Thursday, February 26, 2015

Spotlight on Solver’s BI360 Business Intelligence Solutions

In this article, we’ll discuss financial report writing, budgeting, and forecasting demands specific to the manufacturing industry that can be met by today’s premier BI solutions, like Solver’s BI360. 

In the modern era of business, Business Intelligence (BI) analytics are solidifying their place in decision-making processes, utilizing company data to plan for the future.  However, if your job doesn't typically involve researching and comparing BI software solutions, it is likely that you can get lost in the sales and marketing language, especially in regard to finding the right features and functionality to address your industry-specific data management and analytics goals.  Therefore, this article will discuss the top features and functions you should be familiar with in regard to today’s financial reporting and budgeting software, using Solver’s BI360 as an example of a premier offering to assist you in flexibly accessing, managing, and analyzing your manufacturing company data.

There a few major elements to consider when seeking to implement a modern, powerful BI tool.  First of all, you will want to decide if you would like to query data live from your accounting system (or other data sources), rely on a high performance integration that a BI data store, like an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse, or a hybrid approach to pulling your data for analysis.  You’ll also want to consider what platform you would like to regularly interact with, whether that’s an Excel add-in, a web portal or interface that you can access from anywhere you have access to the internet, a proprietary platform that can be either on-premises or hosted in the Cloud, or a combination of a couple of these options.  You should evaluate how easy-to-use, how collaborative, and how secure a particular product is before you decide to implement.

When it comes to BI reporting and budgeting for manufacturing, you’re going to seek financial and operational modules for analysis.  You’re likely going to need a product that at least offers a financial reporting module, a sales module, a purchasing module, a survey data module, an inventory module, and a manufacturing/production module that produces a Build of Materials (BOM) report.  When it comes to budgeting and forecasting, your manufacturing organization can benefit from a payroll module, a capex module (for your capital expenditures), an inventory manufacturing module, and an expenses module, to professionally and efficiently structure your planning processes. 

There’s a lot to consider, and Solver offers Excel, web and/or mobile-based reporting and budgeting as stand-alone tools or as part of the comprehensive suite of BI modules and would be happy to generally answer questions and review BI360’s easy-to-use solution for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities for manufacturing organizations.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Microsoft Dynamics Business Analyzer

Not all BI tools are for every user.  Each have their own purpose and each have their own strengths.

I have found Microsoft Dynamics Business Analyzer a tool that I cannot live without.  With a quick review of 5-6 key metrics I can bring myself up to speed on the key levers I use to run the business.

For me cash is king.  So a metric of cash on hand and aging receivables is a graph I use daily.  Without complicated reports or loads of detail I can get that executive view to keep me on task for other important issues in my day.

I once heard a Microsoft executive explain it this way.  “On the drive into the office I looked at 5 key measures to help me get to the office.”  Of course I was thinking “How reckless looking at reports on the commute to work.”  She continued and said “I checked the gas level, the speed, the overall performance of the engine and the temperature of the cab.”

So BI is not about reports.  It is about getting the information in a format and at the level of detail that is not too much but also enough to make decisions.  Whether you are looking at financial, sales, quality or scheduling data you can make a significant change to the way you make daily decisions with the right tool.  For me it is BusinessAnalyzer.

Microsoft Dynamics Business Analyzer is a free download on all the major platforms (Windows, IOS and Android).  Check out the appropriate store and take a look.  It comes with sample data so you can see what I am talking about prior to hooking it up to Microsoft Dynamics and Vicinity.

When you do choose to utilize this tool you already own everything you need.  Microsoft Dynamics ships with the connector to access the data and the graphs are created in SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).  So there is only a bit of configuration and you are off and running.

For what it is worth – I don’t think I would have as much insight to the running of Vicinity without Business Analyzer. It gives me what I need when I need it and nothing more.

Take a look at a walk through of Business Analyzer and download your own copy and see for yourself.

Check out this short video on Business Analyzer

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Making Intelligent Decisions with Your Data

Using Excel Report Builder with Dynamics GP

Imagine making an ERP report such as “Inventory Stock Status” available to be viewed and formatted in Excel?  All a user needs to do is open Excel and there is the data refreshed real time.  All this done from the comfort of Excel.

Microsoft Dynamics GP Excel Report Builder is one of a variety of reporting tools that that can make this happen today.  No programming, no configuration – just send the report to excel and format the report to look the way you want to see it.  No fuss no mess.

The Excel Report Builder generates an Excel report with live data connections automatically.  These connections link back to Microsoft Dynamics GP without the user having to configure servers or authentication. If the user has rights to view the report they have rights to format it in Excel. 

So think of the possibilities you can use today.  List of purchase orders needed from the Vicinity MRP or truck routings for delivery by day.  Raw material usage with costs and production schedule data.  All within excel and easy for the user to consume.

So start using Excel as a reporting tool rather than a databases.  You will wished you have found this a long time ago.

If you are currently using Microsoft Dynamics GP contact your reseller or give us a call.  We are always here to help.  If you are new to the Microsoft Dynamics community take a look at what you are missing.  Before no time you will be up and operational wondering how you lived without Microsoft Dynamics. 

 Vicinity & Dynamics GP with Excel Report Builder
Check out this video featuring Vicinity software with Dynamics GP using Excel Report Builder.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Business Intelligence for Beginners

Excel Pivot Tables

Vicinity Software

By utilizing Business Intelligence (BI), manufacturing operations will have increased visibility, improved efficiency, and most importantly the ability to turn data into actionable information.

So let’s begin by looking at your options for bringing BI into your manufacturing organization.
The most basic way to begin with BI is Excel Pivot Tables. This is a free tool that anyone with Microsoft Office already owns via Excel. Pivot tables are one of Excel's most powerful features. A pivot table allows you to extract the significance from a large, detailed data set.

Excel Pivot Table help manufacturers look at KPIs such as:
  • What products are we getting the best yield?
  • What products are costing me more or less than it significantly should?
  • How much labor do I think I am consuming versus actually consuming?

Manufacturers are looking at exceptions rather than static pieces of data. Production by month, by formula over time is an example.  Trends and outliers can be identified easily.

How can you access data that you did not key into Excel? You can use a data connection  to connect to a Microsoft SQL Server database from a Microsoft Excel file. All you need are rights to read the database and the tables within the database which you probably already have.

So while I don’t encourage using Excel as a replacement for a database it is a terrific tool to analyze data you already own with a tool you already use.  If you need assistance in using Excel Pivot tables to access Vicinity software or Microsoft Dynamics data don’t hesitate to reach out.  Once you have created your first data connection and pivot table you will truly see the power in this starter BI tool.

Here is a quick video example. 
Simple BI with Vicinity and Excel Pivot Tables
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