Business Intelligence for Microsoft Dynamics NAV

This article will outline today’s modern options for Business Intelligence tools to improve your Microsoft Dynamics NAV experience.

Today, the business world is about flexibility and now, mobile platforms to deal with our on-the-go culture, including data management and analysis for Microsoft Dynamics NAV customers.  You can and should have BI solutions that allow you the flexibility you need to access your operational and transactional information for stronger, quicker decision-making, in or out of the office.  Third party software manufacturers have been responding to this business cultural shift by producing truly flexible BI products.

Independent Software Vendor (ISV) solutions are upgrading Dynamics NAV by offering best-of-breed financial reporting, budgeting, dashboards, and data warehousing.  Furthermore, these software give the user options.  We’ve all been out of the office at some time or another where we would like to access, manage and/or analyze company data – and sometimes, we need to in order to make urgent decisions, relying on real-time analysis.  If you’re one of the many companies still deploying on-premises BI software, you know that it can be restrictive, simply because it requires you to be in the office or depend on remote access technology, like Citrix, Terminal Server, or VPN.  In fact, it’s not really a “solution” to modern business problems for most companies.  But what is?

There are plenty of particular considerations you should make when looking for a software that is flexible enough for your business today – and in the future.  Firstly, you should evaluate whether you need real-time analytics or can integrate from a BI data store, like a data warehouse, an OLAP cube, or both.  You should also consider an Excel add-in software that empowers business end users to have a head start because of how familiar finance teams are with Excel formatting.  One of the most important elements involves having a web portal for end users, while keeping Excel report design and formulas for the power user.  Relatedly, mobile applications are growing in popularity because of the ability to access financial reporting and KPIs anywhere you have your smartphone and/or tablet.  Finally, it would be a mistake to not consider a solution that is a part of a fully integrated BI suite of tools to synergize your analytics.

Plenty of tools either integrate live from Dynamics NAV – or by utilizing an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse.  However, since flexibility is the name of the game these days, why select a tool that only has one option?  Some software give you options to decide which method is most conducive for your specific need.  Typically, if you are at a smaller organization with fewer NAV users querying smaller amounts of data, you probably only need to integrate live from NAV.  Corporations that have to think about how sluggish the Dynamics server can become with too many bigger data queries and/or users would benefit more from the higher performance of some type of BI data store.  Regardless, it pays to plan ahead.  If you can see your business growing and workflow becoming more tedious, you should look for technology that allows for that growth.  Some software enables you to pull data from a BI data store sometimes and produce real-time analytics at other times.

Flexibility also lends itself to what I call the most important characteristic: ease of use for business end users.  Because of the near ubiquity of Excel, a tool powered by the popular spreadsheet program allows users to hit the ground running compared to proprietary platforms with software-specific formatting and coding that you’ve likely never seen before.  The premier Excel-based report designers and budgeting tools improve the familiar software with sub-ledger reporting and dynamic accounting logic for easier design.  And there’s several more features that offer you the flexibility and business user friendliness you need in today’s business world.

The best BI software bring together Excel formatting with web and mobile access.  As technology moves to the Cloud, so does BI software – and that makes perfect sense.  Work does not wait for you to get back into the office, and now, there are BI tools that allow you to access your data on the internet, some also offering Excel features and functions on the web, enabling seamless flexibility to move back and forth between platforms.  As you think about your company needs in regard to BI processes, look at who already works remotely, who will probably do the same in the future, and who will still hold on to their cubicle.  Your team should be able to access financial data from anywhere with an internet connection, and luckily, there are some ISV solutions that deliver that functionality.  Accordingly, sometimes, all you have is your mobile device, and you urgently need to access, manage, and/or analyze company data.

Cloud BI is definitely the present and future, and now reporting and dashboards are also making their way onto mobile devices for Microsoft Dynamics NAV customers.  Most of us basically sleep next to our smartphones, and our tablets are also usually close at hand, so it was only a matter of time before BI processes were touch screen clickable.  With some solutions, you can access financials, KPIs, and reporting from anywhere you have your tablet or smartphone.  Currently, not every solution offers a mobile application – and another seeming rarity: a fully integrated, comprehensive BI suite of tools.

You might only need to upgrade your GL-only financial report writing for Dynamics NAV at this juncture, so you are thinking that stand-alone reporting tools might make more sense.  But if you plan ahead to the growth you are working toward, you might soon need a budgeting solution or a commercial, configurable data warehouse.  If you invest in a stand-alone reporting tool now, you are going to have to piece together solutions from different vendors, which means multiple groups of consultants, support staff, and partners.  Or you might end up having to replace the stand-alone financial reporting tool with one that is positioned within a full suite.  Lots to think about, and  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 NAV.

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