If you’re an SMB (Small and Medium sized Business) with “big data” challenges, you’re probably like many of Tensoft’s customers – trying to find key and actionable information in a sea of data. You have sales information, customer information, inventory information, revenue information, details about customer contracts and future billings. But wait a minute, you’re just an SMB, so no problem. You can just “look at the data”, print a few reports, and you’ll have a better understanding of your business, right? If only it were that easy…
Even small companies have a “big data” challenges. OK, maybe not in the traditional sense, or in the definition of “Big Data” that you might find at your favorite “wiki-goo-hoo-pedia” source. But in a practical sense, small and medium size businesses are struggling with the same analytics problems as larger companies. It’s simply that their “big data” (small-B, small-D) data sets are smaller than they are for larger companies. Relatively speaking, it’s the same issue.
At the end of an ERP implementation project, we are often asked by the project’s sponsor – often a C–level executive – to tap into all of the new data we are able to capture with Tensoft software applications. This is actually the most exciting part of the project for me, since the true benefits of Tensoft’s integrated solutions can start to shine in providing actionable information and greater business insight to our customers. SMB customers may have limited staff and budget for reporting, but we can help our customers by teaching techniques for self–service, analytics reporting.
Let’s use a very simple example of a company that has implemented the Tensoft Revenue Lens software for revenue recognition, to see how a relatively small number of transactions can create a “big data” headache. Using some simplifying assumptions, let’s say the customer creates only 200 invoices per month and each invoice typically has 10 lines. In a single month, this customer would add 2,000 new lines of information just for invoicing customers. This customer is providing services to their customers, so must amortize Revenue Recognition over the period of performance of 12 months, for which Revenue Lens automatically creates a forecast of revenue to be recognized. For our 2,000 new invoice lines each month, Revenue Lens forecasts revenue to be recognized for each Fiscal Period for 12 months, which is 24,000 forecast lines per month. Keeping the example simple, over the 12 Fiscal Periods in a single year, you have 288,000 lines of information to analyze. That’s a small business example, and not an exabyte of data, but starts to get to the limits of what most people can digest and make sense of. Let’s say this business grows from small to medium sized and they now have 2,000 invoices a month or 20,000 invoice lines – that’s about 2.8 Million new records of Revenue Forecast per year! You’ll need a better approach and the right tools to export 2.8 Million records.
The first step in attacking this problem is identifying the key drivers of business for a customer: what provides actionable insight to their business. When I asked one customer what data was most important to making decisions about their business, they said they wanted to “see it all, to every detailed transaction”, since that is how they had traditionally made business decisions. That may have worked when their business was truly small, but at that point they were adding half a million new invoices lines each month. Dumping half a million new rows to Excel each month doesn’t provide any more insight than printing 20,000 pages of the same data.
How do you measure your business? How do you decide what actions to take? Which products sell the most and which are most profitable? Who is selling the most at your company? We help our customers answer this question and formulate plans to analyze their data using the new Business Intelligence tools from Microsoft. Many customers say they are “just like everybody else” and need the same reports as all of our other customers. Our knowledge of “big data” for our products will provide a good starting point for discussion, but really, each company is a bit different and has their own needs that drive business. Have you considered what factors drive your business?