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
First of all, yes you can have your on-premise server-based software hosted in a Dynamics GP Cloud.
There are a variety of flavours of “Cloud”. The two main ones that we recommend are Public Cloud (Microsoft Azure) or Private Cloud (Endeavour’s Cloud hosting partner).
For today’s insight, lets focus on the Private Cloud, as the Azure public cloud is currently geared more towards technical IT needs.
So, what is the difference between a private cloud and what you may have now?
It depends on what you have now. If your current Microsoft Dynamics GP or Dynamics CRM server-based software is already hosted off-site at a 3rd party data centre, the two may be roughly the same, just a different billing model (per user fee vs a list of monthly service fees) and potentially a different set of support services.
If your current Microsoft Dynamics GP or Dynamics CRM server-based software is hosted in an “IT closet” at your office, there is a good chance that moving to a Private Cloud may be quite a bit different – and well worth considering.
Some of the high level differences between cloud and internal hosting include:
For CRM web clients, the user experience would be roughly the same, though mobile access may be easier to setup via a private cloud.
If you are using the Dynamics GP desktop clients, you will need to RDP (remote desktop) into the server for the private cloud, many clients are already doing this rather than a full direct-connect.
For GP web client and remote access from a home office, this will be easier via a private cloud.
The firewall, anti-virus and other security measures are almost always better in a private cloud.
In terms of Risk, typically the private cloud is a safer bet.
Better disaster recovery, better back-up and better restore times.
Better physical security, better cyber-security and better fire protection.
Often a greater level of IT monitoring and loading of periodic windows and security patches.
Performance may also be better with cloud depending on the specifications and age of your current infrastructure
Does Private Cloud hosting cost more?
The short answer is “Maybe”, (see Endeavour Canadain GP Private Cloud Price)
The long answer is often a resounding “No”, once other costs/risks are considered. The top costs to consider are:
The IT support services that you use to monitor and maintain your IT infrastructure.
The back-up and off-site storage protocols that you have in place.
The ongoing physical security, cyber-security and protection efforts employed.
The level of Risk you are prepared to assume, the consequences and cost of a potential breach (ie Ransomware or theft of customer data)
If your IT team is highly skilled and are backed by a healthy budget, then a private cloud will often cost less, however if your IT team is running on a shoestring budget, or are seen as a sunk cost, then, yes a Private Cloud will be seen as costing more – but may be worth it in terms of reduced risk.
Beware of deals (e-mail SPAM) that are Too Good – To Be True (TG-TBT), as they probably are!
To Good to be True # 1 – Free migration, GP migration with no ISV’s, with free online training.
Migration excluding ISV’s (3rd party products) is of little use as most rely on ISV products.
Free online training is on CustomerSource. Endeavour has many free recorded webinars.
Training and support for your business processes and specific configuration is better via Endeavour Support.
To Good to be True # 2 – Low cost introductory Azure hosting. Our technical team has looked extensively at this.
When 24×7 performance and various consumption fee’s add up, costs are double the introductory fees.
Dynamics GP needs additional server(s) power and memory for remote desktop, for MR and for some of the more complex modules and ISV’s.
To Good to be True # 3 – Dynamics GP in the Cloud as an all-in subscription with no software maintenance.
This is smoke and mirrors unless you are 100% vanilla GP with no ISV and no significant configurations.
This scenario is essentially a net new implementation with high costs to configure to your needs, which I assume are already being met. (if you need help contact support)
With current Microsoft prices, moving from a perpetual concurrent user license to a per-named-user subscription license will cost more in the long run.
The Answer is: Embrace the Endeavour Private Cloud, for those clients where Cloud is a good fit.
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.
Excel has been a key part of Microsoft Office and continues to be enhanced in Office 216, part of Microsoft Office 365 (Office 365 Consulting in Canada). As a complement to Microsoft Dynamics, Office 365 and Excel 2016 not only provides additional functions and usability, but there are now dedicated mobile apps, browser-based online versions as well as the traditional Office desktop workhorse apps for Mac and PC.
The following are a quick Top 3 Excel Functions for Microsoft Dynamics
1. Excel templates in Dynamics CRM and GP.
There are a number of great ‘canned’ reports within Dynamics GP and CRM. Some of the more popular GP ‘canned’ reports include: Export Chart of Accounts, Sales Analysis, Purchasing Analysis and Inventory Analysis. New within Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2016, you can now create your own Excel templates and reports. This is an exciting new function within Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online 2016. Excel templates can now be formatted and embedded within CRM and made available as a personal or system-wide template. This means the full capabilities of Excel formatting, including Pivot Tables, Pivot Charts, conditional formatting or offline calculations that can’t be easily handled inside CRM, can now be created as templates and made available to all users.
2. Excel PowerPivot for advanced slicing and dicing.
This this free add-in within Excel, simply type into the search “Power Pivot”, Excel will point you to the data analysis add-in called Power Pivot. Vlookup and Hlookup are good, but being able to use a graphical interface to create joins between multiple tables via Power Pivot makes the consolidation and analysis of information a breeze. Within Excel 2016, Power Pivot has been expanded to include that ability to preview and filter (ETL) before extracting data from a view, instead of downloading the entire Dynamics View or SmartList. This is a great time saver when you are dealing with large data sets with, hundreds of thousands or millions, of rows of transactional data. We recommend that you get some help from an expert (Endeavour Microsoft Dynamics Consultants) to build and create the custom connections to views or database tables in Dynamics CRM or Dynamics GP before performing your slicing and dicing. Be sure to periodically reconcile a simple PowerPivot report against your current reporting system to confirm that you are capturing each of the right tables and transactions.
3. Creating budgets within Excel and re-importing them back into Dynamics GP.
Under the Financial Card in Dynamics GP, you can use the ‘Budget Wizard for Excel” to create GP friendly budgets that can be re-imported into GP for actual vs. budget comparisons. To help kick-start your budgeting process, you can export an Excel budget template with starting data from Microsoft Dynamics GP based on:
A percentage change +or- from the open year, or
A percentage change +or- from a previous year, or
A percentage change +or- from a previous budget, or
A blank Excel budget template that you can populate from scratch before re-importing back into Dynamics GP.
For more sophisticated budgeting and forecasts, you may also want to consider Endeavour Solutions’ approved Dynamics ISV partner, Prophix for automated budgeting workflows in support of a collaborative approach to setting budgets and forecasts. With their new cloud-based options, Prophix is now more affordable for Microsoft Dynamics users in the mid-market. See Endeavour’s dedicated Prophix page at www.endeavoursolutions.ca/Prophix
About Endeavour Solutions Inc.
Endeavour Solutions is a Microsoft Gold ERP and Microsoft Silver CRM Partner focusing on development, implementation, upgrades, support and training for Dynamics GP, Dynamics CRM. and Office 365. With offices in Toronto, Halifax, London, Montréal and Edmonton we have more than 400 active clients in every province in Canada. In 2016, Endeavour was named to the Microsoft President’s Club – The top 5% of Microsoft Partners Worldwide. See our Innovative projects @ www.endeavoursolutions.ca/dynamicsprojects
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)