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Why is the Microsoft Dynamics NAV team hiding from Power BI?

by Cristian Nicola
Principal Consultant, NCA Dynamics
March 17 2014

Editor's Note: For a response to this article, see the comment below from Jonathan Davis, BI Program Manager for Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

I have recently returned from Convergence 2014 in Atlanta. As anyone that has attended my webinars for this website, for NAVUG, or at various Microsoft Dynamics NAV events knows, I am a big fan of Power BI. With the official release of Power BI for Office 365, I was eager to see how Microsoft would showcase all the new features (Power Query, Power View, etc.) in the context of NAV.

To my disappointment, all Dynamics NAV reporting and BI sessions I attended were more of the same message from the last 2 to 3 years: charting inside the application, RDLC reporting and third party tools. And usually at the end (or somewhere lost among many other slides) they would mention Power BI as "another possibility".

The Dynamics NAV team has been counting on third party tools for several years now. It's time for them to get fully behind Microsoft BI and reporting tools and let the partner channel handle add-on solutions. This article is not a criticism of third party tools or the value of advanced BI and reporting solutions. But since the release of Microsoft Power Pivot and the introduction of ODATA support in NAV 2013, NAV end users, who have already invested into the standard Microsoft stack, should now hear first from Microsoft about the company's own fully functioning self-service reporting tools. Why not Power BI?

This is the question I repeatedly asked of Microsoft employees (those that did not know better than to run away before I got within earshot). ...

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About Cristian Nicola

Cristian Nicola is the Principal Consultant of NCA Dynamics.

In 1998, Cristian was introduced to Navision 1.30 as an intern to Navision A/S in Vedbaek, Denmark and he fell instantly in love. He has been working with Dynamics NAV ever since.

In 2007, Cristian was introduced to BI and fell in love yet again and has worked with BI ever since.

Leveraging his deep knowledge of Dynamics NAV, he is helping customers and partners understand how BI can improve their business and how to make the most of their investment in Microsoft products in order to bring information to their fingertips.

Andreas
Submitted by datenwerkstatt on Mon, 03/17/2014 - 13:28 Permalink

Good to see that I'm not the only one who has exactly this feeling. For me NAV on SQL Azure together with Power BI/Pivot would be a perfect playground for modern reporting. But from Microsoft itself you hear almost nothing in this field. This is really sad. Regards Andy

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Gunther
Submitted by Gunther Coppens on Tue, 03/18/2014 - 06:14 Permalink

Agree. Guess they are also somewhat in dubio with solutions like Jet Reports. They kind of married some months ago, you are suggesting they get a divorce ;-)

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Jonathan
Submitted by jondavis on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 06:07 Permalink

Hi Cristi, Whilst I am very gratified to see your enthusiasm for Power BI & NAV, which you know I share from our meeting at Convergence, the title of your article and opening claims are not strictly accurate. At the NAV General Session Keynote – our highest profile session - I did a 15 minute demo of Power BI that was extremely well received by partners and customers. In the same keynote Erik Tiden, NAV General Manager, highlighted Azure, O365 and Power BI as the themes for NAV in 2014, as they were at Direction EMEA and USA in 2013. In addition to highlighting Power BI integration with 2013R2 in high profile demonstrations we also discussed Power BI extensively in the Concurrent and Interactive sessions at Convergence. You will be happy to learn that both customers and partners were very excited by what they saw. I should also point out that we only discuss the latest version of NAV at Conferences. For Convergence 2014 this was NAV 2013R2, which was released in Sep 2013, 5 months before Power BI was released in February 2014. So whilst we highlighted how well NAV 2013R2 works with Power BI and shared our excitement over the promise of Power BI, we did not have an opportunity to discuss what is in the pipeline for future releases. On a personal note, I am looking forward to seeing you at Directions and Convergence so we can continue our conversation in person but I am really looking forward to working with you to help us make sure that the Power BI and NAV story is amazing. Kind regards, Jonathan Davis Program Manager (BI) Microsoft Dynamics NAV This posting is provided 'AS IS' with no warranties, and confers no rights.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Cristi
Submitted by cn on Wed, 03/19/2014 - 11:24 Permalink

Hi Jon, As a clarification, I use Power BI as a generic term for the combo: Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query and Power Map. They have all been available for Excel 2013 for a while. I am aware that Power BI is also a granule for Office 365 (which includes extra things) but I am certainly hoping MS won't tie adoption of Power Pivot & Co to adoption of Office 365 (and Azure). I am looking forward to my article being outdated very soon by the NAV team moving the discussion from sessions at public events to official marketing materials available on Customer Source and, dare we hope, within the standard application? And on a personal note, I am looking forward to more members of the NAV team declaring publicly their love for Power BI (whether that means with Office 2013 or Office 365) :-) Regards, Cristi Nicola
Joe
Submitted by Joe Little on Thu, 03/20/2014 - 17:18 Permalink

