I often get asked about Business Intelligence and related tools, as dashboards and data integration have become so common today, and everyone wants “instant information”. After all, aren’t we all information workers today?
Since my company is a Microsoft Partner, doing Dynamics (GP, SL and CRM) business applications, my first recommendation is to “look close to home”. You may be surprised how much existing BI you already own and are not utilizing if you use Microsoft products. (Dynamics, SQL, SharePoint, Office) The Microsoft BI toolkit is not a lightweight player in the BI market, as you can see from the 2013 Gartner’s Magic Quadrant graphic below.
So why do Microsoft customers not know the value and quality of the BI tools they already own? Why do they start exploring the Hyperion’s, the SAS and Information Builders before looking at their own backyard?
I think the answer is twofold; one is that a pure “BI” software maker targets and markets its tool independently, meaning “This is What we Sell and You Should Buy”, while the Microsoft suite is marketed by the various components that comprise the set. The SQL group, the SharePoint group, the Office group and the Dynamics group all tell a great story but not the complete story. Secondly, in customers’ minds, I believe customers think BI should be complex and expensive.
Some of the earliest roots of BI technology can be found in relatively simple reporting and analysis technologies, and pulling data from disparate systems was complicated and expensive. However, todays databases (for the most part) have modern APIs that make merging data less difficult. So customers, who have data from Dynamics GP’s SQL database auto-push into Excel, don’t realize that this used to be a complex undertaking but is now “out of the box”. Because it is just “there”, Microsoft technology users may not understand the complex, but natively free BI that Microsoft has created.
Back to first point, because each Microsoft BI group touts its reporting, analytics, strategic planning/budgeting and predictive insights somewhat independently, the mindset of Microsoft users may be that these “cool toys” are not as good with Microsoft as with the others. But this is quickly changing as the Office group has championed the Microsoft BI story (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/bi/default.aspx) and separating out the server and end user tools to provide a compelling strategy.
From the end user prospective, Power Pivot, an Excel product, empowers users of all levels to access and mashup data from virtually any source. Users can create their own compelling reports and analytical applications, easily share insights, and collaborate with colleagues through Microsoft Excel and SharePoint. SQL Server 2012 introduces Power View, providing SharePoint users with highly interactive, browser-based data exploration, visualization, and presentation capabilities. With Office 2013 release, both Power Pivot and Power View capabilities are available to users’ right in the Excel 2013 box.
From the IT manager’s perspective, end user self-service, score cards/dashboards for predicative analysis, reporting, analytics, big data and Enterprise Information Management are all part of the story. Why bring in another application that needs to be integrated when the hard work has already been done by Microsoft?
So now when I get asked “What BI works well with Microsoft Dynamics GP and CRM?” I can safely say “The Microsoft BI Toolset” is the first one we should look at. You already own it, some of your organization is using some of it and we need to see what else you need that this toolset can provide for you.
STEVE HAMMETT | Senior Sales Executive
Steve graduated from University of Maryland, Baltimore, with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.), in Economics and a few years later, a Master of Science (M.S.), in Information Technology. He has helped organizations for over fifteen years to solve business problems using technology. He is well informed with all Microsoft Business Solutions and is a Solutions Certified Sales Representative. For fun he looks to the outdoors, whether water, where he is a sailor (Coast Guard certified in Costal Piloting and Navigation), a PADI certified scuba diver, and a certified Red Cross Water Safety Instructor, or land, where he is a skier, hiker and mountain biker