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"NetSuite Inc. (NYSE: N) is the leading provider of on-demand, integrated business management software for growing and midsize businesses
Source : NetSuite
Creating Competitive Advantage in Growing and Mid-sized Businesses with Business Intelligence
Business Intelligence is also known as :
Business Intelligence Advisors,
Business Intelligence Analytics,
Business Intelligence Application,
Business Intelligence Architecture,
Business Intelligence Articles,
Business Intelligence Basics,
Business Intelligence Benefits,
Business Intelligence BI,
Business Intelligence Books,
Business Intelligence Companies,
Business Intelligence Company,
Business Intelligence Comparison,
Business Intelligence Concepts,
Business Intelligence Conference,
Business Intelligence Consulting,
Business Intelligence Dashboards,
Business Intelligence Definition,
Business Intelligence Framework,
Business Intelligence Group,
Business Intelligence Implementation,
Business Intelligence Integration,
Business Intelligence Management,
Business Intelligence Manager,
Business Intelligence Metrics,
Business Intelligence News.
No matter what your position is in your business - a CEO, CFO, Sales VP, or line of business manager, you need
information to base your daily decisions upon. And you need to rely on the accuracy and completeness of that
information to confidently make decisions that are right for your business.
“Business intelligence” (BI) is no longer just the bastion of the very big companies, who can afford elaborate data
warehouses to replicate their operational data and then send a staff of statisticians and business analysts to attempt to
derive good information from those warehouses. The warehouse model is just not viable for most growing businesses.
“Continued stories about cost and time overruns continue to be a gating factor for smaller firms that understand the
benefits of data warehousing projects," said Brad Marshall, Director of Commercial Products at Teksouth, a provider of
data management and analysis systems. "They know the value that BI/DW systems can bring, but are scared by the
prospects of the projects turning into a never-ending time and money pit, without clear deadlines in place that they know
will be met.1"
1 Survey: Data Warehousing Professionals Still Anticipate Cost, Time Overruns in Projects by Almost 2-1 Margin.
Reported in PR Newswire. March 19, 2007.
Eschewing the cost and complexity of data warehousing then, growing businesses today are often stymied by the quality
of the data they can obtain. Large or small, businesses require data about their operations that is both accurate and
timely. They require real-time, actionable business intelligence for proactive management rather than the “management
This Executive White Paper will outline the issues, the business ramifications, and the solutions for the business
intelligence requirements of growing companies.
When industry analysts and writers talk about “business intelligence,” what exactly are they talking about? If my financial
package can create a report, is that business intelligence? What about Excel? Is a spreadsheet business intelligence?
And are all numbers “analytics”?
First, all numbers are not analytics nor do they necessarily lead to any kind of “intelligence.” There are some clear
definitional criteria that we can use to ensure we are really talking about BI.
- Business intelligence is synthesized information that allows you to make an executive decision.
not a list or just a single report of figures. Raw data is not necessarily business intelligence. Data has to be
compiled or synthesized to become useful mission-critical information. Business intelligence is intended to
provide foresight - not just reveal history.
- Business intelligence is derived from real-time data.
For true executive decision-making, the data used
has to be up-to-the-minute real time data in order to accurately represent the state of the business. In today’s
modern businesses, even yesterday’s data is “old” - and in many fast-moving businesses, data a few hours
old is too dated to make decisions upon. Batching data to upload it to a corporate computer, as one example,
leads to the aged, out-of-date information that leads to faulty decisions. Data warehousing, as another
example, replicates business data on separate databases, and by definition is not real-time.
- Business intelligence, to be useful, stems from data derived from the integration of all key business processes.
Your business has many interconnected facets: accounting, sales, manufacturing, warehousing,
purchasing, bill collecting, management of your staff, your customers, your suppliers, and your partners. For
your conclusions to be accurate, they must be the result of reliably accurate data collected and synthesized
from all those facets of your business. Your business is “end-to-end” - your ability to extract critical data has
to be end-to-end as well; it has to span the entire breadth of your company.
- Business intelligence presents all users with a common version of corporate “truth.”
intelligence has to be available to all those in your company who make decisions - not just lofty, far-reaching
decisions - but even day-to-day operational decisions. It is imperative that the source for all your employees’
decision-making comes from a common repository of all business data. One version of the truth thus
populates all resulting reports; staff can rely on the fact that data from any query or report will always be
consistent and accurate.
- Business intelligence empowers users that have access to real-time analytic data to use in their daily work.
BI used to be under the purview of the IT staff or a designated group of statisticians or strategy experts.
