Useful Business Intelligence Add-on Products for Dynamics GP

Ever wondered why third party products are necessary with all the features and functions in Microsoft Dynamics GP for data analysis and management?  This article will explore the concept of best-in-breed software for corporate performance management.

Recently, I saw a user on LinkedIn pose a question, asking fellow Microsoft Dynamics GP users if they had some documentation regarding why the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system needs Independent Software Vendor (ISV) products.  It was an interesting discussion, perhaps a challenge to ISVs, and a legitimate question for Microsoft fans.  Several people chimed in, and a couple recurring comments seemed to organically surface.

First of all, a few people mentioned that a software manufacturer cannot create a product that speaks to every single company need.  Much like Apple iPhones allow the user to download Google Maps, even though they offer their own mapping application, so does any modern, flexible ERP system, like Microsoft Dynamics GP.  And as each company who is using Dynamics GP has unique needs, specific budgeting requirements, regulations, and goals, the product’s strengths and weaknesses will vary from company to company.  ISVs allow companies to personalize their data management and analysis needs.

Another trending comment referred to the term, “best-of-breed.”  PC Magazine defines best-of-breed as “the best product of its type.”  The best product of its type is arguably impossible to create in all functional areas as a manufacturer, so “organizations often purchase software from different vendors in order to obtain the best-of-breed functionality for certain key business areas.  While ERP vendors provide a wealth of applications for the enterprise and tout their integrated system as the superior solution, every module may not be best-of-breed.  It is difficult to excel in every niche.”  In other words, even as loyal fans of Microsoft Dynamics GP, it is still okay to invest in an ISV product to accelerate the ERP to meet your specific company goals.  But what is out there to take you to the next level?

If your loyalty to GP runs deep, you honestly might not even know what is out there to take your data storage, analysis, consolidations, budgeting, and dashboards into the modern era of dynamic, powerful, and intuitive Business Intelligence (BI).  That’s where this blog comes into the picture.  This article will highlight the different areas where ISVs are providing enhanced offerings for Microsoft Dynamics.

Perhaps the most historically relevant ISV offering has been reporting capabilities.  I have blogged about Dynamics GP Reporting Tools before, and their relevance will not be fading anytime soon.  Dynamics GP’s built-in Report Writer pales in comparison to the accelerated offerings on the market today.  In 2014, there are products offering accounting logic, sub-ledger reporting, reusable report templates, and live integrations to Dynamics GP and other data sources for easier to use, more comprehensive analytics.  Some are Excel-based, some are web-based, and some have both capabilities – for mobility and accessibility.  And speaking of mobility, a few ISVs offer reporting mobile applications.  Similar to reporting, budgeting is also a popular offering that budget managers are utilizing to build a best-of-breed software approach to meet corporate performance management goals.

 

When it comes to budgeting and forecasting, there’s no point denying that this process can be a real pain.  A lot of back-and-forth e-mails, concerns about privacy, the distribution of spreadsheets, manual, homegrown budget building in Excel – there’s no wonder people would prefer to avoid the task altogether.  However, this important planning process is simplified by ISVs offering easy-to-use, Excel and/or web-based, accounting logic-powered solutions.  There are plenty of software options that allow for streamlining and ownership, while also focusing on secure distribution.  However, if Dynamics GP users are asking why they need to acquire ISV products to enhance the ERP, they are probably wondering why the trusted Excel needs any supplementary products as well.

As popular as Excel is, lots of ISVs are manufacturing Excel add-ins that not only accelerate Dynamics GP, but also adds features and functionalities into Excel with a ribbon at the top – and without having to learn a whole new set of formulas and formatting.  In terms of reusable templates and accounting logic that streamlines the process of building a report and/or budget (among several other features), Excel is not built to be that high functioning.  You can generate graphs, charts, and other data visualizations in Excel, and yet, Dashboards are the most sought after BI tool for CFOs on the market today.

Dashboards or data visualizations take data and illustrate it in interactive, easy-to-read charts, graphs, and scorecards.  While you can build dashboards in Excel from data in Dynamics GP, that is not the focus of either software, so it is not very advanced.  ISVs have stepped in to fill that void – and it has paid off for companies who have developed vibrant, powerful, intuitive, business user friendly dashboards.  Gartner reported that Dashboards are the #1 BI tool for buyers today.  As data continues to grow, we’ll see that people are not only focused on how to visualize trends and trajectories of company data, but there is also an emphasis on how to store it.

Whether it is an Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) Cube, Data Mart, or a Data Warehouse, ISVs are responding to the need for companies around the world needing to store the massive amount of data for record-keeping, analysis, and any regulations regarding their industry.  OLAP cubes are not an open, relational SQL Server platform, so the product requires someone with OLAP cube knowledge to manage it.  They are relatively prevalent, so it appears that there are enough people in the workforce to meet this need.  On the other hand, some ISVs have taken the historically development team oriented project of data warehouse designs and made it into a fully built, configurable SQL server product for companies to implement.  Data warehouses can store more than just financial data – and data can be replicated to the warehouse on a regular basis or with the push of information.  Running reports from data storage sources can mean a higher performance experience, especially as multiple users are not slowing down Dynamics GP’s server by running live reports.  When it comes to ISV products and their rightful place in the marketplace, it is all about identification of businesses’ specific needs to collaborate in a streamlined, powerful, yet business user friendly way.

There are lots of products on the market – and this article did not exhaust the list of useful offerings by ISVs, but it hopefully added to the conversation regarding why Dynamics GP can be enhanced through BI software.  You will have to decide what niche functionalities are specifically important to your company and research the options to make your company more efficient, more effective, and ultimately, more successful.  Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Excel, web, and mobile BI tools with both real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis, budgeting and collaboration as a way to accelerate company performance management beyond Microsoft Dynamics GP.

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