Analyze That

Business intelligence before ERP

Yes, you’re reading this correctly: business intelligence should be involved before an ERP implementation starts. Nowadays business intelligence is often just an afterthought like “Oh we need some reports too”. The client doesn’t have any budget left as most implementation projects incur cost overruns.

Let’s get back to when the project started: why did you implement an ERP-system? My answer would be: ‘mainly for 2 reasons’:

1 Support business processes
2 Report on business processes to enable management to make the right decisions

What is interesting is that in most situations, we would never consider the question. No reasonable person would consider creating a system of roads without signals and speed limits or building an airport without a control tower. To be fair, you can measure a business without BI. It's just harder.
-- Joe Little, CEO Jet Reports

Reports ASAP!!
Now you have your ERP system implemented, this means that you are able to support business processes. This is the moment you realize that you lack even the most basic reports and want them implemented ASAP. You hire me or one of my business intelligence colleagues and we find out that we miss a lot of information necessary for reporting. This leads to preventable issues you will read about in the next paragraph.

Examples of preventable issues

  • Reports where we search a description field for the word ‘Rework’ to filter those orders out. This happens because it wasn’t necessary for supporting the process, but it is interesting for reporting rework orders.
  • We create our own Excel sheets with hierarchies to create a Profit and Loss statement for example
  • We need to map ledger account numbers between companies as these numbers can differ per company. After these are mapped we can report on a group level.
  • We run into fields that have the wrong data type. For example a bit field can contain Yes or No but isn’t able to show the difference between No and ‘didn’t answer’. So it is no longer possible to report about questions that were not answered.


Besides all things mentioned above we can also help to understand the ERP system that is to be replaced. With process mining it is easy to find out how processes are currently recorded in the old system and which outliers we see. We normally don’t find these outliers in the nice looking process designs that companies usually create before implementation.

I hope this post opens the eyes of those responsible for implementing ERP systems. It would be great if we together can help our clients even better than we can do now!

Also posted on Linkedin where others left some interesting comments: