Business Intelligence for Microsoft Dynamics GP

This article will explore and discuss what to look for when shopping for the best business intelligence tools for your Microsoft Dynamics GP experience.

Today’s business world is all about flexibility and mobility when it comes to managing and analyzing our Microsoft Dynamics GP data.  As we jet set to meet our global customers’ needs, flexibility becomes that much more valuable.  In other words, your BI software should offer you the flexibility to access your data, for better and faster decision-making on the go, so you don’t miss opportunities to steer your company in the right direction.  Independent software vendors (ISVs) seem to understand consumer demands for this mobility and continue to produce modern accessibility built into BI solutions.

ISV products are accelerating Microsoft Dynamics GP by providing best-of-breed reporting, budgeting, dashboards, and data warehousing.   Moreover, flexibility translates to options for the user.  All of us have been in transit, in the lobby of a hotel, or on a plane with an internet connection, and we would like (or need) to check in on the health of our company’s financials with real-time analysis.  Plenty of companies are still relying on traditional on-premises analytics, which restricts their access to being in the office or requires more clunky remote access software such as VPN, Citrix or Terminal Server.  That’s simply not a true “solution” to the problem of today’s on-the-go, global business for most organizations.  So, what is?

There are several specific things to consider when shopping for a tool that can boast flexible access as a prominent feature for the modern business end user.  First of all, you should assess your need to run live from Dynamics GP, integrate data from a BI data store, like an OLAP cube or a data warehouse, or both.  You also need to think about finding a modern Excel add-in tool that allows users to hit the ground running with the familiarity of formatting, while also enhancing report and budget design.  Perhaps most important to this era is the near necessity of a web portal for your Business Intelligence (BI) tools – that still relies on the flexibility of Excel formulas and coding.  Additionally, mobile applications are starting to really gain in popularity as they can give you access to company financials, reporting, and KPIs anywhere you have your tablet and/or smartphone.  Finally, you want to look for a solution that is positioned within a complete suite of BI tools that can streamline your data management processes.

Lots of tools are going to integrate data using one methodology, whether directly from Microsoft Dynamics GP, or from an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse.  But when looking for flexibility, why settle for just one?  Some products give you the option to choose which works best for the occasion.  Usually, if you work for a smaller company with less GP users performing smaller data queries, a live integration is perhaps all you need.  Companies that need to avoid slowing down the Dynamics server with too many users or bigger queries tend to benefit from the higher performance of a data store integration.  However, it is important to look ahead.  If you can envision your company steadily growing and workflow intensifying, you should invest in a solution that empowers to prepare for that growth.  And some products will allow you to run a real-time analysis directly from GP when you need up-to-the-minute information and pull data from a data warehouse at other times.

Besides flexibility, I always say that your BI toolbox should be easy to use for your team of business users.  If you’re like most people I have met in the business world, you have been using Excel since at least college.  New software always requires some learning and effort to comfortably implement, but with a third generation Excel add-in solution, you and your team can likely hit the ground running in a way you simply couldn’t if you are deploying proprietary software with an interface and set of formulas that you have to learn from scratch.  The best Excel-powered report writers and budgeting solutions accelerate the familiar product with sub-ledger reporting capabilities and accounting logic for simpler coding and design processes.  There are more features that give you the flexibility and ease of use you need deserve.

The real power player BI products combine Excel familiarity with web and mobile accessibility.  You would have to live under a rock to not know that the business world is definitively moving in the direction of Cloud computing for various applications – as it should.  Your work does not stop and wait for you (to get home from a trip to visit international clients, catch that redeye flight, or get back to your office).  Nowadays, there are products that power an accessible web portal with Excel features and functionalities, ensuring the seamless back-and-forth flexibility you need on the road.   As you assess your company dynamic, looking at who currently works remotely, who will likely do the same in the not-so-distant future, and who still have cubicle real estate in the office.  You and your team should be able to access your company financials anywhere you have an internet connection, and luckily, there are a few third party solutions that answer that call for mobility.  Speaking of which, sometimes you only have a mobile device, but you can’t afford to wait to get to relevant data.

Web-based BI might seem like the present, but technology moves at such a pace that mobile reporting and dashboards are also entering the marketplace for Microsoft Dynamics GP users.  Look: we basically sleep with our smartphones, and our tablets aren’t far from hands’ reach most of the time as well, so why shouldn’t you be able to access company data on your favorite touch screens?  And you can, with more recently developed mobile applications that empower you to access financials, KPIs, and reporting anywhere you carry your smartphone or tablet.  Unfortunately, not every product offers this feature – a fully integrated, complete BI suite is also somewhat of a specialty.

Perhaps you are just focused on financial reporting for your Microsoft Dynamics GP experience right now, so you are looking at stand-alone reporting tools to replace classic GL-only report writers such as FRx or its successor, Management Reporter.  However, if you look ahead to the place you are planning for your company to be because of the hard work you and your team are putting in, that kind of growth might require that you invest in a budgeting tool or a fully built, customizable data warehouse.  If you go with a stand-alone module now, you’re going to have to piece together tools from different manufacturers, dealing with different consultants, support teams, and partners.  The other option involves you replacing the reporting solution you buy now for one that is part of a full suite of tools. Lots to consider, I know, but Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s web-powered, easy-to-use Excel 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 Dynamics GP.

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