Power BI in Office 365 Using Dynamics GP Data Could Be a Game Changer!

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Everyone needs to first know that I am a huge baseball fan. I go to about 25 major league games every year including Spring Training in March in Florida. I love the game for a number of reasons but strategy, trends and anticipation are the big reasons. A lot of baseball strategy is based on understanding what may happen next based on what has happened before. Much like how we manage our businesses. We need to understand yesterday and current trends in order to be positioned for success tomorrow.

Baseball has been greatly impacted by technology and analytics. For those of you not as familiar with baseball, here are some examples of how technology has impacted managerial strategy. In the past when most data was collected manually and charted, a manager could receive what is known as a spray chart. This chart would show where on the field an opponents batter has historically hit a baseball.   These charts were very helpful and many managers would shift their defensive players to where the batter had previously hit the ball most often. This analysis was based on just one factor, where was the ball hit. But technology has taken this previously useful report and has expanded it and made it interactive. A manager can now see a spray chart with all of the following current variables, ballpark, pitcher, left handed versus right handed pitcher, runners on base, balls and strikes, day games versus night games, etc. In other words, the manager may change the shift several times in a single at bat based on the situation.

In our businesses we need to consider insights to trends and changes in our businesses and the markets and products that we compete within. The problem historically is that we just have not had access to the data or the analysis tools. Many of us still manage our business using the same reports that we have used for the past 25 years. That is okay, they still work but they typically do not show us trends or help draw our attention to changes. Reacting to changes is more important today than it was 25 years ago. All of our businesses have changed in that time and if we do not adapt quickly and anticipate changes (where is the ball going to be hit based on the current situation) then we may be completely out of position. So how do we do this?

Microsoft introduced the Power BI tool a couple of years ago. This is an analysis tool that is included with the Office 365 offering. Power BI can return data based on our queries and also provide analysis using a Power BI component called Quick Insights. Quick Insights currently has the following capabilities:

  • Major Factors
    • Finds cases where a majority of a total value can be attributed to a single factor when broken down by another dimension.
  • Category Outliers
    • Highlights cases where, for a measure in the model, one or two members of a dimension have much larger values than other members of the dimension.
  • Time Series Outliers
    • For data across a time series, detects when there are specific dates or times with values significantly different than the other date/time values.
  • Overall trends in time series
    • Detects upward or downward trends in time series data.
  • Seasonality in time series
    • Finds periodic patterns in time series data, such as weekly, monthly, or yearly seasonality.
  • Steady Share
    • Highlights cases where there is a parent-child correlation between the share of a child value in relation to the overall value of the parent across a continuous variable.
  • Correlation
    • Detects cases where multiple measures show a correlation between each other when plotted against a dimension in the dataset.

Wow! Getting those types of insights can get us asking the questions that we never would have asked.

  • Why is there a relationship between the sale of a certain item and the day of the month?
  • Is the customer region influencing the decline or increase of sales? If so, why?
  • What transactions are completely contrary to the current trend (outliers) and why?

We would commonly refer to asking these questions as thinking outside of the box. The Power BI tool and Quick Insights simply brings that thinking into the box. We do not necessarily need to be a trend setter, we just need to answer the questions that Quick Insights poses. So how do we implement this tool into our business and our routines?

Power BI is included with the Office 365 offering, so that is the first step. Office 365 has many other benefits including 5 instance licenses per user, so this makes Microsoft Office available to all users wherever they need it, at the office, at home, on the road, on their phone or their tablet. www.verticalsol.com/office-365-free-trial

The second step is to implement the tool and connect to your Dynamics GP datasource. Currently that can be done in several methods including on your desktop, on a network drive or in a collaborative tool like SharePoint.

The third step is to consider the new feature included in Microsoft Dynamics GP 2016 (expected release in April 2016). Power BI Homepage integration is a feature in GP 2016. This is very important for several reasons. Like most any other tools or capability delivered by Microsoft, the capabilitiy is only beneficial if we actually use it. An analysis tool on our Homepage in Dynamics GP is an important step in that direction. If we see it every day then perhaps the changes that occur monthly, weekly and daily in our businesses will keep us thinking and asking the questions that will make us more effective. We will know to shift our defensive players when the batter has two strikes to be in a better position.


Written by: Bruce Lane, Vertical Solutions - Gold Microsoft Dynamics GP Partner

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