One of the reasons Solver’s software is so intuitive and easy to use is because we built it for non-technical users. In fact, before we developed our software, we were business intelligence consultants, so we understood the unique challenges BI users faced. In the ’80s and ’90s, organizations typically had technical reporting experts in their finance department, or they used IT staff to do this—formal experts who were responsible for creating reports, budget models, etc.
When the 2000s came along, there was more focus on usability and ease of use. As a result, many of the tools from the 90’s were simply repurposed with a more user-friendly skin, but still had legacy platforms under the hood. This required a great deal of technology to be put in place before the end users could effectively use these tools. Even then, BI tools were still fairly rigid and difficult to use.
When we created the blue print for BI360 in 2007, we started from a completely different angle. Ease of use was our number one priority. Every time we built a feature into the product, we measured its success through usability testing. When we finished and launched BI360 in 2009, customers immediately recognized the difference. Suddenly, normal business users could take ownership of and create useful reports, budget models, dashboards, and even manage the data warehouse. It completely shifted the power from traditional finance users to everyday business users.
Ad hoc reporting allows business and financial professionals to leverage self-service BI by easily building their own reports without extensive training. In less than an hour of training, users can learn how to use ad-hoc reporting to quickly answer their business questions.
With BI360’s Composer, part of BI360’s Reporting module, end users can access their information quickly and easily, and drill through report data for powerful information analysis. The layout of BI360 Composer is similar to MS Office, so it’s very intuitive for users.
The BI360 Composer ad-hoc query tool empowers anyone in your organization to access data in a structured and organized fashion, directly from your ERP, CRM or the BI360 Data Warehouse, to quickly answer those key questions when they need it!
In the following video, we cover real-world scenarios that demonstrate how BI360 Composer can help users increase their productivity, while decreasing their reliability on your IT department.
Watch the video here:
As a selection tool, a cost / benefit analysis helps you focus on the most suitable category of software, rather than trying to differentiate between similar budgeting solutions. For example, it can help you find out if your needs are better served by:
High-end or low-end software
SQL-based or OLAP based software
Web-based or standard client-server software
In addition to helping to distinguish between different software categories, a cost / benefit analysis can help you decide whether to stay with what you have or make a new software acquisition.
If you were to look at a range of companies using the different budgeting packages on the market, you would see that their levels of satisfactions range from highly satisfied to dissatisfied. Finding success with a particular solution is dependent on several factors:
Skills and involvement of key employees
Long term support and software upgrades from the software vendor
In the software selection phase, matching the organizational needs and constraints with software features is essential for success. One of the best ways to do this is to devise a list that weighs the benefits against costs. (See below)
A cost / benefit analysis table can become rather subjective because it is hard to assign a value of intangible items. However, because each item is weighted, it usually provides a better indication than simply drawing up a list of pros and cons with no assigned values.
Note: Scoring from 10 to -10 for each item, where 10 is the highest score and -10 is the lowest score. A total score above 0 shows that the company most likely will achieve an overall benefit by purchasing the new software.
Our mantra here at Solver is “make it simple, sexy and powerful”. Traditionally, Data Warehouse projects are reserved for the IT folks in an organization, but we have set out to change that notion with the BI360 Data Warehouse.
We are busy working on many new and exciting features for the upcoming version of the BI360 suite. Here is a quick sampling of two items in the cooker: 1) Adding Attributes and 2) Time Dimension.
Adding Attributes in a Snap
It is a common practice to want many attributes for each dimension. In the current BI360 Data Warehouse (BI360 DW) version, dimension attributes can be added using the Data Warehouse Manager user interface or they can be configured through SQL Server. We have now also added a dimension and attribute import wizard In order to accelerate the time to design and deploy to the warehouse. The wizard automates the process of creating a large number of dimensions and related attributes. Simply create the dimensions and/or attributes in an Excel or text file and import using the Warehouse Manager.
Once the new dimensions and/or attributes are loaded, then they are immediately available to be managed within the Warehouse Manager as well as the Reporting, Planning and Dashboard Modules.
Take Control of your Time Dimension
Configuring the time dimension has always been quick and easy and met most requirements out of the box. However, we decided to take it to the next level and add controls to define the date ranges within each period from the Warehouse Manager. Now, configurations such as 4-4-5, 5-5-4, 4-5-4 or any other fiscal configuration, then the BI360 Warehouse Manager can easy implement it.
Too busy for training? Solver has a fantastic new resource just recently added to their arsenal of education material. The ‘BI360 Self-Paced Technical Training Guide’ is designed to get you more familiar with the technical side of BI360. It is organized into sessions, enabling you to manage the pace of your own education. If you care to ‘get it all done straight away’, take each session, one immediately following the other, to complete the entire curriculum in record time. Alternatively, take one or two sessions every few days, over a longer period of time. You can choose the method that works best for you!
This document is meant to be used as a self-paced guide for power users (consultants, customers, and partners) to educate themselves on the technical aspects of BI360. You will find product functionality, how to design reports, how to design planning input forms and models, how to administer the data warehouse and much more.
As part of the BI360 Suite, financial reports can be created. But what’s the point of creating the financial reports unless trained eyes from your organization are analyzing the numbers to find the strengths and weaknesses of your business.
