It might come as no surprise to you that dashboards are the most important Business Intelligence (BI) solutions to CFOs, according to a 2013 Gartner study on Financial Executive International CFO Technology, which reported that dashboards, scorecards, and performance management solutions are financial executives’ top priority. It makes sense to me – in today’s fast-paced business world, professionals at all levels need decision-driving data in quickly digestible formats. Dashboards, or data visualizations, are graphs, charts, and scorecards that showcase corporate trends, advantages, and obstacles with key performance indicators (KPIs), whether you’re managing a project, a division, or analyzing organization-wide data.
Dashboards are everywhere – in our vehicles, on our year-end credit card spending summary, and I routinely get a Google Account Activity dashboard. BI dashboards are in the same category, similar in that you can quickly glance at a data visualization to get a sense of data trends. The primary characteristic that sets BI dashboards apart is that they are interactive, meaning that they can be adjusted and reconfigured to get the information you seek. Drill-to- and drill-down functionality are built right into BI dashboards, so you can control and fine-tune your analytics to get the most out of your data and make better decisions. Have I sold you on the importance of dashboards yet? Good. This article will lay out your options for dashboards that enhance your Acumatica experience.
Good news: dashboards can grab information from disparate sources. You can craft real-time data visualizations with a live integration from Acumatica. Live integrations are perfect for professionals who need up-to-date financials in their analytics, or smaller organizations that only require basic enterprise resource planning (ERP) system dashboards or without the resources to maintain BI data stores, like a data warehouse or an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube. Larger organizations, on the other hand, usually need quicker and more stable performance for their dashboards – which you can’t get typically from a live Acumatica integration.
Cube and warehouse integrations empower larger companies to put together dashboards while avoiding any slowdown of the Acumatica server when querying data for real-time analytics. If your finance team includes multiple Acumatica users, who might be querying information simultaneously, a BI data store offers the high performance you need. With a cube or warehouse, you do have to replicate Acumatica data to the BI data store, but relying on an independent platform means that you are not slowing down the Acumatica server. You also get the additional advantage in that a separate data store from Acumatica also allows you to include other data sources. Some independent software vendors (ISVs) are also offering hybridity in their products, meaning you can choose how you want to integrate your data.
Maybe you can identify with this: some companies would like to integrate live for urgent analyses or deadlines for current data, but rely on a BI data store for more regular analytics. Some managers need real-time operational data analyses, like sales or inventory visualizations. However, more routine dashboards could be performed with an OLAP cube or a data warehouse. You might be thinking that hybridity is going to cost you an arm and a leg, but that’s not the case for every solution. There are several more considerations to make when seeking the best tool for your team.
Let’s talk technology interfaces. Some ISVs are building data visualization tools that function on their own proprietary server. These products depend on a platform that they have produced outside of the familiar and flexible Excel. You might be impressed by some of the aesthetics, but with these interfaces, you can anticipate a lengthier learning curve for business end users because the formatting is specific to the product. Moreover, Excel and Acumatica come equipped with dashboard functionality, but are generally limited in their capabilities because that is not their main function. But that’s where Excel add-in solutions come into the picture.
Excel add-in tools enable you to have the head start of familiarity with the globally popular spreadsheet program, as you go to utilize the enhancements and upgrades to the program that allow you to format and build dashboards. Excel’s own dashboards can be crafted within the workbook, but ISVs are consistently bringing more dynamic data visualization solutions, based on consumer demand. Due to how business user friendly they are, Excel add-in solutions are arguably going to be the easiest to implement, but the web is perhaps a more flexible option.
Web-based solutions are all the rage these days because you can access your data from anywhere you have an internet connection – and dashboards are right on trend. More and more ISVs are offering web-based dashboard solutions, in the Cloud and/or on premises, offering just as many options for data visualizations, KPIs, and drill-down capabilities. Similarly, mobile dashboard technology is building momentum, as professionals are out of the office with only their smartphone and/or tablet. Deadlines for analysis and decision-making don’t pause while you’re on the go, and with a mobile dashboard application, you don’t have to either. Not all ISVs are offering mobile data visualizations, and due to device screen size, mobile dashboards currently tend to zoom in on one KPI or chart at a time. Good news: a few solutions offer the flexibility of all three platforms – Excel, web and mobile data visualizations.
Only a few ISVs have created solutions that offer hybridity in dashboard functionality for flexible and mobile access to company data analytics. And even better are the solutions that are part of a comprehensive suite of BI tools. Sometimes, dashboards are even discounted when purchased as part of a bundle of other products. The best suites of BI tools focus on secure, fully integrated solutions, some offering web portals, but all providing you the ease of just one vendor, one partner, one consultant, and one support team – for all of your tools. That’s money, time, and energy saved.
Acumatica is a strong accounting system, and if you’re comfortable using it, it might not seem enticing to add software to implement, learn, and manage, especially if the technology is not user friendly. However, the best business user friendly dashboard solutions can streamline and turbo charge your analytics, which can accelerate decision-making and other business processes. You might be overwhelmed by all you need to consider when shopping around for the best product, and Solver would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s Excel, web and/or mobile-based, easy-to-use dashboards module stand-alone and component in the comprehensive suite of BI modules for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities with Acumatica.