This probably won’t be shocking news to you: dashboards are the #1 priority in the Business Intelligence (BI) software marketplace for CFOs, according to a recent Gartner study on Financial Executive International CFO Technology. It made perfect sense to me. In today’s business culture, professionals at all levels of your organization should have access to data analyses for richer, more informed decision-making. Data visualizations are brains and beauty, delivering exactly that.
Dashboards are nearly ubiquitous, whether you’re in your car, looking at an expenditure breakdown for your credit card, and even a Google account activity summary. BI data visualizations are also becoming more popular, providing quickly digestible, accessible data analytics. BI dashboards differ from other data visualizations primarily because they are interactive, configurable and adjustable in nature. Built with drill-down and drill-to functionality, you can focus in on your data for stronger decisions. Okay, so now that we see their prominence in the business world, let’s explore your options to upgrade your Sage 300 experience.
Let’s start by discussing integrations. Data visualizations can produce analyses of information from one or more sources, allowing you to present analytics in a direct, accessible illustration. If you need real-time dashboards, certain solutions can integrate live from Sage 300. A live integration is beneficial for professionals who need up-to-date financials in their analytics – or smaller organizations that only require basic accounting system data visualizations, or without the resources to maintain BI data stores, like a data warehouse or an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube. Larger companies, on the other hand, usually have to have a faster, more stable performance for their dashboards, which isn’t typically achievable with a live integration from Sage 300.
Integrating to a BI data store enables larger organizations to design data visualizations without slowing down the Sage 300 database due to data queries. If your company has multiple Sage 300 users, who might query data simultaneously, you can achieve the higher performance you need with a BI data store. With an OLAP cube or a data warehouse, you’ll need to replicate your information from Sage 300 to the data store, but it can be configured for automation or a simple push of a button. Another benefit of a warehouse or a cube is the aggregation of your data sources into one place. Some independent software vendors (ISVs) have created dashboard solutions that are hybrid in nature, so you can choose how you would prefer to pull your data.
Perhaps you can relate: some companies like to integrate live from Sage 300 for more urgent analyses and/or deadlines with real-time data, but would like to use a BI data store for more regular dashboards. Some managers require up-to-date operational data visualizations, like sales or inventory scorecards. Routine data visualizations, on the other hand, can be crafted by using a cube or a data warehouse. Perhaps the best news is that not every software providing hybridity is going to break the bank. However, there are several things to consider when seeking the right software for your team.
The solution platform is a good entry point. Some third party software manufacturers are crafting dashboard technology with their own proprietary server. In other words, these dashboard tools are not Excel-based. While the proprietary interface might be aesthetically impressive to you, the learning curve for formulas and formatting outside of Excel tends to be notably longer for your business end users. You also probably know that both Sage 300 and Excel have native dashboards, but are generally restricted in their functionality because that is not the point of these software. However, Excel add-in solutions merge familiarity, flexibility, and the power you need.
Excel add-ins offer you the familiarity of the globally trusted spreadsheet program, but it is accelerated and upgraded for today’s analysis needs. You can design dashboards in a workbook, but ISVs are always building more powerful data visualization software, responding to modern customer needs. Because they are easy to use for users at all levels, Excel add-in solutions are arguably going to be the simplest and usually the most cost efficient to implement, while web-based software are the most flexible.
Web-based BI software is dramatically building momentum because of the capability to access, manage, and evaluate your company information from anywhere you can connect to the internet, with dashboards also following that trend. More ISVs are producing web-based dashboards, on premises and/or in the Cloud, offering the same infrastructure of features and functions for data visualizations, drill-down abilities, and KPIs. Similarly, mobile data visualizations are also popular, as more of today’s professionals are on the go than ever, with just their smartphone or tablet handy. Deadlines aren’t going anywhere while you’re out of the office, so mobile dashboards can help you in accessing analytics for decision-making. Mobile apps are relatively new for dashboards, with current models focusing on one KPI or chart at a time because of device screen size. But some tools are equipped with the hybridity and flexibility of Excel, web and mobile data visualizations for ultimate accessibility.
Few third party manufacturers produce software that offer dashboards with flexible and hybrid access to company data analytics. An even more capable data visualization product is part of a complete suite of BI tools. Sometimes, dashboards are even priced lower if you purchase them in a package with other software. The best BI suites offer completely integrated, secure software, some providing web access, but all simplifying your experience with one team of consultant, partner, support, and vendor professionals – for all of the tools. That’s time, money, and energy saved.
Sage 300 is a strong accounting system, and if you know your way around it for the purpose of data management, you might not think that investing in a new software to implement, train on, and manage, especially if the tool is not easy to use, is a task you want to take on for your team. However, the premier dashboard software options are business user friendly and can dramatically improve your analytics, which will improve other processes. You might be feeling overwhelmed thinking about everything you should be considering in finding the right tool for you, 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 300.