KPI’s, Business Intelligence, Custom Reports and Datamarts are nothing new to Microsoft Dynamics GP, but the potential for user adoption and ease of access has improved significantly with the release and recent updates to Microsoft Power BI – Microsoft’s new cloud based dashboard and reporting tool. As a testament to Microsoft’s backing of this great tool, we’ve been told that Power BI will be embedded across the entire 2018 Microsoft Dynamics portfolio including Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM.
What is Business Intelligence?
Business Intelligence (BI) is a technology-driven process for analyzing data and presenting actionable information to help corporate executives, business managers and other end users make more informed business decisions.
Embedding Power BI Dashboards and KPIs in your organization
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be used as a defined measure to gauge the performance of how your business operations and strategies are being implemented and executed. Microsoft Dynamics GP can obviously give you the answers, but typically only if you are looking for them, and periodically additional outside information is needed to form a more complete story. Additionally, there are users that may be outside of your core GP team, who would love to gain access to AR, Sales and other KPI. PowerBI can be a good means to help expose such valuable insights. For example, Endeavour’s GP Bistro product connects GP with Dynamics 365 for Sales (CRM) and used Power BI within CRM to provide dashboards for sales by custom, AR aging by customer, and popular products sold. www.endeavour365.ca/gpbistro
Telling a story with KPIs and dashboards via Microsoft Power BI can serve to “keep a pulse” on such metrics, supporting an aggregation of information and a more frequent review of metrics by business users. This higher frequency (weekly, daily, even multiple times a day) of reviewing and taking action based on specific metrics relevant to each department is what is referred to as “embedding KPIs” within your organization. Before we look at user adoption in relation to your efforts to embed dashboards and KPIs, let’s take a quick look into what makes a great dashboard and set of KPIs in the first place.
What makes a great Power BI dashboard and set of KPIs?
Most KPI’s and related visualizations seen on a dashboard (graphics, numbers, pie charts, maps, bar graphs) represent specific metrics. Each metric can tell its own story and together with other related metrics on the same dashboard, can tell a broader and more complete story, including storytelling elements such as a timelines, cause and effect relationships, and a shared context.
Each KPI on your dashboard should follow the M-C-A method for KPIs; an acronym representing: Measurable, Common understanding and Actionable.
Great KPIs require all three (M-C-A) and typically start with a Measure represented by a $, # or %. The measures should be supported by a Common understanding around the source of the data, the timeline represented, the method of calculation, and the desired targets. Periodically our consultants will host a cross-functional team meeting to assist clients in reaching an internal agreement on specific measures such as % Available Inventory. Finally, great KPIs should be Actionable. Actionable refers to the underlying business commitment to keep a pulse on business performance and to hold specific people accountable for the results. Actionable also refers to the documented set of future actions that will be used to adjust the ‘people, processes or technology’ if the KPI targets are missed.
Supporting User Adoption of Embedded KPIs
Once the dashboards and KPIs are designed and published using Microsoft Power BI, there is a need to ensure that the business users are able to embrace and accept these dashboards within their daily practices. Without adoption, your team will be hard pressed to achieve any positive action and performance improvements if the dashboards are not used.
Borrowing from our Project Managers at Endeavour Solutions, user adoption is best supported by facilitating three key inputs: Knowledge, Attitude and Practice, or what has also been referred to as reaching the user’s head, heart and hands. Our lead Consultants and Project Managers often include a change management plan (communications and training) that strives to anticipate and address potential user gaps such as the following:
• Knowledge of what the change is, including the difference between the old and the new.
• Attitude towards the change, sometimes boiling down to either: WIIFM – “what’s in it for me”, or addressing any issues of ‘trust’ related to the questionable success of past changes.
• Ability to Practice, test, trial, and live through the change. From a Dashboard and Power BI perspective, this would involve a short training session and clear set of communications on what the KPI’s mean, how they are calculated, desired thresholds, future targets and the actions that can be taken to improve results.
Dashboards and KPIs serve to keep a view of specific tactics, keeping a scorecard on the actions and programs that are implemented to support your organization’s efforts and strategic goals. We’ve found that the ease of deployment, when using Microsoft Power BI, has been greatly increased, and thus reducing the cost of deploying Dashboards and KPIs within your organization.
As a next step, we recommend watching our Power BI Demo video (39min) accessed on-demand via our website at www.endeavoursolutions.ca/businessintelligence , then talking with your peers and broader business community around the types of KPIs (that are M-C-A) and dashboards that can help to improve your organization’s performance. In the video, we outline a project methodology as well as additional recommendations and next steps for you and your team.
Our consultants at Endeavour Solutions have a number of pre-defined KPIs, sample dashboards and a defined project methodology, that can help to accelerate the adoption and embedding of dashboards and KPIs as part of your next Microsoft Dynamics GP Business Intelligence project. www.endeavoursolutions.ca/about-us
With the power of the Cloud, remote desktop access, and increasingly refined processes we’ve found that more and more of our client work for Microsoft Dynamics GP (ERP) and Microsoft Dynamics 356 (CRM online) implementations, upgrades and integrating 3rd party products, has been completed remotely via secure connections from our offices rather than traveling onsite to our client’s location (in Atlantic Canada, Central Canada or USA).
