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ERP and BI: integrating data collection and analysis

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December 09, 2017

As your business grows, you need as much information as possible to help build effective strategies and processes. This requires digital solutions for integrating your operations, collecting business data, and converting this data into actionable information. A number of platforms and solutions have come onto the market to solve both of these challenges, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and BI software. In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between them and how they can be used together to help you create an ideal retail environment.

What is ERP?

Broadly speaking, an ERP system integrates key departments and business functions within a single platform, with the objective of combining their goals and tasks in the most effective way possible. When implemented correctly, an ERP system has the ability to streamline a wide variety of processes, which frees up valuable time for your employees and allows them to focus on other important tasks. ERP systems also simultaneously collect and store data in a single database, making it readily available for analysis.

One challenge associated with ERP platforms is the sheer volume of data and reports, ranging from inventory and income statements to payroll and sales data. This can slow down the process of converting this data into meaningful insights.

What is BI?

BI takes data collected by your ERP system and analyzes it to provide meaningful and relevant information. Understanding this information is essential because of the ripple effect that one decision can have across an organization’s operations. BI solutions make quick work of data analysis, which is particularly useful for time-sensitive tasks that yield quickly diminishing returns if they aren’t analyzed in time.

What’s the difference?

If an ERP platform is the brawn of a retail operation, a BI solution is the brains. From supply chain to order fulfilment, an ERP system helps your business execute important tasks, which enables your customers and employees to happily reach their goals within your retail environment. BI, however, is the solution to your daily and long-term planning woes. It provides information that has been analyzed and contextualized to support your business’s specific needs and goals. In other words, an ERP system will organize your operations, whereas BI software will give you insights to drive organization-wide decision-making.

It’s important to note that several modern ERP solutions include a variety of integrated BI software. However, this built-in functionality may or may not address all your BI needs, so it’s important to explore other options.

How can they work together for your retail business?

Together, an ERP system and BI solution can offer valuable and highly actionable insights for your business. Your ERP system collects the raw data you need, but so many data points can quickly become overwhelming, leading to “analysis paralysis”. A BI solution summarizes these data together and makes sense out of them in the form of comprehensive reports or visually intuitive dashboards in near-real time, which help you make data-driven business decisions on the fly.


Although their functions are quite different, both ERP systems and BI solutions play an integral part in helping your employees understand how each of your business processes is performing and how they can come together. Choosing the most suitable ERP and BI platform can be tricky, making an experienced implementation partner an invaluable guide.

Interested in learning more about how ERP systems and BI solutions can help your retail business grow? Get in touch with Systems for a complimentary consultation.