Hasn’t it always been about getting better data?

For my sins, I have been involved in senior management roles for over 25 years in organizations that look to manage and articulate data flows for customers. Having started my career in the rather traditional discipline of chartered or public accounting, it also aligned to a time where the very first business management solutions were becoming popular on the PC. The days of the mainframe and mini were being overtaken by the need and desire for more control from a desktop that looked nicer and seemed to be more “personal”. As time progressed, the traditional approach of rigid, non-customizable solutions that actually delivered processes for a business to follow like Oracle, SAP and others, were becoming overrun by a new set of tools where there was a base set of functionality that was delivered but also a development environment that attracted independent contractors and consultancy companies to create additional process so that a customer could align the solution to their business rather than the traditional approach of aligning your business to the solution.

25 years later, it is really quite obvious that the ERP and SFA disciplines that have been going strong now for decades, were really just the precursor to exactly what we are seeing in this new market opportunity called BI and analytics, something that when you really think about it was the obvious next level of development to support the billions and billions invested over the years in these two areas and others, all only about process and never about outcomes.

I remember countless times when our business had sold a customer 7 figures of ERP and the customer was excited, not always prepared but keen, and they knew they needed “it” but weren’t too sure of what “it” actually was.  Almost without exception sometime over the next 12-24 months I would cross paths with their CEO or other “C” level and that person would advise “what you sold us is great, we struggled initially but now we know where all our data is and we think we have good process, we are confident to our shareholders, the auditors, and the taxman but there is one thing we are missing, how the h*** do we our information back out?” I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this through the 90’s and right through to today. Little has changed for most companies and in many cases, they feel that solutions are more complex, more flexible and more capable, but create less output that is easily digestible in a form they can trust and that doesn’t cost a fortune.

ERP especially has been the source for billions of $ in supporting revenues around creating complex programmed reports that are built manually by external consultants and deliver little value compared with their price of creation and maintenance. But ERP vendors in general never thought it was about the Insights or Outcomes, they thought it was about the processes, the inputs, and the industries. Now, all of a sudden, customers need and demand solutions that deliver the ability to “easily” analyze their data flows and what is becoming frightening for these customers in this data-driven age is that there are little in the way of solutions out there, but still, in general, a range of tools that require a lot of consulting assistance and all the risk that comes with such.

As we move into 2016, it is almost impossible to fathom that an organization—whether large or small—would build an ERP or SFA solution, why would you when you have so many vendors with solutions that are designed for the smallest of customers to the very largest, for your industry and in most cases to meet your budget. But here we are also going into 2016 almost 100% to the contrary around BI and analytics where customers are being blasted by the new and wonderful world of self-service BI vendors stating that “all is possible” which really translates to “you can build anything you like”. So, for those reading this who know me you will have heard me say so many times “if you would not build ERP or SFA in 2016, why would you expect to build BI or analytics?” The unfortunate reality that is rarely shared is that the delivery of meaningful analytics to a business is a complicated and risky business, it can be expensive and deliver little, with a small percentage actually succeeding and, in fact, can be just as complex as deploying ERP in many circumstances.

So, in referring back to the title of this blog “Hasn’t it always been about getting better data?”, all of a sudden, the business community, the vendors, the customers and all the others that support our ecosystem are realizing that delivering BI that is meaningful and controlled at a price point that can be acceptable and budgeted across an ERP deployment is in most cases something that cannot be achieved by building BI. If the last 25-40 years have taught us anything, it should be that customers now look to achieve 80-90% of their process needs with an ERP or SFA product and then make changes to the process to accommodate the last 10-15% so that cost and customization do not affect their future to upgrade and plan.

It is also vital when considering a BI solution that you look to how you can manage your data first, what solutions are there that through a productized approach can get you to 80-90% of all your data needs in a controlled and governed environment where you can determine your costs, your risk and your future.

With ERP and SFA solutions creating more and more data, it has always been about the management of the data they create, but now we are entering into an exciting time where productized solutions such as ZAP Intelligent Data can deliver value to your business that repays so much of your ERP or SFA investment in a manner you can control, in a timeframe that is acceptable and with such rapid results that your organization will be more than willing to continue investing to achieve outcomes that up until now were not thought possible.

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