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BI as information stores : The next steps

Many a time a BI implementation initially focuses on data completeness – by data completeness all the modules are integrated into SAP BI and SAP BI is more of a centralized data store which is used for day to day operations…

Okay you have implemented SAP BI over the last two to three years. You are now the proud owner of a TB class data warehouse that is being used for day to day business. Over the years you have carefully integrated all the information of the enterprise into your BI system.

All the information ranging from financials to sales to payroll flow into your BI system and day to day operations is completely dependent on the SAP BI system that you have built.

Great!!! but then you might ask – have I hit a plateau of architecture by which I do not see any new developments but only more of maintenance mode for the next 2 to 3 years. Expecting the data volumes to grow but not much in terms of new tables etc etc and possibly some SP upgrades along the way.

If you are in a state as described above read on…..

A very simple question that you can ask yourself…. What next –

To answer that question in the conceptual sense :
1. You can turn your BI landscape into a rich information store that supports a variety of initiatives like :

a. Cross functional dashboards :

Simple dashboards which are able to relate cross functional information like for Example :
employee cost per product sold expressed as a trend over the year
Product profitability
Stock turnover versus cost of capital….

A lot of these will feed back into the basic business processes that drive the organization and help in achieving efficiencies of scale and help make better forecasts and better decisions.

The tools to achieve the same are already there – be it the ubiquitous Web Application Designer or the more advanced / new Visual composer – it is just the requirement that will drive such initiatives.

b. Data Mining

Historical data provides for some rich data mining methods to determine future sales direction and help predict complex relationships for the product base. Data mining has always been the exclusive domain of analytics who bring in rich domain experience to the table.

But this need not stop the initiatives and you can look at simple data mining models like ABC analysis etc which can showcase the possibility of using such models and make a business case for further application of the same to more domains of data.

c. Data Presentation based on web services

The BI system can be opened up using web services and the data can then be consumed in various applications. A simple such application would be a widget to represent data. A much more meaningful usage would be to have a demand planning application call up past sales of data from the BI system and use the same data in the external tool.

This would make the data from BI applications accessible across the enterprise and the development network within the enterprise. This way the limitation on usage of BI data within SAP BI is removed provided the developer expertise exists.

Also of interest is usage of this data within development environments like Adobe Flex where mashups and desktop applications can be formed.

The basic usage of these presentation layers / tools being that the usage of SAP BI across the enterprise increases by bringing a whole lot of new users to the landscape – users who hitherto stayed away predominantly because of the complicated nature of existing tools.

Once the user base increases , you can look at more interesting requests for data and the BI system being used increasingly for strategic decision making . this in turn will move your BI implementation into the next level where you can unlock more value from the information that lies in your BI system currently by way of making it more interactive to user needs and help in creating a vibrant data environment.

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