A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with family members about my job, and the dreaded question came up: “what is Dynamics 365?”. These people had very little IT or business knowledge, so I knew explaining this would be a challenge.

I started by telling them about CRM and ERP. The result: people nodding their heads in utter confusion. Then I told them about SaaS software. I mentioned that companies use products like Dynamics 365 to increase productivity. More confusion ensued. After 5 minutes, I gave up and told them I worked in the technology sector. We all agreed this was a sufficient level of understanding and went on with our lives. Then a few days later, I realized what I should have said to them instead of the mumble jumble business jargon.

Dynamics 365 is a software that helps businesses make decisions.

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Granted, this definition is nothing new, but I thought it really summed up why people use software like CRM and ERP. It comes down to making better decisions based on data you have gathered.

Let’s explore this idea further with a few examples:

  • You accumulate information in your CRM to know which prospects are hot and which prospects are cold. This helps you decide who to call and when.
  • You a create sales forecast based on current opportunities and their likelihood of closing because you want to make decisions. Should you hire people? Should you fire people? Should you invest more in marketing campaigns?
  • You track inventory of your products in your ERP to know when a certain product will run out of stock so that you can decide to order more of that product.

You get the point. Feed your system with data and come out with better insights on how to run your business. There’s one problem though. Most companies don’t know how to make the most out of business intelligence and have trouble turning data into something they can actually use.

Data is meaningless without analysis

Imagine the amount of data you accumulate over the course of a year. It’s a lot, right? Now think about how much of this data is easily accessible to you and your team to analyze. Probably much less. Now, think about how much information is presented in nice, clear dashboards that can help move your business forward.

The fact is that if you’re like most businesses, most of your information is scattered throughout different part of your systems, in a way that is not digestible at all.

So what should you do? Hire a data scientist from NASA to help make sense of all these numbers?

Maybe you don’t have to. You can find many options built into Dynamics 365 that allow you to start using your data in the right way.

Business Intelligence and Dynamics 365

Power BI

Power BI is Microsoft’s take on business intelligence. It’s a suite of business analytics tools that help organize your data and display it in a meaningful way. Both being Microsoft products, the integration between Dynamics 365 and Power BI is somewhat inevitable.

There are many ways you can use Power BI and Dynamics 365 simultaneously:

  • From PowerBI: You can login to PowerBI and select your Dynamics 365 Organization as one of your data sources. It will automatically sync all your organization’s data and make several visualizations available.
  • From Dynamics 365: In your settings, you can go to the Reporting Tab and check Allow Power BI visualization embedding. It will enable you to embed Power BI tiles to your personal Dynamics 365 Dashboards.

Benefits of the integration

  • Easy Setup and User-friendly interface: As we mentioned earlier, it’s super easy to set up the integration and have real data visualizations in minutes! Microsoft also managed to make the interface to build reports and dashboards extra user-friendly allowing you to drill deep into your data tables using simple drag and drop.
  • Accessibility: With the technical advances we have reached today, the world has become a lot smaller. Businesses have customers from all over the world, and it’s important for salespeople to access their needed data anywhere they go. Power BI allows users to get the reports on their laptops or even their mobile phones as long as they have an internet connection.
  • Support for Multiple Data sources: Power BI is meant to organize data from multiple datasets and align them together to give you the exact info you need.

Third-Party Business Intelligence apps

Just like Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store, Microsoft has its own store to browse apps that can install on top of their business solutions: The AppSource.

Here’s a list of some third-party apps that help extend Dynamics 365’s analytics capabilities:

  • Maplytics™ – Bing Maps Integration: This app provides location-based analysis including Radius Search, Route Optimization, Heat map visualization and many more.
  • Analytics Evolution, 1-Wk Implementation: Another business analytics app that connects directly to your Dynamics 365 organization and helps you visualize changes as they happen.
  • Essential Business Headlines: This is an app developed by Microsoft itself. It goes through your data, grabs interesting business facts and displays them as actionable insights for you to easily take actions.

Conclusion

If you have been online in the last year or two, you have undoubtedly been exposed to the technology buzzwords: “Big Data,” “Machine Learning,” and “Artificial Intelligence”…all these terms present different variations for one concept: How to better use and handle data to our benefit. There is no magic happening here; we are getting better at understanding data and using it to forecast what will be the next step.

Think of data as a group of wood pieces. It’s good to have them, but alone, they don’t do much for you. Data analytics tools are like a woodworker, they take the wood pieces and group them in a way to make something useful out of them; like a table. Business intelligence and Dynamics 365 constitute one hell of a woodworker.

 

Written by Alexandre Painchaud Content Marketing Specialist @ SherWeb