Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) v’s Business Intelligence (BI) is not really the correct statement but maybe we should be saying “how does ERP and BI work together to give a business the power of knowledge to run their business the most effective and profitable way?”
Before we jump into how BI can support your investment in Epicor ERP we must understand what ERP and BI are and their fundamental difference.
ERP is the software that helps a business to record and control transactions and processes in one place to obtain an integrated view
BI is the software that draws on this raw data to discover rich insights and analytics.
Epicor does come with standard reporting options and is an exceptionally open solution for reporting in its own right. The standard reporting options include:
To help understand whether you should look into BI as a solution to enhance Epicor ERP we asked Patrick Walsh, Operations Manager from Aspera Solutions what his thoughts and advice would be to a business considering BI.
“The main one is that BI gives a business the ability to slice and dice information. The standard Epicor reporting tools provide a lot of capability however you may have additional needs to meet your business requirements based on two major reasons:
“When we implement a BI solution with one of our customers we use Data Cubes. These cubes use the master and transactional data recorded in Epicor which are stored using Tables within a SQL Database. Like all transaction orientated systems, this database is designed to maintain the integrity of the data at all times. For example, when looking at sales orders in Epicor the data being retrieved would come from the following tables:
It is important to note that the above tables are efficient from a data storing perspective and ensuring that data integrity is maintained but not efficient for rapid analysis reporting. As an example, a sales order transaction volume of 500 orders per week with 10 lines per order, will result in 260,000 sales transactions being added to the database annually. So a monthly query showing year on year details for three years will have a dataset expanding to 780,000. This is a heavy burden on a system and will likely result at some stage in slow performance. This could be avoided with BI.
The data cubes provide a separate database structure, designed specifically for analysis to support a very efficient slice and dice operation. This database structure is called an OLAP cube and is a multidimensional database that is optimised for data warehouse and online analytical processing (OLAP) applications. In an OLAP cubes, data (measures, e.g. Revenue, Cost, Quantity…) are categorised by dimensions (Customer, product, Sales Rep, Time,…)”
Example of Cube Database
“Cubes are defined as follows:
So, for a Sales Cube using the Epicor data would be set up something like below:
|Cost of Sale||Customer|
|Unit of Measure|
“We would recommend installing on premise however users will be able to access dashboards/reports from the cloud and from anywhere.”
“The data will be extracted from the Epicor database and loaded into the cube. This process is usually completed nightly however the frequency can be set more frequently to reflect the business requirements.”
Analysis is designed to reveal the hidden patterns and trends within business data and this is achieved most effectively through the graphical representation of that data i.e. visualisation. Providing these views helps the user to ask, and answer, questions through the slicing and dicing process.
There are several options that can be used by the end user for analysing data stored in the sales cube. We recommend the following:
In closing the interview with Pat, we asked what are the deliverables i.e. what will our customers receive if they decide Aspera Cubes is the method of reporting their business requires?
Deliverables will depend on your business requirements and Aspera’s assessment of same but a sample of what a standard delivery of a sales cube would look like is detailed below: