Modern, easy-to-use dashboard tools are accelerating the data management and analytics processes for Manufacturing and Distribution companies using Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

It’s all about dashboards these days when it comes to presenting and digesting information in quick and easy-to-understand ways, which is particularly true in the Business Intelligence (BI) world.  They are increasingly more popular, especially for executives, due to their easily accessible visualizations of your data.  Dashboards provide easily digestible analyses for breakneck pace of decision-making for today’s businesses.  Also referred to as data visualizations, dashboards are graphs, charts, and scorecards that showcase trends, strengths, and weaknesses with key performance indicators (KPIs) for projects, divisions, and/or the whole organization.

Similar to the dashboard you rely on in a personal vehicle, corporations make decisions about the future by evaluating operational and transactional trends in a BI dashboard.  The main distinction between everyday dashboards and BI data visualizations is that a BI offering invites interaction and interpretation for deeper analytics and adjustments, as needed.  Additionally, a BI dashboard is equipped with drill-down and drill-to functionality, so you can choose how to move forward for your manufacturing and/or distribution organization given the analysis of your Microsoft Dynamics NAV data.  Okay, you get it: dashboards are popular for good reasons in today’s business culture.  Let’s zoom in on how they can help manufacturing and distribution companies using Dynamics NAV.

Let’s begin with a fundamental element: how you integrate your data.  Modern data visualization offerings can pull company data from multiple sources.  You can generate real-time analyses by querying data directly from Dynamics NAV and/or Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), as well as additional data sources.  Dashboards that are produced with live integrations are perfect for professionals who require up-to-the-minute data and smaller companies that just need simpler Dynamics NAV dashboards, without the resources to manage a BI database, like a data warehouse or an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube.  Alternatively, bigger companies usually require a more stable integration, which a BI data store can provide for your analytical tasks.

Opting for a data warehouse or an OLAP cube to integrate your information empowers larger organizations to create dashboards without making the NAV server sluggish – or other data source system servers – due to sizable and sometimes simultaneous data queries.  A BI data store is going to be an additional expense, and you’ll have to configure and oversee replication of your data to the cube or warehouse, but your data queries won’t slow down the server.  Fortunately, some dashboard solutions allow you to choose whether you’d like to integrate live when you have pressing decision-making deadlines, with real-time data like customer order logs – AND pulling information from a BI data store for more routine data visualizations, like staffing and employment.  Hybridity is exactly what today’s businesses need – and it doesn’t have to break the bank.  Next, you should consider platform options.

You have choices regarding software platforms, namely Excel, web, and/or proprietary.  Even with Microsoft Excel basically being ubiquitous for finance teams around the globe, proprietary software holds their own in the marketplace, and web-based products are building some exciting momentum.  Furthermore, some data sources, like Dynamics NAV, offer native dashboard functionality, even if they are typically limited in their capabilities because data visualizations are not the primary output of the software.  The best modern dashboard tools are arguably going to be browser-based because the accessibility allows you to design from anywhere with an internet connection.  A web-based solution has become the popular choice in the BI tech realm.

Web-based solutions are definitely the popular kids on the BI technology playground these days due to their accessible and flexible nature as a platform for today’s businesses, manufacturing and distribution or not.  If you’re responsible for overseeing a number of distribution centers, warehouses, and/or plants, some on-premises employees and some remote staff, and/or with executives wanting a web platform, you have more independent software vendor (ISV) options for browser-based dashboards on the market, hosted in the Cloud or on-site, delivering the same drill-down functionality, KPIs, and layout choices.  And this flexibility has extended to mobile dashboard applications that enable you to access dashboards wherever you have your mobile device.  Mobile data visualizations typically can only show you one KPI at a time because of the screen size.  That said, some solutions provide the ultimate hybrid experience with Excel, web, and mobile dashboards.
Some offerings invite you to access your dashboards in more than one way.  There are also data visualization tools that are part of a complete suite of BI solutions, securely and fully integrated with financial report writing, budgeting, and data warehousing, sometimes discounted when you buy in a bundle.  Choosing a BI software suite translates to one team of sales, consulting, and support professionals for product success with NAV-driven analytics.  Dashboards can be especially effective in the decision-making process for your manufacturing and/or distribution organizations, bringing together actuals, budget figures, and data trajectories – all visualized.

There are plenty of ways that dashboards can have a positive impact on your manufacturing and/or distribution organization’s decision-making, so let’s look at a few examples.  You could create a data visualization on sales margin by product or product grouping, which enables to review margins by product.  Multi-year trend analysis is also very popular in dashboards.  You can also use Dynamics NAV and another data source to look at your manufacturing output by product and by facility, which empowers you to analyze the highest output for a specific product – and evaluate facility efficiency.  Another example could focus on the biggest sales margin by client or customer, so you can know who brings you the most profit with the little expense to your organization.  Dashboards are easy to set up and customize, while providing such valuable, actionable insight.

If you’re on the management team for a manufacturing or distribution company, dashboards enable you to be aware and stay competitive with business user friendly and accessible analytics.  It will be important to figure out your specific BI goals and compare with modern dashboard tools, so you can invest in the right solution for your team.  The best offering will be easy to use for business end users, but still powerful without any intervention from the IT department.  Solver would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Excel, web and/or mobile-based dashboards module stand-alone and as part of the comprehensive suite of BI modules for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities for manufacturing and distribution companies using Microsoft Dynamics NAV.