You know better than this Christian. You attend the events, maybe even the sessions sometimes. I know, I see you there. I understand that you are trying to make a living consulting and that this topic has been good to you recently, but you are a smart guy and can find a way to both advertise and keep it real simultaneously. Joe Little President, Jet Reports

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Cristi
Submitted by cn on Tue, 03/25/2014 - 11:20 Permalink

Hi Joe, Talking about Power Pivot at several sessions at several events a year does not a strategy make. I truly believe Power Pivot / Power BI is something our end users can use on their own (and you should too since it has some similarities with Jet products). So since you do know me, I hope you give me enough credit that I would not base my business on a free product that customers should be able to handle on their own. Ultimately, neither you nor MS has mentioned any issues with Power Pivot / Power BI. So I am still waiting for a logical reason why MS is not making it their official reporting and BI solution just as on the cloud side they are pushing Azure despite the presence of other cloud options from companies not called Microsoft. Regards, Cristi Nicola
Theng Wee
Submitted by Tan Theng Wee on Thu, 03/27/2014 - 04:37 Permalink

From my experience in getting BI to work for SMEs and quick way to see their Return on Business Intelligence(ROBI, 3rd party BI solutions still the way to go. At least for now. SMEs , NAV target markets, do not have the patience to wait and build and try. They want it ready-made and modify. So, I would suggest taking a look at 3rd party BI products. They are usually ready to go in about 1 month and comes with ready-made cubes from GL, AR, AP, Inventory and FA.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Mladen
Submitted by mgvozden on Fri, 04/04/2014 - 04:04 Permalink

Thou we will make no money with Power BI I truly believe that this is a great self-service BI tool. It’s hard to expect that Power BI will replace corporate BI or BI based on NAV. Corporate BI is data warehouse and/or OLAP cube based solution. It would be a great challenge to develop a corporate BI covering NAV application areas with Power BI as NAV architecture is quite complex. If there is some BI enthusiast developing a NAV based BI solution with Power BI right now he or she would get some good results in business area where net transaction values are measured (Sales, Purchase and GL) but will face many obstacle on areas where measures are based on balance (Inventory, Receivables and Payables). Beside that challenges with incremental load and security remain open in Power BI. Herewith pops up the question. Is it worth the investment? Good BI solutions are available for few thousand dollars. I am sure Power BI can extend corporate BI. We can foresee scenarios where business users would like to add some functionality to existing BI solution with tables from existing NAV or other private or public source. Business users would not need to call IT or IT vendor as Power BI can easily connect to cubes. Adding few new tables and linking them to OLAP based tables is easy and requires no technical expertise. Power BI is still a developing story both technically and commercially. Microsoft is still adding new features and trying to find optimal pricing. I am sure we will see more in the future. Mladen Gvozdenovic CEO, BI4Dynamics

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Jeff
Submitted by jeffelderton on Wed, 04/23/2014 - 09:21 Permalink

Great and inevitable discussion... But, a few clarifications are desperately needed. This is good news, I assure you... read on. Power BI is not remotely the same as the full MSFT BI Stack on Sharepoint 2013. Power BI is a fine offering, for the right business, but there are SEVERAL elements which may prevent Power BI from being the right solution for some NAV Partners / Customers. ***Power BI is not the only (or best) route to the new MSFT BI toys.*** Specific differences from current on-prem MSFT BI stack include; 1. Data Model size limitations. 2. No Reporting Services option. No Tabular modeling option. 3. Row-level security 4. Security model is underdeveloped. 5. License model is expensive and for some is confusing to sell or buy. 6. Revenue opportunity for NAV Partners is limited. NAV Partners can absolutely make money with the MSFT BI stack... Consider the product gap in the MSFT BI offerings. Of the 100% of NAV customers, the vast majority will NOT have Sharepoint 2013 BI environments (a pre-requisite for current MSFT BI). And, the vast majority may not want to convert to a Power BI+O365 world, due in part to price, complexity, or BI limitations referenced above. So, how do you provide MSFT BI environments to these folks so the advanced BI functionality and reporting is there? Pivotstream is a cloud provider of pre-built, optimized Sharepoint 2013 + SQL 2012 + MSFT BI environments for hundreds of companies. Power Pivot and Power View have been our playground for the past 4 years. We have datacenters in the US and UK, and can provision a full-powered environment for you same day. And it is BYOS (bring your own storage) so Pivotstream is also a gateway to selling Azure. Oh, and if you want to hook it into Tableau, or other tools which work with SSAS, bring 'em. We hear this ...

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In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Jeff
Submitted by jeffelderton on Wed, 04/23/2014 - 11:28 Permalink

It occured to me that I should share the demo environment with this group. Sometimes it can be helpful to see some of the capabilities in person. There are Power View reports as well as several Power Pivot models. Please feel free to explore our demos at https://explore.pivotstream.com/Pages/default.aspx. Regards, Jeff Elderton CEO Pivotstream

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