You all know that I’ve been passionate about both Dynamics NAV & Dynamics CRM for years now right. I’ve seen both products (especially together) deliver some remarkable benefits to so many organisations in many sectors over the years and become truly mission critical to their operation very quickly.
Well I’m slightly embarrassed to say this but I have a new mistress, I’ve been lured from my previous loyalties by a bright young thing that’s getting me more excited that anything I’ve had my hands on in a very long time.
her its name is Power BI, the more I use it the deeper I’m getting besotted. It’s answering needs I’ve had for a very long time and making me unbelievably happy.
So enough of the mistress analogy, I must put that midlife crisis behind me – what is Power BI, why is it so exciting and what should you be using it for?
What is Power BI
Well I would describe it as the newish brand name for Microsoft’s family of Business Intelligence tools Its not actually one product, with for instance one element based within Office 365 and another alternative the locally installable Power BI desktop for instance.
What they are all good at (once you get past a couple confusing differences in capability unfortunately) is creating reporting dashboards from the data within your Dynamics systems. For me this has always been a weakness of Dynamics NAV (not for Dynamics CRM which has had them built in for a few years now) in that it didn’t have a way to take display KPI information clearly and directly. Power BI now fills that gap.
That means that you, and I do mean you, this is capable of use by any end user with just a few minutes training, can quickly create a single page that displays all the important numbers you want to know and it updates them as often as you define it needs to.
Once you’ve got what you need then you can also publish that dashboard up to Office 365 and share with your colleagues. From there everyone can see those key performance indicators and know what’s going on.
Even better visit your local electrical store, buy one of those incredibly cheap large screen TV’s and stick those KPI’s on the office wall for everyone to see. You think I’m joking? Well come to our offices and you’ll so no less than eleven around the place just this purpose so far. You know what, it works. Once people know their performance is on public view they try harder. No one and I mean no one, wants to be bottom of the chart!
Why is it so exciting?
Wish I had a tenner for every customer that complained that their system is good at managing the operational aspect of their business but is rubbish at giving them the information they need when they need. Its been the number one complaint as measured by all the research, for as long as I can remember. Let’s face it, none of the old report generator or editor tools have been remotely end user friendly especially for occasional users.
So PowerBI is the first reporting tool that I can truly see everyone being able to use and produce smart presentable results. Yes really! I do mean pretty much everyone. If it achieves a fraction of that, it’s a game changer for most businesses.
Why am I writing this now? After all it been around for a while hasn’t it? Well two reasons. The first is that over the last couple of week I’ve had the chance to show it to a whole group of customers. It’s the first reporting tool I’ve ever done that with (and I’ve done a few over the years) and within a couple of days heard from no less than three who’ve not just tried it but got results from it. The rest by the way are clammering for my colleagues to get them started.
What should you be using it for?
Every business manager has some number that they use to judge how things are going. Order intake is one of the favourites. Lost sales as in the items customers tried to order but you couldn’t supply is another. The percentage of orders you supply on time in full is also there. Scrap and yield rates in manufacturing are key as are pick rates in distribution. Coming onto the finance area then cash collections values plus the amount disputed or more than 30 days overdue are numbers I would want everyone aware of. Build a dashboard using PowerBI and put these or others that mean something to your business, in front of everyone all the time.
So what I’ve actually done is gone from a bit of a Ménage à trois with Dynamics NAV & CRM to a Ménage à Quatre by inviting in Power BI. Oh dear now I’ve left out Office 365, what’s a five-way called?
I strongly suspect all Dynamics users will be joining me. Maybe that’s a KPI I should dashboard? I’ll put money on it being in the 90%+ range pretty quickly.