Should you create reports using your Microsoft Dynamics data directly in SQL? Or should you use FRx or Management Reporter? Or how about one of the many reporting tools available for Dynamics? Better yet, consider a business intelligence solution for your reporting needs.
With business intelligence (BI), you can design reports right on your screen and manipulate the columns and rows and scales, remove outliers—generally work out what you want to see by dragging and dropping elements. BIO business intelligence was written especially for Microsoft Dynamics and, with its deep connectors, can get you up and running in no time. Here are 7 reasons to consider using BI to meet reporting needs:
1. Content. With BIO’s extensive content, even your non-technical people can write and run reports, easing the IT bottleneck and reducing the time you need to wait for new reports to zero. With pre-programmed reports that can be modified to suit your needs, pre-configured cubes, pre-defined hierarchies, and pre-programmed calculations, creating reports becomes a matter of what you need to see and not what you need to know to get it programmed.
2. Consistency. If everyone is using the same data, the same terminology, the same hierarchies, the same calculations, and the same periods, your results will be consistent and reconcilable from one user to another. You can save and share reports that you create so everyone will be working, literally, from the same page.
3. Access. You can run any report on demand. You’ll have the most current data for decision making. Or you can run reports for any period you want so you can make accurate comparisons. BIO will show only the data the user has access to so you won’t have to wait for unnecessary processing.
4. Flexibility. When the person who requests the report looks at the finished product, he or she is likely to say, “Oh, this is great! Can you just add another column for…?” If this request then has to go back to IT, it could be days or even weeks before the new report is produced. Sure, you could pre-plan the report, do mock-ups, pull together a focus group to evaluate the mock-up, send it for programming, and cross your fingers that you’ve thought of everything. But there is usually somebody who wants a “little tweak” that can cause lengthy delays and rework. With BIO, it takes minutes and a few clicks and, in most cases, the person who needs the information can produce it himself.
5. The need to know more. In the same vein, sometimes reports generate more questions than they answer. “How come this number is so big?” “Customer X bought only this much in the past 3 months? I thought they were one of our top 10 customers—what happened?” “The Eastern region has more revenue than any other region—why is their contribution so low?” Trying to get the answers through static reports can mean cross-referencing to other reports and a lot of reconciliation work. But with BIO, questions like these can be answered on the spot by drilling down or pulling up related data that is not contained in the report.
6. Visualization. BI tools allow you to change your view of the data at a click. You can change from a tabular view of the data to a graphical view. Don’t like the graph? Change the x-axis or the y-axis or change from a bar chart to spark lines. Or put year-over-year results on the same graph to track seasonality. Try adding margins to your revenue graphs or inventory balance to your overtime reports. Or change the periods. Are outliers skewing the results? Eliminate them. Want to look at a subset of the data? “Lasso” the data and home in on just those data points. Look at 3 or 4 or even 5 variables at the same time using colors, shapes, and size to represent variables that can’t be accommodated in tables or 2-dimensional graphics. Graphical visualizations aren’t just pretty—used properly, they can be a virtual light bulb in your data discovery.
7. Consolidations. This data is in this system and that data is in that system, but sometimes it makes sense to look at consolidated data. Consolidations of multiple Dynamics databases or Dynamics data with non-Dynamics data in BIO make it easy for your non-technical user to consolidate the data of multiple subsidiaries or financial and operational data.
But keep in mind, BI is not just a reporting tool—it’s a whole lot more. Business intelligence lets you look at your data visually and manipulate it “at the speed of thought.” It lets you discover trends, outliers, correlations, and anomalies. You can dig deeper, consolidate, aggregate, translate, and calculate. You can use BI to alert you to necessary action, help you make better, more timely decisions, and share your discoveries with the right people through dashboards, PowerPoint presentations, SharePoint, web parts, and, yes, reports. Think about BI for you next report—think about BIO.
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By Sandi Forman of BIO Analytics, Corp.,