Different BI solutions in the AX eco-system

I had a question from a customer about what are their options for BI with Dynamics AX. There are a lot of capabilities that you get with Dynamics AX and the Microsoft platform technologies.

I did a quick compile of different solutions that you will find in the Dynamics AX eco-system. These are in no particular order, some I’ve worked with others I’ve seen around the channel for a long time and many customers are taking advantage of them.

Like anything with applying the right tool for a job you will first have to know what your needs are. Do an assessment and think about things like

  • What skills do I have in-house
  • Do I have developer skills on Microsoft BI technology
  • Do I have AX data model skills
  • Are the majority of my users power users
  • Are the majority of my users ad-hoc BI users supported by power users
  • Do I have legacy ERP solutions I need to pull data from as well
  • What is my long term support approach to updating reports/BI
  • What is my budget
  • How will users access the reports and BI
  • What security needs do I have
  • Do I have external facing reporting needs

Here is a short compile not trying to list the pro/cons of the options but at least if you are evaluating your options have a look at what is available. As well this is not an exhaustive list I’m sure there are other solutions in the market.

 

Management Reporter

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/dynamics_financial_reporting/

You have Management Reporter as part of your AX license. This should do most business for BS/P&L reporting. It doesn’t look across other domain areas in AX, looking to the cubes and Power BIAs well as the features have been added you can support external ledgers with an Excel import. As well currency support has been update to help with consolidation scenarios. It supports reporting off the budgeting data in AX as well as GL.

 

Standard AX Cubes

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=35818

http://technet.microsoft.com/EN-US/library/dn358356.aspx

You have standard cubes with AX that you can then use with the standard Microsoft BI tools you get in SQL and Office = PowerBI http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/powerbi/default.aspx

With our standard cubes you can modify them but you will need someone with SSAS cube building experience as well as Dynamics AX data model experience.

 

Standard AX SSRS Reports

Most of the AX reports fit in the category of transactional reports. There is charting capabilities in the SSRS reports and some of these have been made for the standard role centers. So building new transactional reports the tools in Visual Studio will be familiar with most developers who have done reporting. If you are new to Dynamics AX don’t underestimate the work to understand the data model so if you have developers learning AX you will likely have to partner them with a functional resource to help spec out where data will come from for report modifications.

 

Bottomline Technologies

Transform http://www.bottomline.com/document_process_automation/transform.html

Create!form http://www.bottomline.com/document_process_automation/createform.html

If you have a lot of customers facing documents you need to design as well has email /FAX distribution needs.

 

ZAP

https://www.zapbi.com/default.aspx

Pre-Define reports and reporting infrastructure.

 

GlobeSoftware – Atlas

http://globesoftware.com/

Atlas has been a long time main stay in the AX world. It’s Excel based. While I’ll put this in there for reporting it is also used for journals, some data updates into AX.

 

Jet Reports.

http://www.jetreports.com/jet-enterprise/business-intelligence-microsoft-dynamics-ax.php

Pre-defined reports built around Excel.

 

Solver

http://www.solverusa.com/

Pre-defined reports and reporting infrastructure.

 

F9

http://www.f9.com/

Excel add-in for building financial reports.

 

Bi4Dynamics.

http://www.bi4dynamics.com/

Pre-defined reports and reporting infrastructure.

 

Targit

http://www.targit.com/en/software/accelerator/dynamics-ax

Pre-define reports and reporting infrastructure.

 

Remember if you have ISV solutions in your environment likely you might want to have some of the pre-defined packages updated to support your environment so when you are looking for a solution don’t forget you’ll also be wanting consulting support to be able to modify reports.

Also if you are selecting an ISV for your environment a lot of them come with additional cubes or BI pieces specific to their solution. So when you are evaluating BI tools make sure you work with something that is compatible with the additional BI your ISV brings.

If you are going to take on building your own reports don’t underestimate the work. I see this often that BI is left to the end and it does require a good combination of Dynamics AX data model skills as well as skills in the tools that you are going to use. Just remember that reports are features like any feature require to complete a business process so make sure you have a gaps management process in your analysis phase.

 

Cheers

Lachlan

 

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