Utilizing Power BI Reporting within Dynamics 365 Business Central

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With Microsoft’s introduction of Power BI, businesses were given acces to high level reporting services within the Microsoft business application ecosystem. The flexibility and scope of Power BI provide potentially limitless ways to visualize data. Not only can Power BI pull data from almost anywhere, it also natively syncs with a lot of Microsoft Office and Dynamics 365 products and can even be completely hosted in some of them. One of the best Microsoft products which syncs easily with Power BI is Dynamics 365 Business Central. Microsoft has been steadily adding features to the Business Central platform and has built an extensive integration to Power BI with both the Online and On-premises versions. This blog will discuss some of the potential benefits of utilizing Power BI inside Business Central and how to get started with setting this integration up. You can read more on the relationship between these two products here.

The most important feature is the ability to easily sync data across the two applications. This allows for Power BI users to see Business Central data while they are in Power BI while also allowing for complete Power BI reports to be brought into Business Central. Natively, Business Central Online already includes prebuilt Power BI reports out of the box, but any custom-built Power BI report can also be brought directly into the platform. In addition, Power BI Desktop gives users the ability to create reports and dashboards and share them to other users in their organization. Business Central also publishes three apps for Power BI on Microsoft AppSource which can be utilized for useful insight into Business Central data. These different options are great ways in which Power BI can be used along with Business Central to get the most out of their relationship.

Setup Power BI Reports in Business Central

To setup Power BI for use with Business Central, there are a few steps that must be done ahead of time. While there are prebuilt reports that use Business Central data, custom reports are the best way to get the most from the combination of these products. To prepare the systems to interact with one another, there is a little configuration that needs to be done by top level administrators. Thus, the first step to setting up this integration is to acquire sufficient credentials for Business Central. Once adequate credentials have been acquired, Business Central on-premises users will need to make certain that their deployment meets the requirements outlined by Microsoft here.

Power BI works by taking data from data sources and visualizing them to build reports. Web services will allow Power BI to take the data from Business Central and create the data source. For more information on how to set a web service up, take a look at this Microsoft guide. The next step requires a user to attain a Power BI service account. Most users of Business Central online will have access to the free account required to get started with Power BI, but if not, get in touch with us to acquire Business Central licenses. Finally, if a user wishes to get the most of Power BI by creating custom reports, they will need to get a Power BI Desktop license. These are not the same as the free ones provided by Microsoft and, in most cases, users will have to pay for an upgrade.

Power BI Use Cases with Business Central

Once all setup has been completed, working with Power BI reports in Business Central can begin. Power BI reports give insights into Business Central for users who have created this link. Various pages in Business Central include out of the box report parts as soon as Power BI is connected. Role centers, for example, have Power BI reports parts that can be added onto them natively. Some list pages, like Items, also include a Power BI part. As stated before, setting up web services on Business Central allows for Power BI to work with Business Central. Reports for displaying in Business Central are stored inside a Power BI service. In Business Central, you can switch which report is displayed in the Power BI part to any Power BI report available in the service. This also means that prior to connection with Power BI, there will be no reports maintained in the service, so the connection will have to be established before any parts can be effectively displayed. Microsoft has a relatively in-depth guide on how to work with Power BI reports in Business Central for all the technical details required to work with these valuable tools and a bit of troubleshooting if a user is running into issues with it.

Another way to use the connection between Power BI and Business Central is to work with Business Central data in Power BI. While being able to view Power BI reports in Business Central is wonderful, a user may also wish to utilize the additional dashboards that Power BI provides, or to look at multiple reports in rapid succession without needing to add them all to Business Central. For those users, the connection that they created with Business Central is just as useful for data in Business Central as it is in Power BI. The basics of using Business Central as a data source fall into line with most of the other data sources available to a Power BI user. One thing that Power BI users should be aware of is that data in Business Central can change throughout the day, so it is important to make certain that the connection between Business Central and Power BI remains intact. It is entirely possible that automatic refreshes may not be setup when Business Central was connected to Power BI, so a user will want to make sure they set up scheduling refreshes to stay up to date on their information. At the end of the day, a Business Central data source is not very different from any other data source to a Power BI user.

The final way to utilize the partnership between Power BI and Business Central is through Business Central Apps in Power BI. There are three main apps on Microsoft’s AppSource that Microsoft publishes. These three are: Dynamics 365 Business Central – CRM, Dynamics 365 Business Central – Finance, and Dynamics 365 Business Central – Sales. Each of these apps provide detailed dashboards for viewing Business Central data. They include several reports that can be drilled into for important data pertaining to a user’s Business Central instance. Among the benefits of the apps are: the ability to choose visuals and underlying reports for it, the ability to filter by or add fields to any report or dashboard, and to pin a customized view to the dashboard to continue tracking. Data refreshes are an important consideration when using any of these options. The apps were designed to work with data from any company in Business Central and the specific parameters of the viewed data can always be customized at will. Together, these apps are great for users who wish to get a lot out of Power BI, but do not want to spend a lot of time and administrative overhead creating Power BI reports.

Get Started

Both Business Central and Power BI offer an extraordinary amount flexibility on their own, but when used in conjunction with one another the possibilities are nearly endless. As an added benefit, getting started with the integration between them is relatively simple and inexpensive if a user already owns Business Central. If you need assistance with getting started with Business Central and Power BI, schedule a call with our Business Central and Power BI consultants.

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