It’s hard to deny the popularity and buzz of Microsoft’s Power BI. It is the current shining star of enterprise technology, and with the brand power of Microsoft, it has made its way into a lot of companies’ portfolio of systems. It makes sense too: not only does the executive team want data visualizations, but cross departmentally, information workers of every type can access insight easily and quickly about the health of the organization or the progress of a project. However, dashboards, like charts, graphs, and scorecards, are just one form of reporting and can be limiting for certain teams.
While data visualization solutions are used primarily for quickly digestible access to trends and trajectories in progress toward goals or the end of a fiscal year, the finance and accounting team, as well as anyone involved in the budgeting process for an organization need something different, specifically something that provides more detailed, professionally formatted reporting and budgeting functionality. Modern corporate performance management (CPM) tools are great at delivering advanced financial reporting, consolidations, budgeting and forecasting, but usually advanced visualizations are best delivered by tools that specialize in that area. In the past few years, Microsoft has had a quickly rising star with its Power BI tool.
Modern CPM vendors that are “Microsoft-friendly,” like Solver with its BI360 solution, offer integrations with Power BI, where the CPM tool can deliver high quality financial statements and can produce budgets and forecasts, while Power BI delivers great dashboards and analysis. It gets even better for customers using both Power BI and Microsoft Dynamics ERP systems, because a cloud CPM tool like BI360 helps complete the customer needs very well, so they don’t just have industry leading ERP and visualizations, but also best-in-class reporting and budgeting.
But why are we even talking about supplementing or pairing systems that serve different purposes? First of all, different purposes are served, but it is not a complete picture of the enterprise software toolbox that modern companies rely on for managing the performance of the organization. Secondly, each company, from executives to specific departments like IT, is building a custom best-of-breed enterprise technology solution portfolio for gathering, analyzing, and understanding data with the intention of an actionable strategy. Thirdly, whether you are using an on-premises version of Microsoft Dynamics (AX, GP, NAV, or SL) or the cloud offering (365 – either version), the reality is that cloud is taking over as a platform for technology, across the board, but notably in the enterprise software realm. And this takeover comes with it a transition for organizations, system by system in the bigger picture, but how does one manage connecting and harnessing all of the disparate data sources in an efficient way that results in informed decision-making?
Most organizations are not exclusively on-premises or cloud in terms of the platform on which their systems are delivered. This hybrid reality can be challenging for IT teams and systems managers as they look to integrate data from all over into reports, budgets and forecasts, and data visualizations. And this is where the Power BI, a cloud-delivered product, and cloud CPM intersect: the process of gathering, organizing, and leveraging diverse data sets for interdepartmental, project-based, and organization-wide analyses in a hybrid platform system management. One element of a true CPM solution is that it is a suite of tools that includes a data warehouse. Why?
A data warehouse can provide you the stable, high performance space to consolidate your Dynamics financial data with other information from systems like payroll and human resources (HR), marketing automation, service ticket management, and web site traffic analytics, to name a few. It also reconciles both on-premises and cloud applications by having one single location to pull data from for your financial statements, budgets, forecasts, and what-if scenarios, as well as your Power BI visualizations. In other words, this is a powerful, functional connector for your myriad of systems that you rely on to run your business.
How does cloud CPM differ from on-premises CPM? Of course, because cloud CPM is hosted in a public cloud, the management of the upgrades and updates to the application is managed and delivered by the cloud hosting vendor, like Microsoft Azure. In the case of BI360, Solver can release the new version or deliver the additional software ordered immediately through the cloud. Additionally, instead of buying a product in whole, it is easier to just buy the licenses and the functions of the product that your team specifically needs for business objectives. And finally, because cloud is the arguable present and future of technology platforms, the vendors will continue to invest more and more into the development of new features and functions within the cloud offerings over the on-premises tools, which seem to be sunsetting – not anytime immediately, but in the long run. With cloud CPM, you can complement your Power BI visualizations with another cloud technology that completes your analytical management of the growing amount and significance of company data for your organizational enterprise technology portfolio.
We’ve said it before on this blog, and I’ll say it again: moving toward the cloud can be a tough and confusing, if not overwhelming transition – not just for IT, but also at least a bottleneck for the rest of your organization. Connecting multiple sources, like Dynamics and Salesforce, for data visualizations, financial statements, and budgets, requires a strategy that should likely include a pre-built, customizable data warehouse, which resides in the CPM marketplace. If you have questions, you’re not alone. Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and review BI360’s web-powered, easy-to-use Excel and browser-based BI tools with both real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis, budgeting and dashboards as a way to accelerate company performance management