Jumpstart Your Journey to Better Insights with Power BI

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In a previous article, we discussed the importance of turning your ERP data into a business advantage and how Power BI can help you achieve this goal.


Power BI is a self-service BI solution delivered through Microsoft Excel and Office 365 that provides data discovery, analysis, and visualization capabilities to identify deeper business insights from data in Excel. The Power BI service is a cloud-based solution that reduces the barriers to deploying a BI environment for sharing reports and accessing information.


In this article, we will explore these benefits in more detail and share examples on how to get started.




Ensuring you can unlock and analyze your data from your ERP system is required to respond to new issues and trends quickly. This agility can be the key to differentiating yourself from your competition. Power BI can analyze the data from both structured and unstructured data sources. Structured data sources include both on-premise and cloud ERP applications, while unstructured data can include data from Excel spreadsheets. While Power BI is a cloud-based application, it can transfer on-premise ERP data into a Microsoft Azure data warehouse. A data gateway will retrieve the data from multiple on-premise sources, making it available in Power BI online. This gateway can be scheduled to keep the data up-to-date, which ensures that the data is close to real-time.


The end result is that you can run reports on a cloud database with data from an on-premise ERP server, enabling you to discover data insights that were not previously possible without implementing an expensive data management process.



Having one version of the truth is sometimes easier said than done. Many companies have silos of data across their business, causing time-consuming and sometimes painful reporting challenges when trying to get one consolidated version of the data. Power BI can serve as a front-end gateway to different sources of data. For example, data from Dynamics NAV and an external budget system can be consolidated into a data warehouse for reporting in Power BI. This will ensure that business rules are automated in the data warehouse and that reporting is a seamless process.




Power BI allows you to track key performance metrics in near real-time, highlighting performance trends as they are happening. Identifying and monitoring leading indicators across the business enables organizations to stay on top of the critical factors that drive their business success and to respond accordingly. These indicators can come from data within and outside of the ERP system.




A picture speaks a thousand words. Power BI gives an organization visual dashboards with various options for reporting business metrics. For example, monthly delivery targets can easily be analyzed in a quick graphical view or a drill-down by different categories. Viewing data in summary helps to identify trends in the business whereas viewing data in rows within Excel can make it hard to identify if objectives are being met or not.





Access to the right data, at the right time, by the right decision maker is key to ensuring business agility. Reports are easily shared across the organization to appropriate business users by simply including a report link within an email. Executives can access the data from anywhere, anytime, via any device. Data can be pivoted and filtered directly from within a browser; it is not required to have the local software installed.




Business decision-makers will become more self-sufficient in analyzing their business as they can generate their own reports. Implementing Power BI in an organization where users have traditionally relied heavily on the IT department for report writing skills will empower the business owners to create their own dashboards, as there is no requirement for any development skills. Business users become more self-sufficient by creating and refreshing their own reports without the support of IT. Relying on the IT department can cause unnecessary delays in the process.


Proactively responding to market changes can be the key to creating your differentiation in the market and offering new value-added services to your customers. Companies using Power BI are getting business-critical insights from their data, allowing them to respond accordingly. For example, organizations with high dependencies on inventory are all too familiar with the cost implications of high stock levels. By categorizing the stock type, they can monitor and act to ensure that they have reduced the amount of ‘poor’ stock and ensured sufficient levels of ‘good’ stock.




In the past, many companies have relied solely on Microsoft Excel-based reporting. This scenario requires users to either be physically in the office or to use a VPN connection when working remotely. In most cases, users did not have the skills to refresh the reports resulting in the proliferation of static reports being shared across the business. These reports tend to become out-of-date very quickly.


Power BI will enable organizations to experience first-hand the value of the cloud, giving their users flexibility in how they access their data, including:

  1. Access through a browser
  2. Access from a mobile device
  3. Access remotely from any location without a VPN requirement



Getting started.


To help you get started quickly, Western Computer has written several Power BI content packages specifically for Dynamics clients. As mentioned in a previous article, Microsoft delivers pre-built content packages for Power BI and Dynamics clients. Western Computer has extended these by offering additional pre-built packages, increasing the Power BI value for their clients. These interactive dashboards are available for review on our website.


Hesitations associated with a Power BI project are usually related to the mindset shift required when working in a business intelligence tool like Power BI vs. a reporting tool like Microsoft Excel. For example, a user building a report in Excel using a pivot table has access to thousands of rows of data. With Power BI, the user is looking at the data in summary with drill-down capabilities. In accounts receivable, for example, Microsoft Excel will display rows of invoicing detail. Power BI, on the other hand, would have this data summarized, showing aging days by pre-defined categories and highlighting specific customer(s) that are impacting cash flow due to their high days to pay.


Power BI will give high-level strategic insight into metrics across the business rather than simply reporting rows of data.


Using both Excel and Power BI for Office 365 gives everyone in the organization a powerful new way to work with data. Organizations can now discover, analyze, and visualize data like never before. With Power BI for Office 365, you can easily deploy a cloud-based BI environment for users to share insights, collaborate and access reports from anywhere.


Western Computer has the team to help you turn your data into a business advantage. For more information on getting started with Power BI, don’t hesitate to contact our team of Microsoft Dynamics experts.


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