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Put Your Head in the Cloud

Cloud computing continues to drive business transformations across the Distribution industry. And that is not marketing hype. Look at the latest industry news, you'll find multiple stories on how the "Cloud" is changing Distribution. Some of the times for the positive and other times for the negative. If you haven't felt the impact of the Cloud within your business you will, either in how you run it or how your competition is using it. One of the hot areas in Cloud-based business software right now is business intelligence (BI) software. What use to be available to only large corporations has become accessible for small to mid-sized businesses.

For many years now I have been following what is happening with reporting, data analytics and business intelligence software. It is an exciting area of software but with its own frustrations for the small to mid-sized business owner. In this blog post I want to look at some of the opportunities that exist and some of the challenges with today's modern BI software.

Free is Normal
A majority of the BI software providers now offer a free or trial version of their software, which may have limited features available. This is a great way to try it before you buy it. The installation is typically care-free and you don't need the help of IT to do it. The downside is getting it connected to data. Finding the integration starting point and then connecting to a data source typically does require the help of someone with technical and network knowledge of your system. So you still need technical assistance to implement and use these modern BI tools.

It's Intuitive…and Self-Evident
The user experience of today's BI tools is very similar to what we have come to expect from the software we use on our smartphones and tablets. The user interfaces of these tools are clean, logical and help you find the function you are looking for. And if you can't find what you are looking for then a global search feature is usually accessible within the tool to help you find it. A challenge can be creating the exact, distribution focused report you need. It's one thing to have an intuitive application and quite another to have to create a report or dashboard from scratch. That takes time and intimate knowledge of your data both of which are probably in short supply for you and team.

We Have Data!
Once you are connected to a data source you may find that while the tool is easy to use the naming and structure of the data within your software is not. ERP and CRM applications are built for processing transactions at high-speed, which requires minimizing for optimal performance. This doesn't lend itself to clear, recognizable naming of fields and tables where your data is stored. Some of the time you can figure out what is stored in a field but often you are left wondering if learning Klingon might be easier.

It's For Everyone
Once you become familiar with the tool and show a few other people around your office how to use it you'll find that others are also creating their own reports, charts, KPI's and dashboards. This means people are not relying on an IT or a Business Analyst to create reports. Issues start when everyone has their own version of the truth. You may have replaced many of your Excel spreadsheets for much prettier charts and dashboards but you didn't reduce the confusion and volume of documents being created.

Come Together
Finding a reliable, easy to use business intelligence tool has its challenges. Epicor Data Analytics (EDA) addresses many of the challenges I've seen with the new BI tools of today. EDA is tailored specifically to the Prophet 21 database. Epicor has figured out all the complex logic to transform your data and present it in a format that makes sense to a business user plus allow you the flexibility to integrate data from other databases, like HR, Payroll or industry specific sources.
EDA has six built-in data modules so you are not creating the distribution specific reports and dashboard you need from scratch. Each report can be modified to your specific needs. There are modules for Sales, Inventory, Purchasing, General Ledger, Accounts Payable, and Accounts Receivable. And since Epicor's experienced Distribution team built these modules, it means the information is right, reliable and ready to go in days not months. Epicor's decades of experience working with distributors, understanding your business, along with research in industry standard Key Performance Indicators, means we built a business intelligence solution which is a fantastic starting place for your business. And all of the information within EDA pulls from one source of data so everyone is singing from the same page.

Since Epicor Data Analytics is a subscription based service you have a low cost of entry which allows you to try the application before making a big commitment across your business. This reduces your risk but provides a scalable application to grow with your business. 

So contact us at  to find out how Epicor Data Analytics can transform…and help you grow your business.

Posted by Mark D. Jensen, Sr. Manager Product Marketing, Distribution, Epicor


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