Remember the early 90s? That’s about when ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning software) hit the scene. We were writing orders with a pencil, job specs were faxed, back office functions happened on paper and spreadsheets, and pricing was manual.

Heck, everything was manual. And, there was just a lot you didn’t know about your business. That’s why everybody who was anybody jumped on board with ERP; and, almost instantly, the way we did business changed.

Fast forward to today. Your ERP is essential to your operation: it tracks your profits, automates orders, and balances cash. Sometimes it even recognizes you’ve lost an employee, or a forklift, or maybe even a thousand widgets. It seems like it does everything but cook your breakfast. We may take access to all of that business information for granted, because – well – over the past couple decades, our ERPs have become the lifeblood of our businesses.

I’m with you, it’s important; but, I’d also argue our world has changed…again. Think GAP analysis. GAPs are things you “wish you knew” about your business.

In the past several years, I’ve noticed that our ERP is excessively focused on the inputs. So much so, that every little detail matters when entering, shipping and billing orders. The value of the ERP’s stored data comes down to who entered it, if they did it without typos and whether or not it was redundant.

As such, you spend time training sales reps to enter orders properly. You need the ERP to accurately tell you what IS.

ERPWhat I love most about sharing the philosophy of Phocas BI (Business Intelligence) software with customers is that I get to show you what your ERP ISN’T doing - like being able to pull up the price lines that are NOT being sold to a customer.

You also know your customers buy from competitors. So, how powerful would it be if your sales reps could see what a customer ISN’T buying from you; and, then ask, “Why?”

Picture yourself as a salesperson for a moment. You can see what you’ve previously sold and to whom. But, what if you wanted to do some upselling? Are there any companion products to your customers’ previous purchases? Your ERP can’t tell you that, because it can only show reality not possibilities.

BI software can also show customer comparisons…meaning, you can pull up any of your customers and see what they bought of EACH product, side-by-side. And voila, there’s what you DIDN’T know. There’s your sales opportunity.

I particularly like what BI can do for executives. From a macro look, BI can show which sales reps are selling which lines, as well as customers who are NOT buying certain lines. From there, you know who should be responsible for any lack of service.

As much as I think the evolution to ERP has been incredible - and been able to tell us what IS happening in our distribution businesses - I find it just as exciting to gain line-of-sight to things I DON’T know. After all, what you don’t know can hurt you, or even worse, cost you.

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Tags: Business Intelligence Basics

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