Business Intelligence: What I learned. It’s not ERP

ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning is a term, I’m sure you’ve heard about over and over again. It’s the process of linking all your business processes together into one seamless operation.
I’ve also heard quite a bit about “business intelligence” and wondered what it was all about. I figured it was the same as ERP – or close to it.
LucidEra, sells business intelligence service and gave me an overview of the differences between BI and ERP.
How does business intelligence differ from ERP?
In a nutshell, ERP systems let people put data INTO the databases that a company uses to capture its day to day activity. Business intelligence solutions focus on getting the data OUT so that people can see how the company is doing, not only on that day, but also during the past month, year, etc. The data entry for ERP systems often consists of people filling out forms (like the ones you see order entry clerks fill out, or via the scanners used for shipment tracking, etc.). The data viewing for BI systems often consists of people examining business reports, dashboards, or even spreadsheets.
So ERP is predominantly about capturing and tracking the financial transactions that happen in your business. It’s mainly about keeping a record of each invoice you send and whether or not the invoice has been paid yet, and which bills you’ve received and whether or not they’ve been paid. It also sometimes touches on other financially related areas such as operations — which orders have come in, what your manufacturing schedule is, what items are in inventory.
And BI is about connecting to multiple data sources (ERP, CRM, HR, your ecommerce engine, etc) to get the data *out* of your systems so you can gain insight across your company, and identify trends, issues, and opportunities.
Does LucidEra compete with NetSuite, SAP, Microsoft CRM – there’s a lot of cross over in these products which I think DO compete. It appears that these products provide many of the features that LucidEra has.
We definitely do NOT compete with enterprise transactional applications (like NetSuite, SAP ERP,, Oracle Financials, Microsoft CRM). We currently partner with, or have plans to partner with, all of them. They are the systems that capture the data. We are the system that combines the data from each of those solutions so you can see across all them, and really see what going on across your entire business.
If you are familiar with MyYahoo, here’s an analogy: On the MyYahoo page, you can combine news feeds, say from both Reuters and AP. People at Reuters enter the news items that you will see. And other people at AP do the same for their own newsfeed. While you could go to Reuters to see the Reuter’s newsfeed and to AP to see the AP newsfeed, MyYahoo combines feeds from multiple sources giving you a single source for news.
In a similar way, if you use Oracle as your Financial system and for CRM, you have many people at your company typing multiple data entries, on day to day transactions for each system. For example, you will have people typing in new orders in Oracle or updating opportunities in As with the example above with Reuters and AP, while combining data from multiple systems, BI allows unique insights not possible from a single system.
We give our customers insight into the entire business process from the time you meet a prospect to the time you’re collecting cash from the customer. So you can answer questions like: how long is my prospect-to-cash cycle taking; is it getting longer or shorter; how does it differ across regions, how does my forecast compare to my booking and billings, are the sales reps who are closing the most deals also giving the biggest discounts, etc…
Let’s say I have 5 different programs – how does LucidEra connect the pieces? (manual import / export?) – I heard there are snap on modules for common apps – I guess this is how?
We have prebuilt connectors to common sources like, NetSuite, and Oracle Financials. These connectors snap on to those data sources, making it simple to access the data in those systems. We can connect to any other data source for which we don’t have a prebuilt connector by getting an export of the data from that system and importing into LucidEra.
Who does LucidEra directly compete with?
Most of what people in midsized companies do today involves trying to use Excel as a BI solution. That is, people export data from one system, cut and paste it into Excel, then export data from another system and cut and paste that into the same spreadsheet, and so on. We call that Excel Hell. But it’s a manual, error prone process, it’s resource intensive, and it’s slow. So, that’s what we mainly “compete” with.
Other than that, our main competitors are the big BI players, but their solutions are very complex, they are expensive to implement for small and midmarket companies, plus each new deployment will take many months – so most companies just revert to Excel Hell since they had no other alternatives before LucidEra.
Does LucidEra work on its own or does it need to work with existing data applications?
We use your existing systems / programs as our data sources. They provide the data that will be reported on and analyzed by our customers.