Dashboards for SAP Business One

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There are plenty of functionality and flexibility aspects to consider when selecting a powerful, business user friendly dashboard solution for your SAP Business One experience.  This article will explore your options, so you know what to look for in the best data visualization solution for you and your team.

Dashboards are the number one solution in the Business Intelligence (BI) marketplace: old news?  Not quite. Gartner’s 2013 study on Financial Executive International CFO Technology reported that dashboards, scorecards, and performance management solutions are CFOs’ number one priority.  The fast pace of today’s business world insists that you and your team have easy-to-use, flexible access to data that drives key decision-making.  Data visualizations of company information, like dashboards, are the answer to that need.  Dashboards are charts, graphs, and scorecards that illustrate organizational trajectories, successes, and challenges with key performance indicators (KPIs), whether zooming in on a project, a department, or looking at the whole company.
If you are assuming that BI dashboards got their name from vehicular dashboards, you would be right.  Similar in function, executives can easily comprehend organizational data trends by glancing at a graphical scorecard.  The difference between dashboards in your car and dashboards on your computer screen is that BI data visualizations are built for interaction, interpretation, and adjustment.  More specifically, they are equipped with drill-to and drill-down capabilities, so you can analyze your company’s operational and transactional information in order to make the most informed decisions about the next chapter for your corporation.  Okay, okay, you get it – dashboards are important.  This article will discuss the data visualization options you should understand when considering an investment in a dashboards solution for SAP Business One.
First thing you should know: dashboards can pull data from multiple sources.  You can build dashboards with a live integration from SAP B1 in a real-time data analysis.  Integrating live is great for team leaders who need up-to-the-minute financial analysis, as well as smaller companies that only need simple accounting system dashboards, without the time and money to maintain BI databases, whether it is an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse.  However, bigger organizations tend to require something that performs quicker, but more stable than running live from SAP B1.
A data warehouse or OLAP cube integration enables larger teams to build data visualizations without the potential sluggishness associated with querying data on the SAP B1 server for real-time analysis.  If you have multiple people using SAP B1 and perhaps running queries simultaneously, a data storage source integration provides high performance.  It does require a replication of your SAP B1 data to the OLAP cube or data warehouse, but pulling from a separate staging platform means that the B1 server doesn’t have to slow down.  There are also hybrid solutions that give you the option to integrate either way.
Perhaps you would like the option to run live in order to meet quick turnaround deadlines and pull from a data warehouse for more routine dashboards – you can have your BI cake and eat it, too.  Live integrations are typically needed for urgent operational data analysis, like sales or inventory analyses, which provides managers up-to-the-minute data.  Some dashboards are more regularly produced, so an OLAP cube or data warehouse integration is just fine for weekly, monthly, or quarterly visualizations.  Maybe you’re thinking that the more flexible hybrids would be more expensive, but that’s not true for every offering.   Plus, there’s plenty more to consider when shopping for the right tool.
Next up: technology platforms.  There are some independent software vendors producing dashboard solutions that have their own proprietary server.  These products rely on an interface that they have developed outside the familiarity of Excel.  Some of these solutions might be graphically impressive, but will likely have a tougher learning curve for business users due to the product-specific formatting and features.  Additionally, both SAP B1 and Excel have their own data visualization functionalities, but are generally restricted in their abilities because that is not the purpose of either application.  However, that’s where Excel add-in products might be valuable to you.
Excel add-in software empowers you and your team to hit the ground running because of the familiarity of the spreadsheet program, building on the skillset of formatting and coding that most of us have utilized since college.   Excel’s dashboards can be built within the spreadsheet, but third party manufacturers are offering more powerful data visualizations to meet the demand of consumers.  Because of their ease of use, Excel add-in options are likely the easiest and gratifying to implement, but there are also more flexible options for your remote needs.
Web-based solutions are increasingly more popular because of their flexibility in accessing your data – and demand for mobile dashboards is on trend.  Several ISVs offer web-based dashboard software, in the Cloud and/or for on-premises management, with just as many data visualization choices, drill-down capabilities, and KPIs.  And you can get all of this data analysis functionality from anywhere you have an internet connection.  Similarly, mobile dashboard applications are on the horizon.
Sometimes you might only have your smartphone or tablet with you and need to check in on the health of your company – mobile dashboards can save the day.  As corporate leaders move around the globe and across time zones more frequently, mobile dashboards can inform decision-making anywhere the work leads you.  Having recognized this need, some ISVs are already offering mobile dashboard applications.  Due to the size of a mobile phone screen, mobile dashboards currently tend to focus on one KPI or chart at a time.  And there are solutions that offer the ultimate flexibility of Excel, web, and mobile dashboards.
Few products currently offer more than one dashboard modality for flexible accessibility and mobility to meet today’s business demands.  Furthermore, some of these solutions are positioned within a complete suite of BI modules.  In fact, dashboards are sometimes discounted when bought in a bundle with other products.   BI suites offer secure and fully integrated functionality, sometimes with a web portal, and one vendor, one partner, one support team, and one consultant for all modules.  Time, money, and energy saved? Yes. That’s the bottom line.
If you and your team excel using SAP B1, you might be a little reluctant to take on new software, and if it is not business user friendly, why do it at all?  Make sure that any dashboard software you invest in will be easy to use for your team, without IT management, before purchasing anything.  Solver offers an Excel, web and/or mobile-based dashboards module stand-alone and as part of the comprehensive suite of BI modules and would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use data visualization solution for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities with SAP B1.