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This article explores your modern options for budgeting and forecasting software that works with your Microsoft Dynamics AX system to give you stronger planning abilities.

When budgeting, forecasting, or modeling for your company, you’re inevitably going to require projections and actual historical financials in order to craft a data-driven plan for managing organizational activities in the coming year.  There are quite a few software solutions for Microsoft Dynamics AX customers that can improve your budgeting process, whether you build one yourself, rely on native Dynamics AX functionality, or a third party solution.  This article will round up some of your best options for modern budgeting and forecasting functionality for Microsoft Dynamics AX.
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This article will discuss the functional and flexible KPI analytics to think about when selecting a powerful, business user friendly retail dashboard solution for your Microsoft Dynamics AX experience.

Is it surprising to you that dashboards are the number one solution in the Business Intelligence (BI) marketplace?  Probably not. Gartner’s 2013 study on Financial Executive International CFO Technology reported that dashboards, scorecards, and performance management solutions are the number one priority for executives today.  The modern retail business moves faster than ever, and dashboards offer easy-to-read, quick-to-digest data analysis.  More specifically, dashboards are charts, graphs, and scorecards that showcase organizational trends, successes, and challenges with key performance indicators (KPIs), whether focusing on a project, a department, or looking at the whole organization.
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Data integrations can be confusing, and they make a difference when picking the right BI tool.  This article will discuss the difference between live reporting for Microsoft Dynamics versus data warehouse or OLAP cube integrations.

Data, data, data.  These days, companies are swimming in it.  Transactional and operational information is a required aspect of conducting business these days – for many reasons, but perhaps, especially when it comes to making important decisions about the future of the company.  Business Intelligence (BI) involves analysis of enterprise data for understanding of trends and trajectories, successes and failures, as well as related planning or forecasting for the fiscal year.

Whether a company is using an OLAP cube or some sort of data warehouse, important company facts and figures, such as transactions, personnel information, and inventory, are used in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and BI tools like financial report writers, budgeting solutions, and dashboards.  When selecting which BI tool to use, an important question arises pretty early in the selection process: is it more advantageous to integrate live to and from ERP systems like Microsoft Dynamics, Sage, Acumatica, or SAP Business One, or to integrate to a BI data storage option?
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In looking for a budgeting solution to enhance what Dynamics NAV has to offer, there are several features to consider.  This article will lay out leading functionalities to consider, including easy and secure collaboration, with built-in business and accounting logic.

Budgeting within an Excel spreadsheet is perhaps sufficient when planning for a household or small business budget, especially because of the small amount of data, but growing organizations that are using Microsoft Dynamics NAV are starting to notice that a budgeting solution is a relevant option, especially as today’s software is able to invite collaboration into a much more streamlined process, moving way beyond built-in capabilities.  Company-wide budgeting and forecasting is an undeniable and unavoidable responsibility because management of money within the means of a corporation empowers growth and expansion.

When it comes to budgeting for any company, there are multiple entities, departments and/or groups with data to report to analyze and plan for the future.  Excel is the arguable standard bearer of spreadsheet software, but when it comes to simple and secure collaboration for multiple players, it can be a logistical nightmare.  However, most Dynamics NAV users already own Excel licenses, so the return on the investment for a budgeting solution might not be clear.  This blog will go about discussing the benefits of budgeting software options for Dynamics NAV – and tips to picking the right product for company needs.
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People often ask me about our focus on the mid-market. There’s no question this is our area of strength. We’ve always been committed to over-delivering for our partners and customers, most of which happen to be in the mid-market. While we have customers in the multi-billion dollar revenue range, and our BI360 solution can certainly address the needs of any-sized enterprise, we like the mid-market because we know we can out-perform the competition and over-deliver on world-class customer service.
Another reason we thrive in the mid-market is because that’s where we started. Even our old consulting-focused business in the past has always been in the mid-market. We started working with ERP systems and grew our partner channel, all of which are pretty much focused on mid-market and the Microsoft platform.
Lastly, mid-market organizations traditionally haven’t needed—and probably couldn’t have afforded—a full-blown business intelligence solution. When I say business intelligence, I define that as financial reporting, consolidations, operational reporting, budgeting, forecasting, dashboards and data warehousing. We’ve always seen this as a competitive advantage, because our BI360 solution does provide all of these capabilities, and is priced for the mid-market enterprise.
As we continue to develop cutting-edge BI solutions for the mid-market, we’ll also continue to expand and serve those larger customers who want a highly flexible, cost-effective BI solution, some of them are currently using legacy solutions like Hyperion and Cognos and looking for a more modern platform that their business users can manage without constant IT or consulting assistance. But truth be told, we’ll focus on listening to our customers’ needs and develop BI360 accordingly, always thinking about ease-of-use when we develop new functionality, because that’s where we’ve built our foundation from the beginning!
 

