We hear it all the time–“I don’t need a business intelligence solution–I have Excel.” Some people reason it this way: “I already have Excel so my people won’t need any training,” or “Since I have Excel now, there won’t be any additional cost.” If true, these would be very valid arguments. But once you take a closer look, you’ll see that there is a big difference between Excel and an out-of-the-box BI solution.
Spreadsheets are a part of life. If you were born after 1975, you probably don’t remember life without them and even those of us born before 1975 probably don’t remember professional life without them. Today Excel is the standard and you would have to search hard to find someone who doesn’t know at least how to set up and use an Excel spreadsheet. But beyond cells and formulas, how many of your folks really know Excel—know how to import or validate data, how to apply security, how to use tables and templates, or how to use pivot tables?
But more than that, users of your home-grown solution will still have to learn about BI—things like how the screens work, dealing with cubes, switching fields in a table, using hierarchies. They will still have to learn what the formulas mean and what each piece of data represents. And they will still have to learn how to share results and collaborate with others via the solution. So much for not needing any training.
In order to create an in-house business intelligence solution, you would need a development team and that team will need to put in thousands of hours researching, developing, quality checking, and debugging an Excel-based business intelligence system. They would need to know what formulas to use and how to program them. They would need to create reports, graphs, and dashboards for each role and provide security, and a whole lot more. They would need to be experts in Excel and SQL, mathematicians, and graphical user interface gurus all rolled into one.
Then they would have to provide maintenance keeping the system up to date and adding the newest technologies and visualizations. Of course, there would also be internal support of the solution as well as BI training for the developers and users. The fact is, it would cost a lot more to develop a business intelligence system in-house than it would to buy one.
A Hammer instead of a Screwdriver
There’s a bigger issue here than either cost or training. Business intelligence solutions are architected for rapid-fire analyses. They contain extract-translate-load (ETL) functionality that manages the movement of data from the source into the BI data warehouse and it’s this data warehouse that allows you to use data from different applications such as GL, CRM, and operations databases in your reports and analyses. They contain value-added content like formulas and pre-programmed reports as well as functionality like currency translation, traffic lights, and on-screen calculators. And they contain role-based security and customization tools that make it easy to do things like create and modify cubes or create user-defined hierarchies.
Trying to create a home-grown BI solution from Excel is like trying to use a hammer when you need a screwdriver—it takes longer, doesn’t give you the best results, and usually ends up costing much more than you would have spent if you just bought the screwdriver. And in the end, you usually end up going out and buying the screwdriver anyway after lots of frustration and wasted time, effort, and money.
BIO is a complete business intelligence solution. It offers over 50 out-of-the-box reports and the deepest connectors to Microsoft Dynamics SL, GP, and NAV in the industry. Its value-added content and functionality get your users up and running in just a couple of hours. To learn more about BIO, click here to register for an upcoming webinar. And please contact me at 203.705.4648 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about BIO or business intelligence in general.
By Sandi Richards Forman of BIO Analytics Corp., Microsoft Dynamics Business Intelligence (BI) Solution Provider