Innovate Your Reporting Part 1: “Playlists”

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Nils Rasmussen
Top Reasons Why Most Companies Are Far From Business Intelligence Nirvana


What happened to the vision of the easy, self-service, one-stop shop business intelligence (BI) capabilities that countless companies across the world have been seeking? After years of investing in new ERP systems, including cloud-based solutions, home-grown data warehouses and even sexy, new dashboard tools, the vast majority of companies are far from BI Nirvana.

The sad truth is that most organizations I talk to have 5 to 7 different reporting tools between their ERP solution, CRM, Payroll, Web site data and other systems. It does not make it better that more than 90% of them do all- or a majority of their budgeting and forecasting processes in manual Excel sheets. Oh, and then the sales team or certain other departments have sometimes implemented an analytics tool to provide them with dashboards and easy ad-hoc analysis. This will often fix short term pain, but it will not take you to BI Nirvana. In some organizations, the IT department has spent a year or more to build a so-called “enterprise data warehouse”, often with only some of their data sources included, such as General Ledger data and Sales data, and most of the time with IT-dependent report writers, OLAP cubes or pivot tables as the only means of reporting on the data.

companiesfarfrombinirvanaSo, what is the status of companies’ BI capabilities as of today? The bad news is that it is far from the BI Nirvana that managers have been dreaming about for years now after watching slick demos from one BI software vendor after another. But, the good news is that things are getting better. You only need to step back and compare your BI capabilities today with what they may have been in 2005, 1995 or, if you were even around in….1985. Chances are that your information workers now have more and better reporting tools available to them. Of course, today you have more data sources than ever, and market dynamics change faster than at any time in history. So, somewhere along the way, business users took matters into their own hands and the result was that…..Excel became the world’s most popular report writer and budgeting solution. But, although Excel is quite user friendly, extremely flexible and familiar to almost every business user on the planet, it was never meant to be an enterprise-wide BI tool. So, how do one get to this utopian place called BI Nirvana? You might need “a little help from my friends” as Joe Cocker sang in his popular rendition of the original Beatles song. In other words, do your homework, talk to your friends both inside and outside your company and educate yourself. Although every organization should stake out their own BI journey based on their needs, available data sources, internal talent, platform strategies (i.e. database type, cloud versus on premise, etc.) and more, a few things seem to fall into a common formula for BI success:

1) Strive for a single BI solution that covers all or most of these: Reporting (financial and operational), budgeting and forecasting, dashboards/analysis and data warehousing. If some key functionality is not covered by the BI suite you select, then make sure it integrates directly with a powerful 3rd party add-on for whatever functionality is missing in the suite. The last thing you need are more reporting tools in your company….so make sure the BI suite eliminates or reduces the need for your other tools.

2) Don’t ignore the power, flexibility and familiarity of Excel. But it should not be a manual Excel model, it should be an Excel add-in that allows you to build reports and input forms that dynamically retrieves and even saves data to a database. Oh, and it should be web-enabled or be able to convert the Excel templates to dynamic, browser-based templates for easy end-user access.

3) Repeat after me: “I promise not to implement more proprietary BI tools with unfamiliar user interfaces and that also may require all my end users to install client software or use Terminal Server or Citrix to access a remote desktop”. Using cloud, hosted or on premise architecture is not the most critical question. What you need to empower your growing number of end users that are seeking BI Nirvana is a single, self-service, web-based BI portal where each user can run reports and drill down to answer their questions without bothering IT or the accounting department, they can enter their budgets and they can discover trends and answer Who? Where? What? questions in interactive dashboards.

4) Finally, and this is a no-brainer….your BI capabilities are only as good as the data available in your BI suite. So, if you don’t have a well-functioning data warehouse yet to give you that sought-after, single version of the truth, start planning for one. You are going to need it if you want to get to BI Nirvana. It is an exciting road ahead for organizations seeking a competitive edge through BI excellence, even if you meet a few bumps along the way. Vendors like Solver with its BI360 solution as well as several other software providers with modern BI suites are continuously investing to help companies’ BI visions come true. Good luck on your journey!

Matthew Felzke
Dashboard Solutions for Microsoft Dynamics AX

Dashboards for the win!  This article is going to discuss the most popular tools in the Business Intelligence world for Microsoft Dynamics AX users, focusing on features and functionalities.

If you follow this blog, you know that we write a lot about dashboards – and it’s not an accident.  According to a recent study on CFOs’ priorities in terms of technology, results indicated that dashboards, scorecards, and performance management solutions are #1 for financial executives.  In the modern business world, decision-making needs to be quick, easy, and smart for professionals across an organization.  Dashboards are exactly that.  To be more specific, dashboards or data visualizations are charts, graphs, and scorecards that employ key performance indicators (KPIs) to illustrate business successes, opportunities, and trajectories in the data, whether you’re looking at it organization-wide, departmentally, or in the context of a project.

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Matthew Felzke
Web-based Reporting and Dashboards for SAP Business One

This article will discuss the brand new product category of web-based financial reporting portals for SAP Business One customers as a solution to multiple business problems.

