5 Reasons BI is Critical to Successful Supply Chain Projects

Over the past 10 years, we have received questions from various companies across industries about why Business Intelligence (BI) can make or break large, complex supply chain implementations (e.g. including ERP, CRM, SRM, and best of breed execution systems such as WMS, TMS, and LMS). We have listed our most common answers below.
  1. Better visibility to make operational decisions
This may seem obvious to most people. However, business intelligence which includes tactical operational reporting, dashboards, and alerts also should include bringing your execution data into an Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) in a timely manner so that it can be incorporated into overall meaningful KPIs. When bringing on new systems and/or upgrading existing systems in your network, often the required visibility for the business to make decisions in real-time is lost at one of these levels. Spending the time upfront to (1) outline your overall data strategy; (2) identify the system(s) that will be used to collect, clean, and integrate the necessary data; (3) ensure your data strategy is aligned with the operational strategy (what information is needed and when to make decisions); can ultimately ensure the business can make data driven decisions, boost moral, and ensure that you are performing at your best.
  1. Old reporting and visualizations no longer make sense with the new system(s)
Since the implementation of new transactional systems bring new data and, sometimes more importantly, more robust functionality, the current reporting mechanisms you have today often just don’t make sense anymore with the change in work flows. Many reports become obsolete. Many can be consolidated to become more meaningful to the business. In fact, many new reporting capabilities are needed based on the new solutions you are implementing. For instance, are you able to take advantage of planning backhauls now with my new TMS solution? Do you need better replenishment visibility and work planning in the DC because my WMS has allowed for immediate need-based replenishments?
  1. I have large amounts of new data being generated, but is it being integrated and utilized to make better decisions?
Ever changing supply chain systems bring more and more granular levels of data. This includes worker productivity, inventory movements, early information that your systems are not functioning properly, capacity dimensions, SKU dimensions at every UOM, and will soon include sensor data, customer and employee movements, etc. Planning a sound data strategy upfront can allow your company to take advantage of all the data that your are currently capturing as well as what you may capture in the future.
  1. My supply chain systems collect different things and have their own BI solutions
Most companies that we have worked with over the years in Retail, CPG, 3PL, etc., have many systems from different vendors across their supply chain that are not well integrated. Business intelligence is a perfect avenue to leverage all the data being generated (Orders, Shipments, Items, Cost, Demand) across the various systems without having to push data back and forth between systems. Migrating to a central BI tool that is flexible and easy to use (both for user and developer) can make a huge difference in standardizing and best utilizing the data that you already have, while providing the data driven information you need to make decisions.
  1. Getting the projected ROI out of your systems
Let’s be honest. When implementing large complex ERP and supply chain systems, reporting usually gets put on the back burner. This makes intuitive sense because most systems are pretty complex just to implement on their own. If you can’t ship product or invoice a customer, no dashboard, alert, or report will help you. However, BI tools and source systems are evolving at a rapid pace and are more stable than they were 5 years ago. Companies also better understand the complexities of implementing these systems because many have done so before. Business intelligence is a great way to ensure implementations go off without a hitch by anticipating issues before they happen, alerting the users about issues in real time, and maybe most importantly, suggesting remedies to issues immediately (i.e. prescriptive analytics). Often business intelligence can prevent late deliveries, dropping of fill rate, associate training gaps, and inventory issues well before there is a major business impact. A robust business intelligence system also helps prove to management that your KPIs are improving. In our next post we will explore common pitfalls to implementing a BI strategy with complex supply chain systems implementations. Agillitics will be attending Promat 2015 in Chicago, March 23-26th www.promatshow.com. Please e-mail me at tjudge@agillitics.com if you will be attending. About Agillitics Agillitics is a full service business intelligence and analytics consulting firm that focuses on supply chain systems. The Firm works across industry verticals to help clients leverage their data to measure and improve operations, increase sales, and meet complex customer demands. For more information, please visit www.agillitics.com.

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