Sophisticated expensive reporting solutions versus utilizing the tools you have today

Over the years I’ve worked on a number of large-scale Oracle ERP implementations and one of the biggest challenges clients face is coming to terms with the technology available and the process they have in place to apply it. 

When a company makes the choice to move onto a cutting edge ERP system, such as Oracle or SAP for example, they are faced with a daunting amount of reporting solutions to choose from.  These are powerful products that can change how the company manages its business and if implemented well, can create significant value.  However, the reality is that most companies are not prepared for such drastic change. 

Unfortunately there are no real shortcuts in implementing these products.  It’s like how you can’t go from being an above average track runner on your high school team to a gold medalist.  On top of having natural ability you must put in years of training before being able to compete at the highest level.  So why do companies who are implementing a complicated ERP for the first time think that they will see the benefits by simply purchasing and implementing a sophisticated reporting tool?

Think past the ‘wow factor’

When you are given a demo on the Business Intelligence reporting capabilities that these solutions provide everyone is pretty impressed, as they should be.  Who wouldn’t want to replace hours if not days of extracting information from your accounts and putting reporting packs together each period?  This is error prone and a poor use of skilled accountant’s time.  Wouldn’t you want something that promises to deliver your reports within minutes?  However, most accounting shops today have a decent ERP but are really managing the accounts in Excel.  Is this what your accounting process is like?  If you aren’t using all the functions of your existing ERP, do you think you will use all the functions of the fancy new reporting tool you plan to implement tomorrow?

Avoid common mistakes

Too often companies pay big bucks for these solutions and then build it to produce the same reports they have today.  Sure, ‘out of the box’ solutions may not satisfy all of your needs but companies should focus on the highest priority requirements long before selecting, implementing or customizing a tool.  Some important considerations include:

1)      Reporting requirements should be based on optimal requirements not the existing reporting process.  I suggest you spend the majority of your project time on designing the reports you absolutely need for your company and then creating your reporting requirements on the ideal solution.  Ask questions like do you really need to report on AR Aging six different ways? 

2)      Over customization of ERP Reporting solutions usually overshadows the benefits and can lead to issues with upgrades and integrations later down the road

3)      Customization is the most costly and time consuming part of the process.  I have seen companies spend millions on the Business Intelligence and reporting packages only to have BI developers come in and change the majority of the reports they just purchased to adopt the old process. 

4)      No one likes change.  Many ERP and Reporting implementations fail because the change is poorly executed.  Change Management is a critical process that should be thoughtfully applied to all levels of a business. 

So why not adopt a more pragmatic approach?  You are about to go live with your new ERP system so why not:

1)      Learn what the system can do for you.  Understand the limitations and maximize all the functionality it has to offer through consistent feedback from users.  Have the team identify the reports they really need and control how they are implemented.

2)      Document and outline Key KPIs.  Have management identify the KPIs they actually need to manage their business and then design reports to satisfy them.

3)      Finally, try simplified, more cost effective reporting tools that can be implemented and tested without breaking the budget.  Once established these can provide the framework for your BI reporting solution.  Ensure that off the shelf reports are modified sparingly for the most important requirements. 

4)      Once new process are established using your new ERP and reports really needed have been developed you now have a stable platform in which to implement a cost effective and accurate BI reporting solution.

Learn from those who have suffered through painful system implementation failures.  Start with the process to understand your reporting requirements and invest in the reporting platform you need rather than the one you will have to live with.


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