Seven Keys to Cost Effective Business Intelligence: Part 6
Use Your General Ledger
When you start down the Business Intelligence road, you’ll often hear people talk about data marts, data warehouses, reporting databases, etc. All these are useful. (See our posts The Data Warehouse Scorecard and Data Warehouse vs. Data Mart: What’s the Difference?) But, if you want to be cost effective, you have to ask, “What do I already have that can give me what I need?” Often, your need is for a central repository.
Fortunately, you already have one: it’s your general ledger. All your systems feed numbers into it. (Granted, you can’t put marketing leads in a ledger, but our focus is on the hard cash associated with them, so the ledger works fine.) As an added bonus, when you use the general ledger it puts an end to the most asked question of any report: “Does this tie to the ledger?” When you start with the ledger, you tie to the ledger.
But, you’ll ask, “Do I really want all that detail in the ledger?” And the answer is, very often, yes! Sure, 20 years ago—when computers were slower and disc space was expensive—you probably limited the ledger to profit centers, cost centers and natural accounts. But things are different today. Most accounting systems can store multiple segments with no problem. For example, we’ve worked with systems that have included customers, projects and brands as segments. We’ve found that increasing the number of transactions by a factor of two, or even ten, won’t affect the performance of most modern systems.
A few more examples of work we’ve done:
1) Putting an activity on every expense and revenue item in Lawson.
2) Including customer in the dynamics GP.
3) Using Brand as a part of Oracle EBS.
The point is this: Don’t develop a new tool when you can use one you already have (and may even like).