A very valuable, yet underused part of the BI360 Suite is the Report Publisher. Through the use of the Report Publisher, you can publish financial reports and budgeting/forecast forms in static Excel workbooks based on a BI360 template designed in the Report Designer. In addition, you can integrate the security settings that have already been configured for your organization to safely and securely distribute reports throughout different members in your organization. Finally, the Report Publisher can easily be configured in the built-in Windows Task Scheduler so that you can schedule the previous month’s financial report or the current month goal to be distributed on a set date. There are many more features like the output format or the report delivery method that you can utilize to customize the distribution of your reports.
Binary Stream’s Multi-Entity Management (MEM) solution provides the ability to process transactions from different corporate entities within a single company database. By utilizing a centralized database intercompany transactions can be automated and master files can be shared across entities (ie General Ledger Accounts, Customers, Vendors, etc).
This consolidated Dynamics GP database has all the information Executives, Managers and Analysts need to review their business; the only question is how do you access this information for analysis?
Solver has recently announced support for Multi-Entity Management with BI360! With REAL-TIME access to the consolidated Dynamics GP database, you are able to further extend the power of MEM by producing consolidated or entity specific information at the General Ledger and the Sub-ledger levels (eg. Segmented reporting, Top 20 customers, Top 10 vendors, Projects by Entity, etc). Real-time access also increases efficiency, by not waiting for IT to update a middleware system in order for reports or analysis to begin. Since BI360 also ‘pulls’ information directly from Dynamics GP into Microsoft Excel, you are able to produce dynamic boardroom quality reports, charts and graphs that contain a ‘single version of the truth’.
BI360 and MEM make a powerful combination for any multi-entity company.
For more information on either of these products, please contact:
In most mid-sized and larger organizations with multiple divisions, classic BI tools have never been good at satisfying both local division needs (detailed reporting, local budget models, etc.) as well as corporate HQ needs. In the screenshot below, you can see an interesting methodology where a company can install the BI360 data warehouse (DW) at each division as well as at corporate HQ and then transfer whatever interesting detail/summary they want from the local DWs to the central DW. Historically, this would often not be a feasible model when companies had to build homegrown, custom data warehouses from scratch, because it could get very expensive. With a pre-configured data warehouse like the BI360 DW however, it is very fast and low cost to install it anywhere in the organization where a data mart or data warehouse is needed. There are many other benefits with this multi-level DW architecture, including the ability to then use the same report writer, budgeting and dashboard (like BI360) technology everywhere, thus reducing training cost, license cost and more.
One of the most common issues with reports containing a large volume of data is the report run time can take a longer time than expected. BI360 Version 3.5 has a new feature that has been added to enable parallel queries so that the SQL Server can be utilized to its maximum capabilities. Once enabled, your reports will run as fast and efficient as possible and deliver improved productivity.
By default, Report Designer, Player, and Composer do not perform parallel queries. Thus, the queries are processed one by one. However, users can enable this by setting the Maximum Concurrent Queries to a value other than 0 in the Administration Tool (under System Settings).
Executing queries in parallel can optimize performance when generating a report in the BI360 Reporting applications. The optimal number of parallel queries depends on a number of variables such as memory on the server running the SQL server, the number of processors on the server, and other SQL Server related options. In parallel processing, each query can utilize a processor without degrading the performance of the SQL Server. Thus, if there is a Quad Processor, the initial maximum value should be set to four.
A high number does not automatically imply the best performance. Dependent on the different variables mentioned above, a peak will be reached at a certain value. The peak could also be dependent on the nature of the report since the number of generated SQL Statements play an important role. A simple report that would generate only one query would therefore not experience any performance improvements by using this option. The best way to find the peak is to simply test different values and different reports.
For certain customers, they have experienced 80% – 90% increase in efficiency when generating their reports.
Smartlist is a very popular query tool used by all Microsoft Dynamics GP customers worldwide. It has hundreds of useful SQL Views to allow GP users to filter and retrieve transactions from different tables in the GP database. BI360 now integrates to Smartlist views to provide an almost unlimited number of opportunities for business users to drill down from BI360 financial reports and into GP without having to create their own drill-down queries. For example, a department head can run a Profit & Loss report for his or her department, notice a budget variance on a row (e.g. Office Supplies) and with one click, drill down into the Accounts Payable transaction in GP and retrieve the vendor’s Purchase Order and see each line item on the purchase order. Not only does this provide instant answers to business questions without having to bother accountants and power users, but it also does not require the user to have any knowledge of the Dynamics GP application, as both the drill down and the resulting view of the underlying transactions all happen from with the BI360 Excel-based report interface.
For a detailed example of the BI360 integration to Smartlist, please contact Solver and ask for the white paper “Integrating BI360 to a Smartlist view”.
The BI360 Drill To function is available for all BI360 ERP integrations, including Microsoft Dynamics AX, NAV, GP, SL, Sage MAS 500 and X3. and Epicor Prophet 21. This document provides a detailed example of how to integrate a Smartlist SQL view with the powerful Drill To feature in BI360 (version 3.5 and later) for the purpose of setting up a drill down rule that let a user drill down from a Profit & Loss report and all the way into sub-ledger (here: Accounts Payable) transactions in the GP database.
Drill Down from BI360 General Ledger Report
Drill to GP Smartlist
Customizing the Integration to include Smartlist Views