You probably won’t find this surprising at all: data visualizations are the top priority of Business Intelligence (BI) software to CFOs, according to Gartner’s 2013 study on Financial Executive International CFO Technology, which stated that dashboards, scorecards, and performance management solutions are most important to financial executives. It was a predictable result to me. In the modern business landscape, professionals across departments and at all levels require accessible data analytics to inform and enrich their decision-making. Dashboards deliver exactly that.
You can encounter dashboards everywhere – in a vehicle, when looking at your credit card expenditure breakdown, and I just opened an e-mail that visually reported my Google account activity. BI dashboards are also becoming more and more prevalent, offering quick, digestible data trend analyses. BI dashboards primarily differentiate themselves with their interactive, adjustable, and configurable nature. They are built with drill-to and drill-down functionality, so you can zoom in and maximize your analytics for more precise decision-making. Now that we’ve established their importance to the business world, I will discuss your options as a Sage X3 customer.
First of all, dashboards can analyze data from one or multiple sources and present the information in a single, digestible and graphical view. You can achieve real-time data visualizations by integrating live from Sage X3. Live integrations are great for those who require up-to-the-minute financials in their analyses – or smaller companies that only need simple accounting system dashboards or without the resources to manage Business Intelligence (BI) data stores, like an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse. Bigger corporations, however, typically need more stable and faster performance for their data visualizations, which you usually can’t accomplish with a live Sage X3 integration.
BI data store integrations allow bigger companies to craft dashboards without making the Sage X3 database sluggish because of data queries. If your team has more than one Sage X3 user, sometimes pulling data at the same time, you can get the high performance you require with a BI data store. With a data warehouse or an OLAP cube, you will have to replicate your data from Sage X3 to the data store, but you won’t be slowing down the X3 server. Another advantage to a cube or a warehouse is the consolidation of your data sources into one space. Some third party BI software vendors have built hybridity into their solutions, meaning that you can pick how you would like to integrate data.
Maybe you have felt like this before: some organizations would prefer to run live from Sage X3 for more pressing analytics or deadlines with up-to-date information, but also elect to employ a BI data store for more routine analyses. Some supervisors need real-time operational data dashboards, like inventory or sales graphical scorecards. More regular dashboards, however, can be generated utilizing a cube or a warehouse. The good news: not every solution offering hybridity is going to cost you an arm and a leg. But there are plenty of aspects you’ll want to consider when shopping for the best solution for your company.
Let’s start with technology interfaces. Some independent software vendors (ISVs) are designing dashboard solutions that have their own proprietary server. These tools function on a platform that is typically not Excel-based. You might find these proprietary products aesthetically impressive, but learning formulas outside of the familiar and flexible Excel usually entails a longer learning curve for your business end users due to the product-specific formatting. Additionally, both Excel and Sage X3 have built-in dashboard functionality, but are overall limited in their functionalities because that is not their primary purpose. Excel add-in software brings together the best of both worlds: familiarity, flexibility, and power.
Excel add-ins empower you with the advantage of familiarity with the nearly ubiquitous spreadsheet software, enhanced and upgraded for more modern and dynamic dashboards. Excel’s native dashboards can be designed with a workbook, but ISVs are continually delivering more powerful dashboard solutions, in response to consumer demands. Because of their ease of use for business users, Excel add-in tools are probably going to be the easiest and often the lowest cost to implement, with the web platforms being the most flexible option.
Web-based BI technology is very popular nowadays due to the ability to access, manage and analyze your data from anywhere with an internet connection – and dashboards follow that trend. More third party BI software vendors are bringing web-based dashboard tools to market, on premises and/or in the Cloud, providing just as many choices for data visualizations, KPIs, and drill-down capabilities. Relatedly, mobile dashboards are gaining in popularity, as today’s professionals are more on the go than ever, with just their smartphone or tablet. Deadlines don’t wait until you’re back in the office, so mobile dashboards can enable you to access analytics for decision-making. Not everyone is producing mobile apps for dashboards, and the current models usually zoom in on one chart or KPI at a time, due to the size of the device’s screen. However, some solutions offer the hybridity and flexibility of all three interfaces – Excel, web, and mobile dashboards.
Only a handful of ISVs have produced solutions that provide hybrid dashboard functionality for flexible access to company data analyses. An even better dashboard offering is positioned within a complete suite of BI solutions. Sometimes, data visualizations are discounted if purchased in a bundle with other tools. The premier suites of BI tools provide fully integrated, secure solutions, some offering web portals, but all ensuring you the simplicity of one team of vendor, partner, consultant, and support professionals – for all of your software. That saves you energy, money, and time.
Sage X3 is a robust ERP system, and if you’re adept at utilizing it for data management, it might not make sense to you to bring in new software to deploy, learn, and maintain, particularly if the tool is not business user friendly. However, the best and easiest to use dashboard software can upgrade your analytics, which can speed up decision-making and other processes. You might be thinking that there is so much to think about when looking for the best tool, but 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 as a component in the comprehensive suite of BI modules for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities with Sage X3.