By Mohamed Aamer, Business Applications Consultant
In previous articles I have explored
planning challenges that Microsoft Dynamics AX project teams face, the roles
of implementation team members, and the reporting
needs at different levels of the enterprise. In this article I will explore
the information sources that ultimately determine the strategic value of
business intelligence (BI) reporting and analytics.
At its roots, BI relies on
capturing accurate transactional data from business processes at a fine level
of detail, transforming processes into a daily flow of meaningful entries in an
ERP solution like Dynamics AX. Application consultants should take into
consideration the reports required by a client and ensure that the needed
data points are captured through the daily transactions recording process. Whenever possible, the application
consultant has a responsibility to also challenge the business processes owners about the process
as it relates to using the data to make changes to optimize the business.
Most consultants are splitting their
attention between business process workshops during business requirements
gathering in the Analysis phase and the establishment of the data structure in
forms during the Design phase. It is vital to document the business process -
the start point, end point, detailed steps of the process (if needed), data
path in each step, and the exception cases for each process. On the other hand,
the forms are a translation of the business processes into the real work
activities of employees (grid, fields, multiple selection, buttons...).
The major processes that should be addressed in a typical ERP implementation include Banks, Fixed Assets, Procure to Pay, Cash to Sell, Costing, and Budgeting
with the General Ledger integration for each.
Business intelligence becomes the second layer in the
information hierarchy, using the transactions' raw data to provide useful
information to different member of the organization. BI adds a layer of aggregation on transactions
and makes it possible to
create a comparative analysis for key measures like actual versus budget.
The consultant should identify the required measures and how
they will be utilized from the transactional level. These measures are raw
numbers aggregated from specific fields which result from a certain process or
combination of business processes.
Measures need to be informative - not just as raw numbers, but
a source for analysis at the management level.
The consultant should identify the analytic dimensions as well the
dimensions the process owner will need in order to analyze his/her numbers. The most
common example is sales revenue, which could be analyzed by dimensions including
customer segmentation, geographical locations, warehouses, customer
demographics, and more.
Now that we have seen the importance of building the
reporting blocks based on the business processes and daily transaction data, it
is worth exploring the common scenario consultants may face where reporting
requirements cannot be met by the data that is being captured. That missing
data should lead a consultant to revisit the business process, entry of daily transactions, and identifyication of the
need for cleansing historical data, which may be missing some information.
The third block in the information source is executive decision
support, where all information is summarized and numbers are transformed into
KPIs, analytic charts, and dashboards.
Executives do not have the luxury of time to drill down into
all the detailed reports. They want a bird's eye view of enterprise performance
to support them in taking critical decisions. With the right lower level data,
the ERP solution should be demonstrating its worth as a true decision support
system that offers this visibility.
The conclusion is that when implementing a Dynamics AX
solution, there is no reliable information for executives without a solid BI platform based on a well-defined business processes and
the discipline of daily transactions entered by workers with a high level of
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