your business can be overwhelming. To help our IFS customers navigate this area, we have created the following diagram which considers the three levels of business intelligence outlined above and identifies the solutions or tools best suited to each level.

 

The BI landscape for IFS explained

The BI reporting landscape for IFS explained, Cooper Software Ltd.

 

1. Operational BI: daily reporting using real-time metrics

Operational BI is concerned with the here and now – those operational details that reflect current activity. It is intended to support the day-to-day activities. Comprising detailed information on the operational activities of a company, operational reports can include production records, cost structures, resource costs, and provide a detailed report on processes, specific costs and revenues. Typically, operational reports are short term and are used for detail driven decision making, useful for monitoring both specific financial data and process inefficiencies. Real-time, detailed information is necessary for thorough operational reporting and quick decision making. IFS Applications has a number of built in tools to produce operational reports.

IFS Lobby™

A new feature launched within IFS Applications 9, and a key element of IFS’ overall strategy for delivering visual insight, IFS Lobby is named as such because it is similar to the lobby of a hotel, with a front desk, concierge, information and the path to different parts of the building. IFS Lobby is the 'home' page users are welcomed with when logging in and from here they can access all the information required to work in their particular role. Essentially, IFS Lobby is a role-based dashboard which can easily be configured to allow user(s) to see, even drive them to quickly and easily complete action relevant tasks in the system.

Accessible via any device, IFS Lobby provides complete visibility, facilitating real-time business reporting. Users can look at key metric data and then drill down into the information behind any flagged issues. It is a great tool for graphic visualisation and providing actionable intelligence in IFS Applications. It really helps users see at a glance how the current situation relates to their role, tasks and processes.

IFS Manufacturing Visualiser™

Specifically created for companies operating within the manufacturing industry, IFS Manufacturing Visualiser employs visualisation techniques which allow users to view a graphical representation of their data, helping them to understand it and take relevant action. It provides up to date information on production status from both a resource (machine) and material perspective. The solution is further enhanced by issuing alerts to users, prompting them to take the necessary actions to support the production process. A configurable solution, IFS Manufacturing Visualiser offers a number of pre-defined views, giving users the flexibility to choose the visualisations they require and how these are displayed. Charts are saved in the user profile overview and the next time the overview window is opened, the charts from the last session will be displayed.

Saved Query / IFS Chart

A saved query allows the filtering down of data using pre-set criteria. Used daily or weekly, a query can easily be pulled together by an end-user, allowing them to view data not available through a standard overview screen. IFS Chart uses the list of data generated from a saved query, translating it into a visual chart. Again, charts can be created by the end-user without the need for specialist technical knowledge.

Quick Report / Crystal Report

In contrast to the above, Quick and Crystal Reports are written and prepared for the end-user by an expert user who has a deep knowledge of the data and subsequent code required to run the report. For Crystal Reports, in particular, these are created by someone who is a skilled crystal report developer. Used on a daily basis, these structured, pre-set reports allow the pulling together of information contained within a number of separate sourced into a single summarised view. They are most likely to contain information you might send on to suppliers or customers, for example, orders of a particular part or item for a specific customer.

 

2. Tactical BI: short-term analysis to achieve strategic goals

Tactical BI provides decision makers within a business with the necessary information to discover changes in the company’s current environment and helps them discover new opportunities. It deals with short term analysis - days to weeks or months - of current conditions and addresses the steps which must be taken to achieve strategic objectives.

IFS Business Analytics

IFS Business Analytics is a part of the Business Intelligence suite of reporting and analysis tools. It is a business intelligence solution that extends Microsoft Excel® from a desktop productivity tool to a fully-fledged enterprise-scale solution for reporting and analysis.

Using Business Analytics, users can design reports, charts and pivot tables, publish and schedule reports, enable drill-down and zoom-in to create interactive reports, generating the most accurate, useful spreadsheet reports possible using a tool they already know and work with every day. They can achieve fully functional managed spreadsheet reports, with formulas, graphics and formatting intact, that they can use their existing Excel skills to analyse and manipulate to meet their exact needs. Types of reports include those carried out on a weekly or monthly basis, for example, month end or cost centre manager reports.

IFS Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI)

The IFS Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI) solution forms part of the IFS visual insight strategy and enables a full 360-degree, enterprise-wide, top-down perspective of processes and performance aligned with the business strategy.

EOI works not only with your IFS data, but any additional data sources you wish to include. IFS EOI lets executives and managers review and orchestrate processes that align with their business strategy. This allows them to ensure process execution delivers that strategy—EOI software drives these processes into end-users’ desktop functions. The EOI solution also provides a complete understanding of which functions deliver real customer value, those that are less effective, and those which waste both time and resources in terms of delivering the organisational goals. Ultimately, IFS EOI enables businesses to accelerate the realisation of their business strategy—by making better decisions, faster. This is achieved through assessing real-time business performance in the context of how it affects key business processes and goals, giving managers real-time operational intelligence and actionable controls to solve issues before they become problems.

Making an organisation’s operations smarter requires end-to-end operational intelligence. IFS EOI starts with the top-level business strategy and goals, which are captured in the BizMap™, incrementally connecting real-time data to monitor and manage the end-to-end processes. This top-down approach ensures that business performance is managed in context of the key business strategic objectives and processes, preventing any surprises in performance. IFS EOI provides one single, end-to-end picture of the truth—from strategy to operations. It allows the development of a blueprint to define your strategy, processes and KPIs, reducing complexity and providing the ability to focus on what is really important.

IFS Customers will benefit from both BI and OI—both are needed since they address different needs with different approaches. BI is data centric whereas OI is activity centric, OI includes the present whereas BI predominantly looks at the past, OI automates action whereas BI does not, there are also common elements, for example, the use of dashboards.

 

3. Strategic BI: forecasting, board reporting, strategic planning and direction

The IFS Enterprise Operational Intelligence (EOI) solution forms part of the IFS visual insight strategy and enables a full 360-degree, enterprise-wide, top-down perspective of processes and performance aligned with the business strategy.

Qlik®

Business Intelligence is most effective when it combines both external data from the market within which a company operates and internal company data such as financial and operations information. When viewed together, external and internal data provide a more complete picture, which results in a deeper level of intelligence that cannot be achieved by a single set of data. As many organisations are now adopting a data-driven culture, the importance of the context within which that data belongs is becoming more significant. The ability to pull in on-demand data to provide additional insights allows for more informed decision-making and creates a competitive advantage.

Positioned as a ‘leader’ in Gartner’s BI and Analytics Magic Quadrant for the seventh consecutive year, Qlik is a Business Discovery solution that empowers users to uncover hidden trends and make discoveries that drive innovative decisions.

Qlik uses drag and drop capability allowing users to create powerful, highly visual dashboards and up-to-the-minute personalised, boardroom quality reports from multiple data sources across disparate systems. Reports generated from ERP tools usually have only basic formatting, so modifying them involves manually updating each report. This often results in your technical team spending extensive time and effort developing the reports.

 

What makes Qlik technology unique?

Qlik combines power and scale with simplicity, agility, flexibility, and ingenuity. At its core is a powerful in-memory, associative data indexing engine that enables users to explore all the possible associations that exist in their data. This engine does the job of automatically finding, managing, and maintaining all the relationships among the various data elements – adapting and allowing any path of questions from a user. Qlik’s associative model removes all constraints – allowing users complete freedom to explore any analysis path within their data.

 

How Cooper Software can help you to deliver a BI strategy

Cooper Software can assist with all your BI needs. As both an IFS and Qlik Partner, we have developed over 750 ERP and BI solutions for more than 200 customers around the world. We have recently partnered with Climber, a data discovery and business intelligence specialist and Europe’s largest Qlik Partner, to collaborate on the delivery of our Qlik projects. Our project consultancy team work in tandem with Climber’s developer team to create bespoke BI solutions for our clients, helping them to create a coherent BI strategy, uncovering meaningful data and creating insights which will drive their business forward.

 

 

Disclaimer
This white paper has been written to reflect the views of Cooper Software in relation to the various business intelligence and visualisation tools available through the IFS ERP platform. It has been written from our personal viewpoint using our experience in delivering solutions for our clients. It does not seek to promote only these solutions, other business intelligence tools are available. 


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