New Report: Investment in BI and Reporting A Complex Challenge for Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM Customers

January 29 2016

Microsoft Dynamics Customer BI, Reporting, and Analytics Needs

MSDynamicsWorld.com has released a new report on investing in BI and Reporting software for Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM, and it reveals a landscape with many options, but also many ways organizations can run into problems. Issues like data governance, partner support, and user adoption continue to challenge many teams. Add to the mix the crap shoot of VAR involvement - from none to lots - and Dynamics customers face a landscape where they will be best served to not only understand their solution options, but also to be able to articulate a strategy for designing, deploying and governing the solution.

The report explores out of the box capabilities of Dynamics software, essential skills, and reasons why an organization may (or may not) want to consider investing in a third party solution. It also evaluates findings from an exclusive new survey of Dynamics customers and partners. The survey reveals that there is uncertainty and a notable level of dissatisfaction with current BI and reporting capabilities that customers employ. Let's examine some of those findings.

Customer satisfaction

Customers are nowhere near fully satisfied with their current BI capabilities, according to our research. As shown in the chart above, only about 37 percent of customers who responded say they are meeting "enough", "most", or "all" of their needs today. And those response rates are reasonably consistent across AX, CRM, GP, and NAV customers.

The most common complaint about BI is its complexity. But another is empowerment. Only one third of Dynamics users reported that their teams are empowered to develop or request the reports they need. The most prevalent comment was that they needed to go through IT or a third party service provider due to the complexity of the report building technology.

We also asked about priorities for the organization when considering BI and reporting capabilities. The top five were:

  1. Excel integration with security and auditability
  2. Ability to drill down to transactions from analytics
  3. User self-service
  4. Data warehouse automation
  5. Predictive capabilities

There were six others that quickly fell off into the "nice to have" category including pre-built OLAP cubes and universal (BYOD) mobile access.

Why do customers struggle?

Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM data governance plans

For organizations trying to understand why they struggle with successful deployment of BI and reporting tools, lack of data governance could be to blame. There is plenty of room for improvement in making BI and reporting investments as part of a larger strategic plan. The survey reveals.

Data governance strategies are developed by less than half of customers who responded. Just 17 percent of customers said they had identified specific KPIs or dashboards before implementing a BI and reporting solution.

Power BI for Microsoft Dynamics CRM and ERP customersCustomers also indicated they are paying attention to Microsoft's own BI efforts. For example, they believe Power BI has a role to play, and partners agree. 70 percent of partners indicated that they believe Power BI can play a role for their Dynamics clients, either for individuals or teams. But there is a problem, at least in the short term: customers also reported that they have less expertise in Power BI than any other reporting-related Microsoft products, including SQL Server Reporting Services, Integration Services, and Analysis Services. Customers report having the most experience with SSAS.

The role of Dynamics VARs (if any)

The term "your mileage may vary" seems appropriate to predicting the role any Dynamics VAR might play in the process of evaluating, selecting, and deploying a BI or reporting solution. Customer report every possible experience, from getting no advice to poor advice to good advice. The most common response, at 38 percent, was that VARs gave them no guidance. While this may seem like bad news on its face, it may come as good news to BI and reporting solution vendors who would prefer to employ their best practices and expertise (and software) for a client without a VAR interfering.

For their part, partners report that their clients are nearly split on whether BI and reporting solutions delivered the intended value. These professionals estimate that about 55% of solutions deliver less than half of the intended value.

Here's a sampling of comments from partners on customer success:

  • "Their requirements are usually unclear so the solution cannot be implemented. The cost-benefit of third party solutions is not as expected for the customer. Third party solutions are still ‘boxes' that generate the info our customers require in the way they need it."
  • "The problem is in operative reports. We create the operative reports for our customers, but we require a lot effort to get them. I would like a simple solution to modify or replace the Report Writer reports"
  • "This is like any other additional initiative involving the original effort in ERP - championed by a few who either get pressed for time or lose interest when as the project rolls on and out."
  • "Technically complicated, bigger investment than expected"
  • "They do not want to invest more money for the labor"

The BI and reporting landscape is changing quickly for Dynamics ERP and CRM customers today. Microsoft is accelerating its technology push for end user reporting (Power BI), in-memory analytics (SQL Server), predictive analytics (Cortana Analytics Suite) and collaborative insight (Office 365, etc.) But as our research reveals, technology will not be sufficient to deliver the insights that organizations believe they should get from their investment in core systems like ERP and CRM. Dynamics partners and customers will continue to be challenged to commit to the right policies, skills, and plans over the long term if they want to reap maximum value from their data.

As this landscape changes, we'll continue to monitor and measure sentiments in the Dynamics ecosystem. If you read the report and have questions or comments, please let us know

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About Jason Gumpert

As the editor of MSDynamicsWorld.com, Jason oversees all editorial content on the site and at our events, as well as providing site management and strategy. He can be reached at jgumpert@msdynamicsworld.com.

Prior to co-founding MSDynamicsWorld.com, Jason was a Principal Software Consultant at Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC), where he implemented solutions, trained customers, managed software development, and spent some time in the pre-sales engineering organization. He has also held consulting positions at CSC Consulting and Monitor Group.

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