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Submitted by Jeff Foss on 4 March 2020

Looking for a Business Intelligence / Analytics Tool? If You're a Microsoft Dynamics NAV or Business Central User, Power BI is the Best Choice

Why Microsoft Dynamics Users Should Choose Power BI

Data is king these days, and most companies have no trouble generating it, but they do run into problems when it comes to getting it under control and being able to use their data effectively. There are two dozen or more business intelligence tools on the market today, so the question is, which one is the best? In this blog, we discuss why, particularly for Microsoft Dynamics NAV or Business Central users, the clear choice is Microsoft Power BI.

Power BI's History

Power Bi is a tool that is the business intelligence component of the Microsoft Power Platform, which also includes Power Apps and Power Automate (formerly Microsoft Flow). It allows you to visualize the data from your Microsoft Dynamics NAV or Business Central instances along with many other systems that you have, including Facebook, Google analytics, SharePoint, or any website analytics.

The whole premise of power BI began with Power Pivot within Excel as a way to bring in tables and queries from other systems into Excel, join them, do everything you would want to do with them, create measures, and build a data model. You would then present the model in a pivot table in Excel. That Power Pivot model could then refresh from those data sources. You could save that model and use it on a continuing basis.

Microsoft took that premise and built Power BI. The language of Power Pivot to build measures, etc. is the DAX language, which is also the language of Power BI.  Because of this familiarity, Power BI has quickly become the leading innovator in the BI space. In fact, Gartner’s Magic Quadrant has consistently placed Power BI way out in front, calling it “visionary.”


Figure 1 – Gartner Magic Quadrant – BI Tools

What Makes Power BI the Best Choice for Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Business Central Users?

Power BI is an excellent tool for anyone, but it is definitely the best choice for users of Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Business Central. Here’s why:

Familiar Interface and Features

Because Power BI was built by Microsoft, it has many of the underlying features that Microsoft users already know and understand. It's familiar not only because of the user interface; it's a Microsoft tool, so it has the same look and feel as all the other Microsoft productivity tools you use, and its menus are in the same place.

Easy-to-Use Language for Building Visualizations

The primary competitors for Power BI are Tableau and QlikView. They are relatively easy to use, but they require users to learn their proprietary languages. In order to build a visualization in Tableau for instance, you need to be able to understand that proprietary language. But, if you can write an Excel function, you can use Power BI. In addition, connectors are included for big data, SAP, Oracle, and most of the database providers.

Easy to Deploy

With Dynamics NAV or Dynamics 365 Business Central, there is minimal “implementation”; you can be up and running in a day. Other products, however, require some amount of implementation because they do not have specific NAV or Business Central connectors; you or someone on your behalf would need to build the dataset. With Power BI, anyone can get you up and running.

Cost-Effective...Without Compromising on Features and Usability

The Power BI App is part of Microsoft Office 365, which means any user of Office 365 can add the app to their subscription. There are three levels of licensing for Power BI: Free, Pro, and Premium. The Free version is an individual license; it can only be used by the individual user. It’s a great way to try out Power BI, but to get the benefits of a true BI tool, you need access to data across the organization, and the appropriate people need to be able to share that data. That’s why Microsoft offers the Pro and Premium options, depending on your needs. Regardless, all options are very reasonably priced.

Often, we get this question from our customers: If Power BI can be free or very low cost, is it really as good as the competition? It’s understandable to be wary of a lower-priced option. In the case of Power BI, however, you’re not compromising. Microsoft is simply in the position where they can sell Power BI at a price point that makes it accessible to anyone.  Make no mistake: Power BI is better than its more expensive competition. Power BI can do all of the same things the others can and more, and Microsoft is willing to put their money where their mouth is so you can try it, risk-free.

Taps Into the Power of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Power BI has visualizations that utilize both artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML)—specific  visualizations that can pinpoint causes for certain scenarios within the data. These show the power of Microsoft’s AI/ML capabilities in a snapshot. Since Power BI is built on the Azure platform, you can use the Dataflows to pull information from data sources and map the data to the Common Data Service. The Dataflows are stored in the Azure Data Lake Gen2 storage containers and as such can be used with Azure Machine Learning.  With relative ease, any company can quickly start using Microsoft’s ML tools and begin taking advantage of AI.

Offers Visualizations, Not Just Reporting

Power BI is not a replacement for your reporting system; it is a supplement that you’ll find very valuable. Approximately 65% of the world's population are visual learners, meaning that they process information better looking at it graphically. That’s why using Power BI to visualize your data is so powerful. For example, showing people where your company has been and where it’s going—based off your data—is much more impactful than a report.

Power BI is about making information very readily available to your executive team so they can make decisions faster, be more agile, make changes, and see how the business is actually running versus waiting two or three days for your accountant produce a spreadsheet. Power BI gives you information in as nearly real time as it gets because data is refreshed periodically throughout the day.

Easy and Inexpensive to Build a Proof of Concept

If you’re on the fence about whether you need a BI tool or you are in a position of needing to sell the idea to your executive team, it would be wise to build a proof of concept. The problem with other BI tools is that they require you to go to the manufacturer or one of their vendors to have them build a proof of concept for you. If you want to use your own data, it will likely cost you because you're going to have to get a consultant involved from that company. In addition, you will only get a partial dataset. In other words, getting a proof of concept can get pretty expensive and involved.

With Power BI, on the other hand, a proof of concept typically takes only one to two weeks, and the cost is essentially free other than the time it takes you to build the proof of concept because Power BI for an individual can be downloaded for free. The built-in APIs in Business Central connect to your database, and you only need to spend a minimum amount of time to transform it, build some reports, and create a dashboard to make your case.

Next Step: Decide on Your Data Strategy

If you’re a smaller organization, you might not think you need a formalized data strategy or plan. You might think your needs are pretty straightforward—even simple. However, it is our experience that having a data strategy is a necessity for every business, even if you don’t use Power BI. Take the time—and invest in a partner that understands business intelligence if you’re not comfortable with it—to build a sound strategy that fits your requirements now and in the future. It’s worth the investment BEFORE you buy software…or even if you keep using spreadsheets.

Do You Really Need a BI Tool? Yes.

After reading this or even after building your data strategy, you might still believe you don’t need a BI tool since you get all your reports from your accounting team. But Power BI is like being near-sighted and putting on a pair of glasses: you could see before, but now you see so much more! Power BI enables you to see your data in a different light; you can still see all of the same metrics your accounting team provides, but more and in a timelier manner. With a live feed to your data and updated on a periodic basis, you’ll be much more in tune with what’s happening in your organization, making faster, smarter decisions.

Let ArcherPoint Help

ArcherPoint is an experienced provider of Power BI and has a team of business intelligence experts to help you determine your data strategy, set up Power BI to support that strategy, then train your staff, including best practices and building reports and dashboards. Unlike other consulting companies that only know Power BI, ArcherPoint’s team also has a deep understanding of Microsoft Dynamics NAV and Business Central. This combination makes our team ideally suited to know exactly where to pull data from and then how to build it into meaningful insights in Power BI. With ArcherPoint, you get a comprehensive, one-stop business intelligence shop.

Contact us today to discuss your business intelligence needs and how ArcherPoint and Power BI can help.

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