Anyone who has been at the helm of an IT department probably knows what it’s like to deal with unmet expectations of vendor services or products. However, considering the widespread faith in enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems as one-stop solutions for information consolidation and access, it may be particularly discouraging to know that you may need to implement a separate business intelligence (BI) tool to enhance an ERP system’s distribution capabilities.
ERP systems, while effective in consolidating myriad enterprise data, are less successful in delivering data to the end users that need it. However, with a third-party BI tool like Datawatch’s Monarch|ES reporting software, enterprises can augment their existing ERP systems and deliver information in the form of easily accessible reports. This article takes a look at Datawatch’s BI solution and its impact on ERP operations.
The product offering
While ERP systems are able to create reports on the data harbored in the system, the problem is the systems’ inability to create “actionable” reports that end users can manipulate and benefit from. In its basic form, Monarch|ES is an extension of an ERP system with the ability to analyze the existing data in an ERP storage bank and then deliver the information to an end user.
According to Mike Urbonas, product marketing manager for Datawatch, a chief benefit of the product is its ability to deliver specific information in a quick, useful manner to knowledge workers. “After information has been indexed or analyzed by Monarch|ES, users have the options of viewing report data in summaries or tables in HTML, downloading data into [Microsoft] Excel, or exporting data into an online analytical processing tool.”
Standing alone, most ERP systems can generate standard reports through costly volumes of actual printed sheets of paper. Monarch|ES’ ability to leverage the existing data in the data mine and distribute it electronically to users eliminates not only printing costs but also the associated cost of IT resources—“power users” who can produce reports from the ERP databases.
Reaping the cost benefits
Not too long ago, the environmental consulting and engineering firm Professional Services Limited (PSI) was spending more than $600,000 per year to send data report printouts through postal mail to its 140 offices throughout the United States and Canada. The firm’s Lawson ERP system was effective in collecting financial and project management data, but because of the high costs involved in integrating remote offices into the ERP bank, postal mail was the most logical means to distribute the information.
But, according to PSI chief financial officer Marshall Hammack, once they implemented Monarch|ES alongside the Lawson system, the mailing expenses plummeted. In addition, having all PSI data based on the Web allowed remote offices better access and ease in using the distributed information.
Monarch|ES is designed as a versatile tool that integrates well into multiple environments. Urbonas has implemented the system across both single-server and multiple-tiered environments with success. At the bare minimum, Monarch|ES requires a Pentium II, 300 MHz, and either a Windows NT or 2000 OS.
The product will mesh well with most database servers, such as Microsoft SQL or an Oracle 7.3 or better. John Kitchen, vice president of marketing for Datawatch, contends that, regardless of the OS powering the database, Monarch|ES will match well.
Finally, because the tool generates loads of reports, any kind of file server or storage device is necessary for an effective implementation. Kitchen and Urbonas both claim that any storage device will fit well with the product.
The pricing structure
Like many software applications, Datawatch charges a base price for the server components and basic functionality of the product. The vendor provides various optional, add-on reporting modules that are available at additional cost.
In addition, Datawatch charges a per-client access fee. Kitchen says that a package with basic functionality and 40 to 50 users will run approximately $80,000—including implementation and consulting that Datawatch can wrap up within a period of two weeks.
What’s your take on BI tools and ERP?
Is ERP a bust without a BI solution? Do you have any products or best-practice recommendations? Start a discussion by posting a comment below.