In today’s fast-moving companies, however, everyone needs access to accurate data to make decisions that
affect many day-to-day aspects of business operations. While you always choose which employees can have
access to what information, you can ensure that the productivity and quality of your employees work will be
enhanced with all the data they need on their dashboards. Research tells us that professionals spend 53
percent of their time seeking out information. Collectively, the time spent gathering and looking for
information translates to an estimated. 5.4 billion lost hours per year for US corporations.2
2 HotTopics: 2001 vs. 2005: Research Study Reveals Dramatic Changes Among Information
Consumers. Center for Media Research. May 6, 2005.
Companies have struggled for decades trying to tie together their disparate software applications to manage their
businesses. This has presented a clear and persistent challenge to getting the decision support data required. Growing
and mid-sized business often lack a means of visibility into all aspects of the company; accessible to all employees who
need answers to questions in their day-to-day decision-making, with accurate, reliable and up-to-date information.
The Silver Bullet for Analytics: One Corporate Data Repository
The key requirement for true corporate-wide business intelligence is that there is one repository of corporate information
common to all business applications. This prevents the error-prone data that is often compiled when businesses try to
derive decision support data from a plethora of disparate products: the data is different, in different formats in different
products - there is no way to be sure that the conclusions you want to make are valid. For example, consider the
- Your CRM program gives you a list of new customers sold to in the last quarter but you can’t tell exactly which
items they bought. You cannot ascertain how many new customers bought your new product in red vs. gold
last quarter nor how much revenue you received per customer.
- Your warehouse management program tell your how many widgets you have in stock but you can’t run a
report to amalgamate the shelving of new stock vs. the re-stocking of returns.
- Your sales team creates forecasts and you want to view the delta between their forecasts and the actual
revenue they bring in - by region, by customer, and by product. Can your reporting system easily slice and
dice the data such that the "actuals" information in “forecast vs. actual” reports is based on real sales data?
- Your marketing automation program captures leads generated by a campaign. But because it doesn’t capture
the details of what a customer has actually purchased, you are left with incomplete and inaccurate results for
marketing and sales decision-making. With no real record of what or how much has been ordered by each
customer, marketing has no way to know if the leads generated are actually converting to customers nor the
value of the customer to which they convert.
The key problem in each of these examples is the lack of integration between the software applications that manage
different business processes. Because they are not integrated, decision makers lose visibility to the results they need to
make future decisions. Even worse, in most businesses today that rely on many different applications, not only are the
results hard to find, they are often in error, leaving the manager or CEO to look at two or more reports from disparate
systems that provide different results. Which one to use? There is no way to tell - hence far-reaching businesses
decisions are made in the absence of data altogether. This causes an untenable high risk to any business.
The Intelligent Business
The goal of business is not to track metrics - it is to conduct business, enhance revenue now and in the future.
Business intelligence is a tool; the intelligence gleaned needs to be put into practice for future positive outcomes. How
then should a growing business think about presenting business intelligence to its users? Given the goals of easy use,
and unambiguous data presentation, what kind of formats make the best sense for the company?
There are many different ways to display data: reports, spreadsheets, graphs, charts, KPI indicators, and other pictorial
options. It is important that the intelligence displayed to your users maintains the following characteristics:
- It is very, very clear what the “answer” is, given the display chosen
- There is no ambiguity in the point of the report or chart - that is, the metrics compared are obvious
- The information is displayed in a format understandable to the users who are seeking the information
- The display is as simple and uncluttered as it can be, depending on the content
- The format can be easily changed to another format should the user wish it (for example, comparison of
numerical columns might be far more easily understood in a bar chart or a graph), and that change can be
Vehicles for BI Delivery
There are many levels of business intelligence and different requirements for the data and formats for data delivery in an
organization. Different people in the roles they play require different kinds of intelligence at varying levels of detail. Every
person in the company needs real-time intelligence to make day-to-day decisions smarter and faster in doing his or her
job. This is critical to individual productivity. The key here is that it is accurate, real-time, consistent, easy to retrieve, and
displayed in a fashion that is readily understood by the user. The resulting intelligence has to be crystal clear so
erroneous conclusions and faulty decisions are not made from the data presented.
There are four predominant means through which business intelligence is represented in most businesses today: the
familiar report, the more recent key performance indicator, performance scorecards, and real-time dashboards.
There is a widespread need for reporting in all aspects of business - some for compliance, sales tracking,
revenue management, employee data and myriad other instances. Employees in almost all areas of the business
need to create reports to deliver to their constituents. Business applications often provide standard reports that
are delivered with the solution. However, they never address all the questions users want answers to. In addition,
therefore, users need to be able to easily and quickly create the ad hoc reports they need on the fly - and save
the query to use again in the future, perhaps setting up a schedule through which the report is automatically run
and delivered to their desktops or to a distribution list.
Key Performance Indicators
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as a term is a more recent element of the business intelligence lexicon. KPIs
are instant measures of the critical metrics of a company's operation. Examples include amount in inventory,
outstanding customer support cases, the number of new leads, payables amounts, new orders, cash flow, and the
like. KPIs are a bit different than a report in that they present user-designated period comparisons and threshold
flagging to note issues requiring attention. For easy use and rapid deployment, competitive products today come
with both self-selectable KPIs dependent on role, and the ability to create and publish custom KPIs as business
Tracking of KPIs - even though in real-time - does not by itself provide the sophistication decision-makers may
require. Users then look to Performance Scorecards. These are highly configurable decision support tools that
allow comparison in multiple dimensions — between different KPIs or between different date ranges of the same
KPI (for example, quota or forecasts over 30, 60, 90 day periods in one chart or report).
The dashboard emerged as a BI delivery vehicle as technology became available to provide real-time
information directly to the desktop to meet modern business needs. A dashboard is the visual workspace that
drives individual productivity by providing every person in the company with the real-time intelligence he or she
needs to make day-to-day decisions smarter and faster. It is the window to the business universe, allowing data
from both inside and out of the corporation to be displayed and analyzed. It is also the means through which
users can transact all the business they need to conduct: managing customer records, placing or processing
orders or invoices, managing calendars and expenses, and all other transactions an employee engages in. As
the employee workspace, the dashboard supports both business activity and business results - displaying
those results as soon as the underlying activity happens.
The NetSuite Advantage: Business Intelligence for Growing and Mid-Sized Business
NetSuite is the only company to deliver integrated business management with a cost effective delivery model —
software as a service — to growing and midsize businesses. NetSuite delivers operational, tactical, and strategic
intelligence in real-time from a single system of record negating the need for a complex, expensive data warehouse.
Only NetSuite delivers real-time business intelligence as part of the NetSuite software–as-a-service (SaaS) offering at
no additional cost to users.
With NetSuite’s SuiteAnalytics3, growing and midsize businesses receive tactical, operational and strategic business
intelligence tools inherent in the solution, preventing the need for the expensive data warehouse typically required for
analytics when using multiple software applications. SuiteAnalytics integrates customizable role-based dashboards and
pre-configured key performance indicators with powerful customizable analytics capabilities – including for the first time
the ability to embed Excel-like formulas in any NetSuite report, KPI, or Performance Scorecards. SuiteAnalytics gives
businesses real-time, actionable business intelligence for proactive management rather than the “management by
hindsight” companies are resigned to accept with fragmented systems and the unintegrated data those systems produce.
For more complex business planning or industry-driven reporting needs, companies may chose to link to specific third
party business intelligence packages. This is accomplished through adherence to industry standards such as Open
Database Connectivity (ODBC). Use of such products makes it even more crucial that data is drawn from a single data
repository such as NetSuite’s for consolidated, rationalized analytics, resulting in greater confidence in the business
Business Intelligence at Your Fingertips with NetSuite
NetSuite has many decision support tools designed to provide business users with accurate, real-time, actionable data
- and present it in a clear and understandable fashion. The primary display concept in NetSuite is the Dashboard, a
role-based user interface, designed to present employees at all levels of the organization with the role-appropriate
information they need. In Figure 1, a CEO’s dashboard is displayed, presenting data of interest to the executive team
and corporate officers. A different dashboard may be appropriate for the VP of Sales who wants to see the progress
toward quota fulfillment by territories or regions, for the department manager in charge of the accounting department,
and for the individual contributor or team member who needs the metrics and data that applies to his or her position.
The workspace on a dashboard is divided into portlets (all user-selectable) that display key business metrics. The key
performance indicators present real-time comparison of this CEO’s performance “hot buttons:” for example, how sales or
the pipeline this month compared with last month. A bar chart is used to display at a glance the top five customers by
forecast, in this case for the current month.
The beauty of dashboards is that they are easily tailorable by the user. A dashboard is characterized by point and click
content selection, drag and drop layout customization, and easily created KPIs and graphical data displays.
Let’s look at what lies behind the visibility you can achieve in just this one example:
A portlet is a dynamic “window” on a dashboard through which the user can add, create and display
metrics in lists, graphs, RSS feeds, etc. In Figure 2, you can see a graph with parameters that can be set and
changed on the fly. The data is immediately refreshed so the user can constantly see the information in real
time. The portlet model allows users to see several metrics on the dashboard at once; the entire screen is not
over-taken with any one display, allowing the knowledge worker to see many parameters depicting the state
of the business simultaneously.
