Business Intelligence: What Is Holding Back ERP Implementations

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: November 21, 2018

For years now, companies and ERP consultants have struggled with how to avoid ERP failure. Many struggle to reach the third stage of ERP, which is when real transformations happen, business benefits are realized, and the business is better off than before new technology was deployed.

I recently wrote about how part of the problem ties back to the last mile of ERP implementation. In that article, I talk about how in order to get the most out of their digital transformation investments, companies need to go beyond core, back-office ERP technologies. Business intelligence is one of those capabilities that can deliver a big lift to the ROI of your digital transformation initiatives.

Business intelligence case study of the data zombies

We are working with a large manufacturing organization with close to 30 different divisions and 10,000 employees. The company uses a number of different ERP systems across the organization but is in the midst of an Oracle Cloud ERP implementation for a good portion of the company’s operations.

At the same time, this decentralized client is aiming to improve its digital initiatives to augment its back-office ERP systems. The company is deploying a company-wide business intelligence tool to help provide consistent reporting, standardized performance metrics, and a global view of the organization’s operations in real time.

The company had historically hoarded data without a consistent approach to measuring and analyzing information. Going forward, it is aiming to have less data, but more meaningful information to gauge and predict company results. In short, the company is moving from a culture of “data zombies” (a term coined by the client) to one of more deliberate and consistent performance measurement.

Why ERP systems fail in business intelligence

In the case of this client, its current and future ERP systems aren’t enough to provide meaningful business intelligence and reporting. Not only are there multiple ERP systems to work with, but there are multiple sources of the truth

One could argue that the answer is to simply deploy a single ERP system with strong reporting capabilities. Not only is this not feasible for most organizations, but the approach also overlooks the fact that business intelligence tools typically handle reporting and analytics better than ERP systems. This is especially true if you are gathering information from outside core, back-office functions.

For example, gathering a complete view of your customers, their behaviors, profitability, and other metrics will likely require more robust business intelligence software. This is becoming increasingly true with the advent of emerging digital transformation technologies. Internet of things, Industry 4.0, predictive analytics, and robotics are all examples of technologies that somehow need to be integrated to a company’s performance dashboard.

Next steps in your business intelligence journey

There are a number of simple ways to get started in your business intelligence journey. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Define your overarching digital transformation strategy, including how business intelligence might fit in with other technology investments over time
  • Understand the gaps in the business intelligence and reporting capabilities of your current or planned ERP system(s)
  • Identify all the sources of data required to gather and analyze meaningful business information
  • Define your top-down performance metrics that your organization will focus on – regardless of which technologies you use
  • Identify the bottoms-up business intelligence and reporting needs of your field operations, then reconcile with your top-down metrics
  • Define an organizational change management strategy to support your business intelligence and overall digital transformation efforts
  • Define an overall deployment strategy and plan

Independent and technology-agnostic ERP consultants such as those at Third Stage can help you define the best path forward. Feel free to reach out to me for help – I am happy to be a sounding board as you get started!

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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