Business intelligence (BI) analytic tools have been all of the rage for years now. Any IT team worthy of their name has invested in tools like Power BI, Tableau, Qlik or Domo. And I won’t lie: these tools are really cool for certain functions.
They can make your business data pretty and easy to understand, no doubt. But what’s the business value of highly visualized data if it’s not accurate or if it doesn’t connect you to your actual business strategy? What’s the point of beautiful dashboards if they only look reactively backward rather than proactively forward to help your business seize real profit generating opportunities? Think of it this way: does being “user-friendly” even matter if your beautiful dashboard is just plain wrong, or if your business opportunities are blinded by silos?
Here are two things from your favorite finance guy that you absolutely need to understand before buying a BI analytics tool:
- BI tools can fool the naked eye
- good analytics exist outside of BI
BI Analytics Tools: Skin Deep Beauty?
On the one hand, BI analytic tools can provide an easy-to-understand, quick visual snapshot of what appears to be the bottom line. Equipped with tons of pick and play dashboards and breathtaking interfaces, it’s easy to be blown away by the beauty of these tools. But when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of them, you might find yourself saying, “Well, maybe it was Maybelline.”
What I am referring to here are the previously mentioned, plug-and-play tools such as Power BI, Tableau, Qlik or Domo. All of these tools claim to transform your business by becoming the new light of your life (at least from a business stand point). Such tools can provide slick visualizations to the hand of any C-level executive. And trust me, executives love visuals (who doesn’t?). These tools can also be a big benefit to the end-user – especially those presenting historical information.
But a big problem can arise if you assume these tools use real-time data.
Here’s the thing…Without being specifically built for any enterprise resource system, BI analytic tools do not have the capability to provide real-time information because they are not connected to where the real-time information lives – the ERP. And ERP systems are updated all the time. ALL THE TIME. So there’s a huge inherent risk to having your data in limbo rather than tied into a system that is updated daily by countless employees across your organization. That’s a no bueno (Spanish for not good) in my book.
The sad reality is that too many organizations are trying to force BI analytic tools to be something they aren’t. To use these tools as a comprehensive decision-making apparatus, you will need to spend countless hours and dollars customizing all of your integrations. Currently, BI analytic tools are crippling corporations because Finance is caught between the need to get real-time data from the ERP (and relying on IT to do so) and the need for the C-suite to get compelling visuals. Case in point: try to dig into a performance-to-plan variance issue that appears in your gorgeous metrics today. You can’t because your real-time actual transactions are stored in multiple tables in your ERP subledgers that are not replicated to the cloud. If this is a true experience for you, then your organization is undeniably disjointed. Which leads me to my second point.
Corporate Performance Management: Style with Substance
Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solutions are a step far beyond a visual tool. Equipped with the same or if not better visualization capabilities as BI but backed by all the nuts and bolts you really need. Simply put, CPM solutions are your Jean Gray of business performance management.
As a holistic approach to managing your enterprise, CPM solutions integrate reporting, analytics and planning into one solution. With all your critical business systems integrated and connected in one place, everyone can collaborate more effectively. Unlike BI analytic tools, CPM solutions can handle ad-hoc reporting, drill-downs and transactional day-to-day reporting, which is essential to your Finance and Operations for keeping your business on track.
Where BI analytic tools fall short in entire enterprise performance management, CPM solutions truly stack up. Here are the top three benefits of CPM over BI (IMO)…
Benefits of a CPM Solution
* They are capable of understanding your business through robust reporting and access to your entire ERP
* They help manage this understanding of your business by delivering key performance metrics and providing automation that alerts you, your customers and your suppliers to new business opportunities and risks
* And finally, CPM solutions empower you, your customers and your suppliers to react positively by enabling them to make decisions, share information and to load future data that can be leveraged by an automatic modeling engine to assimilate rolling predictions for improvements to profitability and satisfaction
While BI can bring the eye-catching charts and graphs, it might not be worth all the implementation effort and functional setbacks. I’ll let you make that call. But first, my final two cents on the subject.
A Prettier Alternative
Although there are benefits to both BI analytics and CPM, some might feel that living with one or the other will result in some unavoidable consequences. Kind of like when you really wish there was an in-between for ice cream and froyo... One that has all the flavor but none of the fat. Well folks, let me tell you there is. Not the in-between of the delicious dairy treat but a hybrid solution that doesn’t require any sort of compromise when it comes to business performance management.
Luckily, technology is advancing and innovative companies are taking advanced approaches to deliver a somewhat hybrid solution that can give you all the self-service capability and visual bells and whistles of BI analytics, with data integrity, reliability and accessibility to match.