As a business grows, so does the operational data it accumulates. With a growing mass of data, it becomes more and more difficult to understand how the company is truly performing. And, while data is plentiful, actionable information is scarce. There is simply too much to analyze easily. This lack of accurate, timely information inevitably leads to guesswork and poor decision making. Business performance and productivity end up being monitored using intuition and not operational metrics and targeted financial outcomes.
Often businesses turn to spreadsheets to try to cope with the challenge. But using spreadsheets for extracting and preparing data is a time consuming, error prone and inherently inefficient process. Alternatively, businesses create custom reports which provide the necessary information to facilitate analysis, but this introduces other problems when inevitable database changes make it necessary to rewrite all those reports. New tools are needed to provide timely insight into the performance of the entire organization. I’ll tell you get these tools in just a minute….
Business Performance –Eliminating the Guesswork
To address these problems, many businesses are turning to a flexible and efficient approach to understanding operational performance called Online Analytical Processing (OLAP). This approach allows a business to analyze performance and prepare budgets and forecasts more quickly and accurately. It delivers in-depth insight into true business performance, by enabling analysis of current data without the many limitations of spreadsheets.
Another aspect of OLAP, advanced visualizations, help identify trends in sales, costs, promotional programs and overall company performance. This type of insight is beneficial in any industry. For example, it allows managers to compare performance of different products, enabling the company to identify correlations between sales and contribution margins.
In short, OLAP provides the ability to view the business in a completely different light, which allows decision makers to more effectively manage the growth of the company.
Unprecedented Speed and Power
Businesses that have adopted the OLAP approach have always had the data. The difference is now they can change it into valuable information in time to act. Information is no longer static, it becomes actionable. Executives are able to manage the business with more precision than ever before.
How it works
To describe how OLAP works, let’s use the example of a sales manager looking for opportunities to grow sales. She wants to find products selling well in one region, which, with the right promotion, could also sell well in others. With an OLAP approach, she can use a data exploration tool to connect to her company’s accounting system and easily consolidate, drill down, filter and view different slices of data. In this case, she displays a sales ranking of top products in each region and easily finds products worthy of consideration for additional promotion in other regions. She then takes her analysis one step further to spot emerging growth products by comparing trends of product sales by region over several quarters.
When used for budget preparation or forecasting, OLAP tools enable review and fine tuning of budget projections with all the advantages of multi-dimensional analysis and instant roll up/consolidation within the same tool.
Liberation from the Limitations of Spreadsheets
One OLAP tool we recommend to our clients is Info-Explorer by Orchid Systems. Info-Explorer eliminates the limitations of spreadsheets: faulty data and formulae, different and obsolete versions, error-prone and manual consolidation, potential for error. Data for analysis (called “cubes”) feeds from the accounting database with background in-memory processing. The data is system-generated, giving confidence in its accuracy. Moreover teams are confident they are all reviewing the same data and consolidation of budgets and forecasts across units is an automated process.
Info Explorer allows Consolidation, Drill Down, Ranking, Filtering and Viewing Slices of data. It also makes data visualization simple with easy-to-create graphs and Dashboards with Key Performance Indicators
- Reduce costs and improve productivity with better information.
- Make key business information easily available, resulting in better decision making.
- Improve customer service and loyalty through better customer insight.
- Gain visibility to potential problem areas, report Operational Analytics.
- Faster Budget preparation.
- Budget with greater insight, slicing & dicing both actual and budget.
- Budget in greater detail, with greater granularity.
- Eliminate multiple budget spreadsheets & obsolete data.
- Increase confidence in the accuracy of your data and reduced risk of error.
- Free the IT Department from routine reporting issues.
- Real time – analyze your data in real time, “slice and dice,” with drilldown to Sage 300 data entry screens.
- Include external data – from other application databases (SQL & ODBC), e.g. CRM data.
- Calculations – include user defined calculations on cube data.
- Versatile, economical, flexible:
- From one cube – create and save multiple Views.
- From single View – create and save multiple Charts.
- Dashboards – create your own, based on views and charts.
- Easy formatting – create your own styles to highlight results – e.g. “traffic light” reporting.
- Different users can choose their own input format for budget numbers.
- Standard cubes included for GL, AR, AP, OE/Sales Analysis, PJC, RMA, Budgets, US & Canadian Payroll, Inventory Control, Purchase Orders to simplify getting started and as the basis for your own cubes; works on or off-line.
- Export Views to Microsoft Excel®, CSV and HTML.
- Automate it, optionally schedule and distribute cube extracts with Orchid’s Process Scheduler module.
Info-Explorer allows you to summarize, drill down into and filter your Sage 300 data in real time, including budget figures, giving you a clear insight into your business operations and planning, helping you make the right decision, every time.
Unlike spreadsheets, there is no need to insert, cut, paste and check formulae and any links or deleted columns. This easy manipulation of information is made possible because huge amounts of data are summarized in the background for easy analysis. In-memory technology ensures fast results. Info-Explorer allows easy changing of views without the dangers of spreadsheets or needing spreadsheet knowledge.
You can use Info-Explorer to analyze sales, financial results, costs, inventory, purchasing and supply chain, operations, manufacturing, customer service and more, simply changing dimensions, e.g. product, customer, region, period, employee, etc, for clearer insight. Use Info- Explorer for alerts and investigative analysis, your own detective tool.
You can prepare budgets, forecasts, models in Info-Explorer in detail, then review the results – in the same tool, with up to date Acutuals data. You start by selecting the cube (data subset) required and can add any field not already in the cube. Cubes are sent to users for completion – opening, creating a new workset and entering budget figures. Users can select how they enter and view data, e.g. Dept. in rows and Sales in columns. Other users can select differently. With a range of spread methods, users can work back from totals, or enter each item and period.
Using Info-Explorer for budgeting allows you to have multiple budgets, e.g. best case, worst case and mid-point. After entering budgets, the benefits of multi-dimensional analysis become apparent. Users can “slice and dice” the results, instantly seeing multiple slants on the same data by swiftly swapping columns, using filters or dragging and dropping dimensions.
Once completed, after selecting “Write Back,” your budget will be quickly saved in the underlying Sage 300 database, freed from spreadsheets, re-keying and importing. Users can also share budgets with colleagues by saving their cube on a shared drive or use Orchid Process Scheduler to automatically refresh data and distribute to colleagues.
Try Info-Explorer Lite..!
Try this application for yourself, it’s free! It comes with preconfigured cubes. You can stay Lite or you can always upgrade for more cubes or to modify them. Get a first hand, up close and personal look at this program. Simply e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and put “OLAP” in the subject line. I will get you free access right away.