A major evolution in the Business Intelligence (BI) marketplace, particularly for financial reporting, is starting to make ripples, and you should be in the know.  Broadly speaking, this evolution is a response to multiple organizational workflow problems, with a focus on business user friendliness, flexible access, and collaboration.  More specifically, SAP Business One (SAP B1) users should pay attention to web-based report libraries as they will create a new normal of streamlined, modern, and easy-to-use platform for next level financial reporting.  As all kinds of software continue to migrate to web interfaces, so has the BI realm.  In this article, I will explore the new product category emerging for SAP B1 customers – and the modern business problems solved by a web-based reporting and dashboards with collaborative features for discussion and analysis.

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Matthew Felzke
Dashboards for Microsoft Dynamics NAV

When it comes to Business Intelligence, Dashboards are the Most Valued Player these days. This article will explore the features and options, so  you can pick the best Dynamics NAV dashboard solutions for your company’s goals.

Hopefully, you’re aware by this point: dashboards are leading the Business Intelligence (BI) tool marketplace in terms of demand.  Results from 2013’s Financial Executive International CFO Technology study by Gartner proved that dashboards, scorecards, and performance management solutions are the top priority for CFOs.  Today’s fast-paced business demands require that decision-making be user friendly and accessible for all levels of the company – and dashboards or scorecards make company performance analysis straightforward.  More specifically, dashboards are business intelligence visualizations of company data.  Dashboards are scorecards, graphs, and charts that utilize key performance indicators (KPIs) to demonstrate your organization’s trends, successes, and challenges – either collectively, departmentally, or focused on a project.

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Matthew Felzke
Dashboard Options for Dynamics and Other ERPs

Dashboards are the most relevant BI investment for financial professionals today.  This article will explore the functions and features of some leading solutions for a better understanding of what product will best meet the needs of your company.

As this blog has already reported, Dashboards are the big man on campus these days.  More specifically, dashboards are the number one Business Intelligence (BI) product for CFOs today.  Talking with BI customers in the business world, I hear it all the time.  One professional in particular spoke about needing fancy-looking dashboards for his executive team.  He told me, “I generate reports regularly, and they are still very valuable, but when it comes to presenting data to the executives, they want to see dashboards.”  He went on to tell me how dashboards are easy for busy professionals to read and analyze quickly.

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Matthew Felzke
Dashboards for Dynamics GP

Dashboards are an in-demand Business Intelligence tool because they are both brains and beauty.  This article will lay out how to pick the right Dynamics GP Dashboards tool to meet organizational needs.

According to a recent study from Software Advice, a company that reviews BI tools, dashboards and scorecards topped the list of desired tools of prospective BI software buyers, which makes a lot of sense.  In the fast-paced nature of business today, decision-making is simpler when utilizing dashboards or graphical scorecards to analyze company performance.  Simply, dashboards are a business intelligence tool used to analyze company data in a visual format.  More specifically, they are charts, graphs, and scorecards using key performance indicators (KPIs) to showcase the trends and trajectories of the entire enterprise, a particular department, or even an operational project.

 

The name, dashboard, derives from vehicle consoles of the same name – and they are accordingly very similar, telling the story of a company visually.  However, business dashboards are equipped for interaction and adjustment, as well as drill-down and drill-to capabilities to analyze the detailed input information to make decisions for future business.  When considering a dashboards solution, there are a handful of types and technologies to explore and understand before settling on an enhancement to Dynamics GP.

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Nils Rasmussen
Big Data Analysis and Online Marketing Costs

Have you ever wondered what the cost is for your company’s web marketing efforts? In the following paragraphs we will look at an example where we analyze web site traffic and mix this data with the online marketing expenses tracked in the accounting system.

The first thing you would do is to download web site traffic data from your Web Analytics service provider. For example, this can be Google Analytics. If you plan to do this very often, you would connect to Google Analytics using a web service. If not, you can also download the data to e.g. an Excel file, and then import it to your data warehouse where you combine it with the general ledger data, where marketing expenses are tracked.

If you own BI360, you would typically use the BI360 data warehouse as the data store where you load the web statistics data and the general ledger data used in the examples in this blog.

Once you have the data in the data warehouse, you can use the BI360 report writer to create reports that combine the web statistics and marketing expenses to calculate metrics such as Average Marketing Costs per Web Visitor, and then display the result as a formatted report or a dashboard.

Web Statistics – Report

Referral Site Analysis

Solver at Business Intelligence & Analytics for Healthcare Conference & Exhibition, July 11-12, 2011

See us at the Business Intelligence & Analytics for Healthcare Conference & Exhibition, July 11-12, 2011, San Diego, CA.

Solver and InterDyn Remington will show how to use the BI360 software suite to manage data to drive quality, financial performance & accountable care.

An increasing number of healthcare provider and payer organizations are looking to business intelligence and analytics technologies to deal with the challenges of health reform, including meeting Meaningful Use requirements and creating sustainable accountable care organizations (ACOs). This Conference, which builds on our groundbreaking event in 2007, focuses on innovative applications of business intelligence and analytics, data mining, data warehousing, data integration and decision support to facilitate quality measurement and reporting and pay for performance initiatives, improve clinical outcomes, increase efficiency, reduce costs, increase revenues, deal more effectively with government regulation, increase patient satisfaction, enhance organizational agility and promote greater transparency and organizational information sharing by dismantling the silos of data typically found within healthcare organizations.

Providers and payers will face an avalanche of data in the coming years. This conference will provide detailed and practical instruction on how to effectively manage and use this data to provide the right information at the right time to the right people for optimal decision-making.