Non-profit Dashboards with Dynamics GP

This article discusses dashboard software solutions for non-profit organizations that are seeking to enhance their Microsoft Dynamics GP data analyses.

Dashboards or data visualizations come in the form of graphs, charts, and scorecards, and you’ve undoubtedly interacted with them in some capacity.  This is probably because executives are prioritizing this software offering, as Gartner’s recent study on Financial Executive International CFO Technology reported.  Since business is always moving at such a rapid pace, we need easily digestible and accessible data analyses.  Data visualizations provide precisely that: charts, graphs, and scorecards spotlight trends, successes, and challenges employing key performance indicators (KPIs) and your data to inform management decision-making for a department, a project, and/or the entire organization.

All kinds of dashboards are pretty ubiquitous, whether you’re monitoring your speed while driving, reviewing how you’re spending money on a credit card, or even looking at an account activity breakdown for your Google account.  Business Intelligence (BI) data visualizations similarly allow you to familiarize yourself with organizational data trajectories.  BI dashboards are primarily different because of their interactive nature.  You can alter and configure your dashboards to obtain the insight you require to better comprehend the reality of your non-profit organization’s health.  Most BI data visualizations are built with drill-down and drill-to capabilities, so you can focus your analyses on target data for smarter decision-making.  Let’s shift into the feature and functionality of modern dashboard offerings that can assist your non-profit to expand your Dynamics GP experience.

Dashboards can integrate your data from multiple sources.  If you need real-time analytics, specifically for financial data, you can rely on the built-in dashboard functionality within Dynamics GP.  Live analyses are preferable for individuals who require up-to-the-minute financial information – or smaller organizations that are just fine using the built-in accounting system dashboards without the resources to manage a BI data store, like an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse.  Alternatively, bigger organizations typically need more than just financial data, in addition to faster, higher performing data visualizations, which are usually not what you can achieve with a live Dynamics GP dashboard.

Integrating to a BI data store enables larger non-profits to create operational and financial data visualizations without making the Dynamics GP server sluggish when pulling information for real-time analytics.  If your team consists of multiple Dynamics GP users who might be pulling information simultaneously, BI data stores deliver high performance.  Even though you have to replicate your data to the data store, it will probably still be a quicker process, depending on the query size.  Additionally, a BI data store enables you to store other types of data from other sources in one place, like members, donors, grant project information, etc.  Some third party software vendors also provide hybridity in their tools so that you can decide you would like to integrate data based on the task.

Maybe you can identify with this: some organizations want a live analysis for more urgent deadlines requiring real-time data, but would like to use a BI data store for more routine dashboards.  Some executives rely on real-time operational data visualizations, like fundraising or development graphs, while more routine dashboards can and typically are produced utilizing a BI data store.  Fortunately, hybridity in dashboards isn’t necessarily costly.  And the price tag is just one of several considerations to make when seeking the best solution.

Next: technology platforms.  Some independent software vendors (ISVs) offer proprietary interfaced dashboard software on the market.  These tools are staged on a non-Excel platform, and they might be powerful and aesthetically impressive, but outside of the flexible, trusted Excel, the learning curve for your end users can be notably longer.  Also, both Excel and Dynamics GP are equipped with dashboard functionality within their interface, but are somewhat restricted in their abilities since data visualization is not the main purpose for the technology.  This arguably explains why Excel add-in software is so popular.

Excel add-ins provide you with the familiarity of the spreadsheet software, but with expanded functionalities that enable end users to craft modern dashboards.  Excel’s native data visualization function does allow you to create dashboards in a workbook, but ISVs are always developing richer, more flexible data visualization tools in response to consumer demands.  Due to their ease of use, Excel add-in solutions are probably going to be the easiest to deploy, but web-based software is arguably going to be the most accessible.

Browser-based tools are the next big thing in terms of data management and analysis, accessible wherever you connect to the internet – and dashboards have followed suit.  More and more ISVs are bringing web-based data visualizations to market, both in the Cloud and/or on-premises, providing just as many choices for dashboards, KPIs, and drill-down ability.  Relatedly, mobile dashboard offerings continue to roll out due to how on-the-go business is today, especially for some professionals.  Decision-making and deadlines don’t wait until you’re back in the office to review analyses, so mobile dashboards offer the solution.  Only some third party vendors are producing mobile dashboards currently, and due to screen size, they typically focus on just one KPI or graph at a time.  But there are some tools that combine all three modes of access for superior flexibility: Excel, web, and mobile.

Nowadays, it’s not that common for an ISV to manufacture a software that offers hybridity regarding flexibility in access to dashboards.  However, some tools are even better because they are positioned within a comprehensive suite of BI software.  Some dashboard software is even discounted if you bundle the product with other tool(s).  The premier BI suites are fully integrated, secure, and perhaps offer the accessibility of a web portal, and with just one team of sales, consultant and support professionals for all of your software is convenient.  And by convenient, I mean that you can save time, energy, and money.

Here’s what non-profits need to consider: if you consider the significant changes fundraising has undergone in the past two decades alone, shifting from special events and direct to online and mobile donations, membership management, grant management, social media campaigns, e-newsletters and more, on top of the tried and true methods, you know that there’s a lot of data to compile and evaluate.  Additionally, Dynamics GP is probably not the only data source you use, and you likely have staff across the organization who require access to business user friendly analytics for richer decision-making.  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 for non-profits using Microsoft Dynamics GP.

Leave a Reply