Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365 BC) and Power BI are both rapidly growing cloud solutions. Although these solutions can be used separately, they are very often used together as an integrated platform.
As executives drive their accounting teams to migrate to a modern cloud ERP system like D365 BC, senior leaders are, at the same time, hoping and expecting to gain world-class analysis with their new ERP. For that reason, evaluation teams not only have to review core ERP functionality to make sure their current and future needs are met, but they also must review which tools to use for dashboards, reporting, and planning.
Power BI is the natural data visualization dashboard choice for Dynamics 365 ERP customers. It comes both as an embedded option inside D365 BC and, with a full license, it can be used as a stand-alone web service that includes all kinds of other data as well. As with all flexible dashboard software, however, it can be complex, time-consuming and costly to develop Power BI report models with numerous dashboards and then tailor them to your business dimensions, including your chart of accounts.
This blog will focus on rapid deployment of Power BI dashboards for Dynamic 365 Business Central data, as well as several factors you may want to think about to ensure your executive’s expectations are met or exceeded when it comes to providing them with:
- Revenue Dashboards
- Expense Dashboards
- Variance Dashboards
- Exception Dashboards
- Trend Dashboards
- Balance Sheet Dashboards
- KPI Dashboards
- Benchmarking Dashboards
Why Use Stand-alone Power BI Dashboards to Compliment the Native Tools in Dynamics 365?
D365 BC’s embedded Power BI dashboards offer a few simple, pre-built templates, but, similar to almost any other cloud ERP system’s native or embedded dashboard options, it lacks the full flexibility a finance team usually requires when producing highly professional, automated graphical dashboards.
Here is a showcase that features more than a hundred dashboard examples, and which provides a general idea of the breadth and depth of capabilities many professional reporting tools offer to help you improve and democratize analysis for better, faster decisions in your business. You can also find additional ideas by trying these interactive Power BI dashboards.
Many D365 BC customers support a user’s graphical analysis needs through Excel because the software is already owned, users already know how to use it, and the interface is easy and flexible to build while maintaining the underlying formulas. However, there is a rapidly growing demand for cloud-based, best-of-breed dashboard tools like Power BI that offer a dynamic and secure user experience with rich, interactive charting and drill-down that provides a real-time and self-service reporting and analysis process.
How to Pick the Right Dashboard Solution for Dynamics 365 Business Central
Much can be written about the best and most affordable way to deploy Power BI. Most organizations find that delivering a rich and sustainable dashboard experience to their business and office of finance users requires more than just a Power BI license. These other components include:
- Pre-built financial dashboard templates that work out-of-the box, and that can be changed or copied to support special custom needs.
- Financial reporting and planning that compliments Power BI graphical dashboards. Here is more information about things to look for in professional reporting and planning
- A data warehouse or staging database to organize key D365 BC data and dimensions, with the added capability to include non-ERP data, which delivers a clean data model to Power BI. Read more about pre-built financial data warehouses here.
We will not go into details about dashboard software evaluation in this blog but, if you want some ideas, this blog highlights key areas many people want in a dashboard, while this interactive tool provides a simple way to compare and score vendors It also includes an ROI calculator to analyze the cost/benefit of alternative tools versus your current solution.
In short, the progressive executive and finance teams of the 2020s want dashboard solutions that are flexible; that are closely integrated with financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting functionality; and that provide quick time-to-value through template-based deployment.
What Is Considered a Quick Start with a Power BI Dashboard Solution?
Most D365 BC customers want their connected apps, including dashboards, to be cloud based. The questions that quickly come up include: how hard is it to go beyond the embedded Power BI version that already comes with D365BC, and integrate the full-blown Power BI solution with the ERP? How much cost and effort does it take to get key financial dashboards up and running?
The typical answer is weeks or months of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in services. Sometimes, the end result is static or the ability to maintain models is complicated and hard. This results in disappointing outcomes. However, Microsoft software partners like Solver, that work very closely with the Dynamics 365 Business Central solution and its partner channel, have developed pre-built integrations, as well as, out-of-the-box dashboards to resolve these challenges. For example, Solver’s QuickStart integration to Dynamics 365 Business Central helps a company get up and running in a single day, providing access to 50+ pre-built Power BI financial dashboards, as well as, optional financial reports and budget input templates. All of these turn-key options are available from a marketplace that continuously grows with new templates.
A note about tools that offer integrations to D365 BC:
While almost all dashboard vendors can claim to offer integration to popular ERPs like D365 BC, there can be big differences in the skill and effort involved to get such integrations ready and your financial data loaded into the reporting tool.
Generally, there are three categories of integrations, each with its own level of effort to get going:
- Usually gets you there: Generic integration tools that require a lot of skills and time to configure.
- Works but often with limitations: Connectors specifically built for D365 BC, but does not include an app to pre-map popular fields nor automatically configures dimensions and views in D365 BC to “light them up” for its API.
- Quickest and easiest: Connectors specifically built for D365 BC that include an app or script(s) that properly and automatically configures dimensions and views in D365 BC and exposes them to its API. This results in a “clean” data model that Power BI can easily consume. You can see an example of this type of integration here.
What Is a Cloud Dashboard Marketplace and Why Is It Important to Your Business?
While you are given a set of basic embedded Power BI dashboards with D365 BC, most companies end up designing their own graphical reports using the full Power BI license. However, offering modern and flexible functionality that quickly delivers the dashboards your managers and executives need is often a pipe dream. There is at least one problem: Somebody has to design all those dashboards and learn the underlying formula language (referred to as “DAX”). This can seem painful (including the time and cost involved), especially if your leaders are eager to get their dashboards sooner rather than later and without a big consulting bill attached.
However, there is a growing trend for cloud business solutions to offer pre-built financial dashboards that are downloadable and ready-to-use from each vendor’s marketplace. Typically, this involves a few clicks in order to install and refresh the report with your own data. The process is not that different from apps you download to your iPhone or Samsung phone. For example, in Solver’s Marketplace, users can download more than 50 pre-built financial dashboards that plug right into your Power BI web-service in addition to Profit & Loss Reports, Balance Sheets and other financial statements and planning input templates.
In other words, with true marketplace templates, you should be able to provide your managers with professional dashboards and reports the same day you install the reporting tool–and with no upfront formula design or Power BI model building! Now that’s a quick deployment!
For new or existing Dynamics 365 Business Central customers, the 2020s hold a lot of promise. Microsoft is continuously improving and updating their ERP system, while a rapidly growing Marketplace of third-party apps further enhances the benefits of D365 BC. Picking the right solutions, including for dashboards, can significantly improve your processes, save you time, and help drive faster and better decisions by putting the right information in front of your managers and executives when and where they need it.