- Financial Ratios
NetSuite provides a portlet to answer the most commonly asked business questions by executives. Displayed
directly on the dashboard, these Financial Ratios provide insight to the financial position and operating
efficiency of the organization. In NetSuite, there are eleven key ratios that are pre-configured while custom
ratios can be created using account types and custom KPIs (key performance indicators). The current ratios
within NetSuite, for example, include:
- Receivables Turnover
- Days Sales Outstanding
- Inventory Turnover
- Days Inventory On Hand
- Asset Turnover
- Profit Margin on Sales
- Return on Assets
- Return on Equity
- Debt to Total Assets
- Debt to Equity
Figure 3 shows how these ratios are displayed in a portlet - and can be displayed in one of the windows on
Figure 3. Using a Portlet to Display Financial Ratios
Figure 4 demonstrates how easily a performance scorecard can be created. Users can create their own
formulas to ensure that they retrieve exactly the metrics required.
Figure 4. Setting Up a Performance Scorecard
Once created the scorecard can look like the example here in Figure 5. This example displayed metrics
relevant to a board of directors and the monthly value of subscribers in total and per user.
Figure 5. The Performance Scorecard
Direct drill-down takes the user to further detail and transaction pages directly from the
dashboard. This is an important characteristic of a business intelligence solution because it enables the user
to immediately and easily see what data or information underlies the numbers on the dashboard or in the
graphic representation of synthesized data. Whether the report or query is delivered as part of the business
intelligence program or if it is customized by an individual user, direct drill-down is a requirement that allows
for easy analysis of customized or pre-created metrics.
Figure 6 shows a CFO’s dashboard where drill down used on a KPI produced the detailed receivables trend
Figure 6. Direct Drill Down for Details
Key Features of NetSuite Business Intelligence:
NetSuite Dashboards with Key Performance Indicators (KPI), Trend Graphs,
graphical Report Snapshots and KPI Meters drive individual productivity by
providing every person in the company with the real-time intelligence he or
she needs to make day-to-day decisions smarter and faster.
Standard reports, custom-created reports, and point-and-click Search-as-
Analysis tools give users clearly defined focus areas as well as tactical
decision support on a periodic or as-needed basis. NetSuite’s wizard-driven,
WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get) graphical Report Builder makes it
simple to create and manipulate reports to exact business requirements.
For more complex, forward-thinking business planning or industry-driven
reporting needs, ODBC connectivity lets companies link to other business
intelligence package they may have purchased, such as Business Objects or
Cognos. The NetSuite advantage is that such a third party Business
Intelligence (BI) package can draw data from NetSuite’s single data
repository, supporting consolidated analytics from all aspects of the business
for more confident decision-making.
NetSuite’s SuiteAnalytics changes the economics and accessibility of business
intelligence for businesses of all sizes. Because NetSuite acts as a central
repository for the core business data of a company, it acts as a de-facto data
warehouse. Suite Analytics tools enable employees at all levels of the company to
mine this data with pre-built key performance indicators, simple saved searches, and
now Excel Spreadsheet-like embedded formulas, rather than with arcane
programming languages,. And unlike data warehouses, the analytics are presented
in real-time on users’ dashboards, giving them up-to-the-second information to better
do their job and manage their operations.
Customers Value BI
"When we started to consider
how NetSuite could help our
property finance business, we
were principally focused on CRM.
But once we realized that we
could use the power of integrated
accounting and customised
reporting to help our key
managers make better decisions,
we were sold. So far so good in
the short time we've been running
our entire operations on NetSuite.
I firmly believe NetSuite will
revolutionise our business and
any business which values
efficiency of operation and quality
of management information
should be considering its
Steve Ratcliffe, Commercial
Director, Wolsey Securities
Limited. Surrey, UK.
"Since the early 2000s when we
became a customer, our NetSuite
dashboards have given me and
our top managers real-time
views and analytics into our
global sales. We use it for ERP,
CRM and ecommerce, including
quotations, sales orders,
managing forecasts by product,
financials, and multi-location
inventory. It manages all the
company's after-sales services
globally….we're very excited
about the consolidation of
multiple currencies to help
manage our business globally at
an even broader scale."
Fabrice Cancre, COO,
NetSuite, Inc. is the leader in on-demand business software suites and has been
named the fastest-growing software company in North America (source: Deloitte Fast
500 study). NetSuite enables companies to manage all key business operations in a
single system, which includes accounting/Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP),
Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Ecommerce. NetSuite is delivered
as an on-demand service, so there is no hardware to procure, no large, up-front
license fee, and no complex set-ups. Finally, NetSuite's patent-pending "real-time
dashboard" technology provides an easy-to-use view into role-specific business
information that is always up-to-date. For more information about NetSuite, visit:
NOTE: NetSuite and the NetSuite logo are service-marks of NetSuite, Inc.