So what’s changed? We did a quick poll among our Endeavour Solutions’ Canadian consultants in Toronto, Halifax, London and Montreal, the results were much along the lines of what you might expect, but do indicate a clear trend none the less.
1) Change in customer mindset
2) Improvement in technology and remote connections
3) A refinement of processes and the more predicable nature of consulting engagements
Now, most of the consultants interviewed, still stressed the need to meet with clients as part of their relationship building process, but some did concede that they’ve been able to build and maintain a number of strong long-term relationships via phone, email and webcam.
Change in customer mindset. The general consensus was that more and more clients, new and existing, were willing to have their Endeavour consultants work remotely. This was both due to their comfort and trust in working with Endeavour Solutions, as well as a general shift from what used to be a lot of collaboration and joint discovery of the issues and potential solutions, to more of a reliance on Endeavour as a trusted adviser and a more simplistic, get-it-done attitude. To sum it up, more and more clients are buying ‘results’ and are less concerned with paying for ‘bums in seats’. For example, on an eight-week project, one of our consultants traveled to the client’s office (Dynamics GP Michigan client) only once for an initial kick-off, and the rest of their Dynamics GP upgrade was performed remotely, including the implementation of a new manufacturing module along with the associated testing and training.
Technology Improvements. This is thanks to both better network stability and bandwidth that is seen across Canada and the majority of the United States. It’s also because of the greater prevalence and use of proven network security, firewalls and systems being extended to external stakeholders. Our technical consultants also stressed that the newer versions of Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016 and Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM were designed for browser use (web client) incorporating a modern Service Based Architecture which provides a streamlined means of supporting mobile, cloud and secure remote connectivity. This is further echoed in Microsoft’s “mobile-first, cloud-first” mantra in support of its efforts to help Dynamics Users “Re-invent [their] productivity and business processes” with mobile, cloud and applications such as Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016.
Refined Processes: Endeavour is now in its 27th year in business as a Microsoft Dynamics GP ERP (Great Plains), Microsoft Dynamics 365 for CRM and Microsoft Office 365, Azure & cloud consulting firm. With over 400 active clients coast to coast in Canada and internationally including the United States and South America, we have refined, updated and optimized a number of internal processes to help improve efficiency and predictability of customer engagements. These methodologies, used by our consultants in Toronto, Halifax, London and Montreal, with additional remote support for Edmonton Alberta and Ottawa Ontario, have also created an increased level of predictability and confidence in delivering projects on-time, on-budget and now remotely.
To learn more, contact Steve Ewing, Director Business Development @ Endeavour Solutions Inc.
We recommend GP 2016 for new clients and new installs. For existing clients and upgrades, we suggest that you hold off on upgrading till mid summer so that any ISV or add-in products can also be upgraded. Also worth nothing, as of the release date, Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016 does NOT support Microsoft Office 2010.
We suggest you consider upgrading to Office 365, which includes Office 2016. see Endeavour365.ca/overview for more info.
On a side note, Dynamics GP 2016 will also be referred to as Dynamics GP 2016 R1, as Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016 R2 may be released in the fall/winter of 2016. Some past articles may have referenced Microsoft Dynamics GP 2015 R3, which was renamed to Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016.
The Microsoft Dynamics consulting team at Endeavour Solutions is very excited with the new release of Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016 this spring. The general consensus is that it will be in May 2016, but Microsoft is already releasing content, tips, training, blog etc. to Microsoft Dynamics GP partners such as Endeavour, to assist clients with their upgrade projects. In the materials released thus far, there are a number of exciting functions which our team will review and announce shortly after the launch. From an upgrade perspective, see past posts on Dynamics GP upgrade preparation and system requirements that you should be aware of, and of which our consultants will advise you on. Contact Endeavour to start your plans Don’t have a Microsoft partner? or Need a new one? Visit
As a sneak peek, three of the new GP 2016 functions are:
HTML5 – Full functioning web front-end that works and resizes in any modern browser on TABLETS, PC and MAC – Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer. This aligns nicely with Microsoft’s mantra of “Cloud-first, Mobile-first” evolution for business applications.
The new GP 2016 web client will have a useful function called “search open windows” to find layered windows open within the browser.
All-In-One document viewers will help create a centralized dashboard for users. With the viewer you can view ‘quantity-in’ and ‘quantity-out’ transactions for one item in one window. Handy for transactions such as inventory management.
Office 365 Enterprise is more than just the latest in Microsoft Office 2016. It also includes:
= Advanced security, profiles, and cloud management
= Microsoft Exchange Online for e-mails
= Microsoft Azure Active Directory
= OneDrive for Business and SharePoint online
= Skype for Business for internal chat and video
= And yes Office 2016 for tablet, phone, PC and Mac (both local off-line full-install and online in the cloud)