In most mid-sized and larger organizations with multiple divisions, classic BI tools have never been good at satisfying both local division needs (detailed reporting, local budget models, etc.) as well as corporate HQ needs. In the screenshot below, you can see an interesting methodology where a company can install the BI360 data warehouse (DW) at each division as well as at corporate HQ and then transfer whatever interesting detail/summary they want from the local DWs to the central DW. Historically, this would often not be a feasible model when companies had to build homegrown, custom data warehouses from scratch, because it could get very expensive. With a pre-configured data warehouse like the BI360 DW however, it is very fast and low cost to install it anywhere in the organization where a data mart or data warehouse is needed. There are many other benefits with this multi-level DW architecture, including the ability to then use the same report writer, budgeting and dashboard (like BI360) technology everywhere, thus reducing training cost, license cost and more.

Smartlist is a very popular query tool used by all Microsoft Dynamics GP customers worldwide. It has hundreds of useful SQL Views to allow GP users to filter and retrieve transactions from different tables in the GP database. BI360 now integrates to Smartlist views to provide an almost unlimited number of opportunities for business users to drill down from BI360 financial reports and into GP without having to create their own drill-down queries. For example, a department head can run a Profit & Loss report for his or her department, notice a budget variance on a row (e.g. Office Supplies) and with one click, drill down into the Accounts Payable transaction in GP and retrieve the vendor’s Purchase Order and see each line item on the purchase order. Not only does this provide instant answers to business questions without having to bother accountants and power users,  but it also does not require the user to have any knowledge of the Dynamics GP application, as both the drill down and the resulting view of the underlying transactions all happen from with the BI360 Excel-based report interface. 
For a detailed example of the BI360 integration to Smartlist, please contact Solver and ask for the white paper “Integrating BI360 to a Smartlist view”.
The BI360 Drill To function is available for all BI360 ERP integrations, including Microsoft Dynamics AX, NAV, GP, SL, Sage MAS 500 and X3.  and Epicor Prophet 21. This document provides a detailed example of how to integrate a Smartlist SQL view with the powerful Drill To feature in BI360 (version 3.5 and later) for the purpose of setting up a drill down rule that let a user drill down from a Profit & Loss report and all the way into sub-ledger (here: Accounts Payable) transactions in the GP database.

 
 

We had full attendance for a Microsoft World Event hosted by Solver, Inc. in Gothenberg & Stockholm, Sweden. The seminar’s focus was on “SQL Server 2012 – Master Data Services a tool for managing master data“.
Most organizations recognize the problems with inconsistent supplier, customer and product records. Despite advanced BI solutions often lack the management of common structures, what is the core of the master data.
Thanks to Master Data Services in the new SQL 2012 ™, we control the master data and can rely on reports, cubes and thus we increase the reliability of the BI solution. The seminar is intended for people who work as a developer, architect or modeler of BI / DW solutions and to learn more about MDS in SQL 2012 SQL Server 2012 – Master Data Services a tool for managing master data
Contact us for information on future events or if you have any questions [email protected].
 

Presenter: Magnus Wernersson