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Solver QuickStart - Power BI Dashboard Templates for Dynamics 365 Finance

Dynamics 365 Finance (D365 Finance) and Power BI are both rapidly growing cloud software applications from Microsoft. Although these technologies can be used independently, customers are increasingly using them together as an integrated platform.

As executives drive their accounting teams to migrate to a modern cloud ERP system like D365 Finance, senior leaders are at the same time expecting to gain the ability to perform world-class analyses with their new ERP. For that reason, evaluation teams not only have to review core ERP functionality to make sure current and future needs are met, but they also must determine the tools to use for dashboards, reporting, and planning.

Power BI has become the world’s most popular business intelligence (BI) solution and it is the natural data visualization dashboard choice for financial data from Dynamics 365. It is typically deployed as a stand-alone web service from Microsoft with companies often including other kinds of non-financial data as well. As with any flexible dashboard software, however, developing Power BI models can be complex, time-consuming, and costly, especially when building numerous dashboards and tailoring them to your D365 Finance business dimensions and data. What’s more, if the Power BI models are not wisely built it can be a daunting task to maintain them when your chart of accounts grows or when you make other changes or additions in Dynamics 365.

Most people that have implemented dashboard models for financial data know that it can take hundreds of hours of integration and design time before managers can enjoy their “shiny” dashboard gadgets.

This blog will focus on rapid deployment of Power BI dashboards for Dynamics 365 Finance, as well as several factors you may want to think about to ensure your executives’ 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 Finance provides a limited version of Power BI that has been embedded with the ERP user interface. This format offers “native” dashboards and comes with a few simple, pre-built financial templates, but much like almost any other cloud ERP system’s native or embedded dashboard options, it lacks the complete flexibility that a management team usually requires when producing highly professional, automated graphical dashboards that can combine their ERP data with other important data sources.

Here is a link to a showcase that features more than a hundred dashboard examples. It provides a general idea of the capabilities in both breadth and depth that many professional reporting and analysis tools offer. It can also help you improve and democratize analyses for better, faster decisions in your business. Additional ideas can be found by trying these interactive Power BI dashboards.

Solver QuickStart - Power BI Dashboard Templates for Dynamics 365 Finance

Solver QuickStart – Power BI Dashboard Templates for Dynamics 365 Finance

Many Dynamics 365 customers support their 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 and that provides real-time, self-service reporting and analysis processes.

How to Pick the Right Dashboard Solution for Dynamics 365 Finance

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 does require 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 complement 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 Dynamics 365 data and dimensions, with the added capability to include non-ERP data in order to deliver a comprehensive, 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 other 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 and benefit of alternative tools versus your current solution.

In short, 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 for Dynamics 365 Finance?

Most Dynamics 365 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 native visualization tools that already come with D365 Finance, and to integrate a best-of-breed tool like Power BI with their ERP? How much cost and effort does it take to get key financial dashboards up and running?

The typical answer: Weeks or months of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in services. Sometimes, the completed integration is static and the ability to maintain data models is complicated and hard. This often results in disappointing outcomes. However, Microsoft software partners like Solver, that work very closely with the Dynamics 365 Finance solution and its partner channel, have developed pre-built integrations, a data warehouse and out-of-the-box dashboards to solve these challenges. For example, Solver’s QuickStart integration to Dynamics 365 Finance helps a company get up and running in a single day, providing access to more than 50 pre-built Power BI financial dashboards, as well as, additional financial reports and budget input templates. All these turn-key options are available from a marketplace that continuously expands with new templates.

A note about tools that offer integrations to Dynamics 365 Finance:

While almost all dashboard vendors can claim to offer integrations to popular ERPs like D365 Finance, there can be big differences in the skill and effort involved to get such integrations ready and your financial data loaded into the visualization tool.

Generally, there are three categories of integrations, each with its own level of effort during implementation:

  • 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 Finance, but do not include an app that configures dimensions and views in D365 Finance nor pre-maps to popular fields to “light them up” for its API.
  • Quickest and easiest: Connectors specifically built for D365 Finance that include an app or script(s) that properly and automatically configure dimensions and views in D365 and expose 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 Dynamics 365 Finance, most companies end up designing their own graphical reports using the stand-alone 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 challenge that must be overcome: Somebody must design all those dashboards and learn the underlying formula language referred to as “DAX”. This can be painful, especially when you consider the time and cost involved. More so if your leaders are eager and want their dashboards sooner rather than later and without a big consulting bill attached.

These days 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 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.

Solver QuickStart - Power BI Financial Dashboard Categories for Dynamics 365 Finance

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!

Summary

For new or existing Dynamics 365 Finance customers, the 2020s hold a lot of promise. Microsoft is continuously improving and updating their ERP system, while a rapidly growing Appsource marketplace of third-party apps further enhances the benefits of D365 Finance. Picking the right solutions, like data visualization tools for dashboards as an example, 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.

Photo taken from Shutterstock

This article will detail the effects of a commercial data warehouse for manufacturing and distribution organizations utilizing Microsoft Dynamics AX for their financials.

