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Hal Weinberger, HalW Consulting

Data Visualizations – BI360 Cloud, Power BI and all that Jazz


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A picture is worth a thousand words.

Back in the stone age, in my first job out of school, I was tasked with preparing the month-end reporting package for our management team. The reports were produced from a mainframe financial system. No, they were not carved on cave walls. We had just received a stand-alone plotter. I manually copied data from the mainframe reports into the plotter and produced simple sales trend graphs in the form of line charts. They were a hit and I was a hero…

Fast forward to 2019

Now we expect to be able to include charts and graphs with our reports. We expect to be able to slice and dice our data and present the results visually. What tools are available and which is best for a given situation? This can best be answered with an example using BI360 Cloud and Microsoft Power BI.

BI360 Cloud is a comprehensive Corporate Performance Management (CPM) system, supporting Reporting, Budgeting, and Business Intelligence. It enhances the core capabilities of ERP and CRM offerings from Microsoft, Sage, SAP, NetSuite, and others. Power BI is the industry leading suite of business analytics tools for data analysis and shared insights. Together they provide the best of breed solution set for reporting, analytics, and data visualization.

Example
A typical Sales report could include a listing of Product Line Sales summarized by customer and product line. A nice addition could be pie charts at the top of the report, showing sales in both dollar and quantity terms. The pie charts instantly convey the important information, while the report provides the underlying detail. This is a core capability with BI360 Cloud, which uses Microsoft Excel™ for report design. We simply leverage Excel’s excellent charting capability. However, the result is a static report.

But, when we combine BI360 Cloud with Power BI, the result is far better!

Let’s say you want to create an interactive dashboard and make it available to the company managers (see illustration below). This could include a bar chart for product line sales, a line chart showing the overall sales trend over time, and a map showing sales by location. It’s interactive because you can select a product line on the bar chart, and have the sales trend chart and the map reflect the selected product line. This is a powerful, visual presentation of the overall sales picture. And it provides an understanding, at a detailed level, of which product line is selling, how the picture changes over time, and where sales are taking place.

Don’t forget: A picture is worth a thousand words!

Power BI can draw data from various sources and provide a powerful tool for analysis. The challenges with Power BI are generally in the technical aspects of collecting the data, linking into Power BI, and organizing it in Power BI (i.e. building the data model). Once this is done, the slicing and dicing and associated data visualizations are relatively straight forward.

The combination of BI360 Cloud with Power BI makes these challenges trivial. The data from your ERP, and other systems, is already in BI360 Cloud. The BI360 Cloud Connector provides a straight-forward link to selected data in Power BI. The connector provides the data in Power BI’s preferred data model – so you need not worry about building your own data model. Since the user sees the same thing in Power BI and BI360 Cloud, life becomes easy. You can still use additional data sources, such as Excel, to provide even more analysis and visualizations as illustrated below.

In summary, the combination of BI360 Cloud with Power BI provides a best-of-breed solution for reporting, budgeting, data analytics, and visualization.

Please feel free to contact me for more information. I’m halw@halwconsulting.com.  Or visit www.HalWConsulting.com.

by Hal Weinberger, HalW Consulting

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