Whether you use the term business performance management, corporate performance management or business intelligence Ė they all mean the same thing: getting the numbers you need to effectively manage your business on a daily basis.
Often referred to as Key Performance Indicators or KPIs, these numbers have historically been readily available -- but only to large businesses or those that could afford to invest tens of thousand of dollars and wait several months for such systems to be deployed. But with the introduction of new technologies from Microsoft during the past two years, and with the emerging technical as well as business-management expertise of solution providers, the ability to generate KPIs on a daily basis is now within reach of small and medium-size businesses (SMBs).
SMBs have previously found success implementing solutions that collect data and facilitate business processes. But these same solutions have fallen short in producing actionable information in real-time. Some of these ERP solutions successfully produce end-of-month reports, but daily and sometimes even weekly reports have been hard to come by. And thatís a big problem for SMBs, because every business manager needs to know whatís happening right now across several critical areas:
- How much cash do we have in the bank?
- How much cash do we expect to receive in the next 30 days?
- What proposals do we have on the table, and what is likelihood of them closing?
- What work is already booked, and when will the work occur?
Businesses use varying names for these KPIs, but everybody needs to keep a close watch over all of them. If you donít review the data on a daily basis, the ability to manage a successful month can quickly slip away. There are also many other KPIs that vary business-by-business based on the industry or on unique attributes that pertain to a companyís operations:
- Inventory turnover
- Utilization rate of field resources
- Sales margins
- Average days outstanding on invoices
- Pre-sales activity
- Customer service incidents
The inability to get direct access to these and other KPI information on a real-time, daily basis can be a major headache for SMBs. You canít react and change the course of events unless you get the information on a timely basis. End-of-the-month might help you alter future months, but itís too late to change the months gone by.
One work-around is to access the information indirectly. For example, you might be able to pull some info from your bookkeeper or accounting group. But this usually requires at least some manual intervention, and generally there is not one indirect source from which you can get all of the KPIs.
Fortunately, the technology has advanced to the point where SMBs now have access to the tools they need to get all of their KPIs. More importantly, they can do so for a reasonable cost and within a relatively short time frame such as two to six weeks.
The recent releases of Microsoft SQL Server, SharePoint, and Microsoft Dynamics business software are some of the key components of KPI solutions now available at lower costs. Combining these products is part of Microsoftís ďIntegrated InnovationĒ push, and with the right expertise they can be configured out of the box with a relatively small amount of services.
Thatís the other key to challenge: finding the right partner to deploy the solution. Many solution providers possess the technical expertise, but a limited few possess the business-management expertise to take your KPI system to the proper level.
Itís critical to find a partner who knows how to run a business in addition to knowing the technology. Itís also important to find one that demonstrates a proven methodology for how to implement a KPI system. This reduces your risk and ensures you can be up-and-running in a defined, relatively short time-frame.
Thereís never been a better time for SMBs to deploy a KPI solution. The technology and the necessary expertise have matured, and the cost as well as the time-to-deploy has been reduced significantly. For more information on how Grace-Hunt helps businesses deploy solutions that generate KPI information on a daily basis, contactÖ
The Chief Technology Officer for Grace-Hunt, Selwyn Shuman has more than 25 years of information-technology experience designing and managing financial, accounting, ERP and CRM solutions for middle-market customers. Prior to Grace-Hunt, he managed ERP and CRM implementations for Microsoft. He has also worked for Surebridge, ManagedOps.com, The Taylor Group, CoActive, Touche Ross, and Ernst & Whinney. Selwynís primary technology expertise includes Microsoft Great Plains, SQL, BizTalk and CRM as well as Axapta, Crystal Reports, Financial Report Extender, Citrix, Siebel and SalesLogix. He earned a Post-Graduate Degree in Management Systems from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.