Data is the rightful buzzword for this era of business, perhaps especially for manufacturing and distribution organizations trying to meet their roadmap goals.  As data continues to grow in size and significance, data warehousing becomes a related task for modern business.  Even if you know a thing or two about data warehouses, you might have some questions or curiosities about them and how they relate to your manufacturing and/or distribution analytical processes.  Who manages a data warehouse? Are they like anything besides an OLAP cube?  At what point should a manufacturing and/or distribution corporation install one?  Cloud or on-premise?  How do we set up a data warehouse?  As a manufacturing or distribution Microsoft Dynamics AX customer, you likely have at least one of these questions.  This article will do the work of answering some of the more frequently asked questions, so you can more clearly see how data warehousing can be a solution for data management objectives with Microsoft Dynamics AX.
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This article will focus on alternative report writers for Dynamics AX users who share common Management Reporter (MR) issues.

MRAs a regular subscriber to several Business Intelligence (BI) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) user groups, I’ve come across common issues regarding Management Reporter (MR) for those using Dynamics AX. In today’s business world, a modern, dynamic financial reporting tool is extremely important to making smart business decisions while developing your company and brand. This article will discuss the options for investing in a new reporting tool to expand your organization’s Microsoft Dynamics AX experience.

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This article will discuss the process of preparing for a successful dashboard implementation plan.

Photo taken from Shutterstock.

Photo taken from Shutterstock.

There is power in storytelling. As humans, we find purpose in moving people to do great things. We use stories to make sense of things whether it’s giving your friend advice or explaining a business concept to your coworker. Well-designed dashboards tell a meaningful story with data in the form of charts, graphs, and scorecards that exhibit trends, opportunities and challenges with key performance indicators (KPIs) for your organization. Many software implementations can be difficult, and only a few companies today achieve “perfect” software implementations on their first try. If you are reading this article because your company recently purchased a dashboard tool or if you are wanting to invest in one, don’t feel discouraged. I’m here to help. In this article, we will discuss preparing for your first dashboard implementation.
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This article will focus on dashboard tips and tricks that enable organizations to understand their company data better for stronger decision-making.

shutterstock_dashboards

Photo taken from Shutterstock.


All companies, no matter the size, benefit from Business Intelligence (BI). Of all BI tools, dashboards are often seen as a top priority especially to Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and other executives. According to Software Advice, a comparison site for Business Intelligence tools, dashboards, scorecards, and performance management software are priority number one for today’s financial executives. Dashboards provide quickly accessible, easily digestible analytics. It is an overview of your key information at a glance. Data Visualizations are graphs, charts, and scorecards that showcase data trends, opportunities, and challenges with key performance indicators (KPIs) for departments, projects, and/or the entire corporation. Making wise decisions is crucial for every organization because it heavily weighs on the company’s performance and condition, but just because an organization uses a dashboard, doesn’t mean it will be successful. In this article, we will focus on why a simple dashboard layout is typically the best kind of dashboard layout.
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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!

This article will zoom in on the impact of a data warehouse solution for manufacturing companies using Sage 100.

DW for Sage 300

Photo taken from Shutterstock.

Corporations use data to set and meet goals in order to stay on budget. A data warehouse is a powerful tool to organize and strengthen Business Intelligence (BI) analyses. A data warehouse (DW) is a multi-dimensional database that can store a large amount of data, collected from an array of sources within a company and utilized to guide management decisions. The information in data warehouses can be used for things such as scheduled budgeting, reporting, and dashboards or higher level performance data questions. They structure around the subject, so they focus the interaction through organizing by topic such as customer, product, or sales. As a manufacturing company using Sage 100, you may want to know the impact a data warehouse solution has for your company.
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This article will focus on Management Reporter (MR) and the options for investing in a new reporting tool.

Management Reporter

Management Reporter (MR) is an interactive reporting application that was designed for business professionals that can use the application to create, share, maintain, and view their financial statements. Microsoft offers MR for their ERP customers as a native General Ledger (GL) report writer in Dynamics AX, GP, and SL, almost aided by the more technical reporting tool, SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to solve ERP reporting problems. If you attended Microsoft’s Amplify conference in May this year, you probably have heard that MR will no longer have any major releases, but rather go into maintenance mode with only minor updates. In other words, the product is clearly heading for the sunset. Many companies who have used MR and its predecessor, FRx, are already looking for an alternative. This blog article will zoom in on the concerns regarding the impact of this change and the solutions to these concerns.
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In this article, data warehouses for Professional Services organizations will take center stage, with a focus on expanding Microsoft Dynamics AX analytical processes.

Data is increasingly more important in today’s business world, perhaps especially for Professional Services organizations.  As data informs decision-making at all levels, Professional Services organizations are striving to stay on budget and on track with projects, vendors, clients, and so forth, a data warehouse can be positively impactful in supporting Business Intelligence (BI) analyses.  If you’re new to data warehousing as a solution, you might have some questions.  This article will go about answering your questions about data warehousing as a Professional Services organization using Microsoft Dynamics AX.
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