SAGlobal introduces new BI Tool for Microsoft Dynamics AX Service Industries!
Over the years, ERP software systems has got a very good at collecting large volumes of information about your business. For professional services organizations, this includes capturing all sorts of details about your clients, your projects, your finances, and your resources. The challenge has always been for ERP systems to provide the ability for your users to access that data in a meaningful way that can help them make good business decisions.
Microsoft has made great strides in this area, leveraging its SQL Server technologies like SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to provide structured reports to users and SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) to provide data cubes and metrics that allow users to “slice and dice” the performance of your business.
One of the challenges we’ve seen, however, is giving power users a simple tool for building new reports and analytics views without having to call in the IT team to develop a new report or data cube for them. From our experience, the SSRS and SSAS tools that Microsoft provides with Dynamics AX require a fairly specialized set of skills that most power users don’t possess.
Understanding BI to this end, SAG has recently launched a new Business Intelligence tool called 'Analyzer' that puts this control in the hands of your power users. Analyzer is a reporting and BI tool that provides a simple approach for building reports and analysis views within a user-friendly toolset. Analyzer can run off either OLAP cubes or mash-ups of tables, the latter approach being the one that SAG has taken to provide clients with pre-built data elements and views. Using table mash-ups also is a much more simple approach for your IT team, as it’s something that most IT resources can manage and manipulate much easier than they can with data cubes.
We’ll give a couple of examples here that show how we can use Analyzer to easily slice and dice business information. The table mash-up that SAG provides incorporates just about every data element you’d want to incorporate in an analysis of your projects and clients. This includes data elements such as clients, resources (employees), project transactions, timeframes, business dimensions (office location, line of business, market segment, etc.), forecasts, budgets, utilization targets, and much, much more.
In the example below, we’ve pulled a number of data elements into an Analyzer view that will allow us to analyze our revenue. By dragging and dropping data elements from the field chooser into our analysis view, we can determine all of the ways that we want to slice and dice our revenue. In the example below, we’ve pulled in the following data elements:
- Dimensions (Business Unit, Office Location, Market Segment)
- Timeframes (Years, Quarters, Months)
- Project Transactions (Labor, Expenses, Fees)
Once we’ve selected those data elements for our analysis view, we can now start to slice and dice our revenue by any of these factors. In the screenshot below, we’ve pulled Clients in as the primary data element, so we can now see revenue broken down by client. We can then select from a number of styles of graphs to depict this data graphically, in this case using a line chart.
If we then want to look at revenue trending over time, say by quarter, we can drag in our Quarter slicer and we can now see revenue by client by quarter to see how it’s trending.
If we then want to analyze revenue by project, we can replace our Customer element with the Project element simply by dragging and dropping them back onto the pallet, and we now see revenue broken down by project. Again, we can apply a line chart to graphically show which projects are generating the most revenue for us.
If we then want to look at our project-related revenue by type of transaction, say labor vs. expenses vs. fees vs. purchased items, then we can drag in our Project Transactions slicer, and we now see revenue by project by revenue source. Again, we could have looked at this over time to see trending, or perhaps by line of business, simply by dragging those slicers into the view as well.
If we want to analyze revenue by market segment to see what markets are generating the most revenue for us, we simply replace the Project data element with our Market Segment data element, and we can now apply a pie chart to graphically show how our revenue is broken down by market segment.
These are just a few examples, but hopefully you can see how easy it is to slice and dice your data with this tool. The best part is that it takes very limited training to learn how to use the tool, meaning that your power users can quickly get up to speed and start really drilling into your data to gain deeper insights into how your business is performing.
About the Author
Michelle Kirby is the Marketing Coordinator and Account Manager for Systems Advisors Group. Michelle’s dual role includes coordination and execution of marketing campaigns and managing SAG’s existing client base. Michelle has over 16 years of ERP experience, including consulting, account management and as an end-user in a database administration role.