Gartner Magic Quadrant Reveals Microsoft as a Leader in BI and Analytics Platforms

A core piece of Microsoft’s focus over the past few years has been business intelligence (BI) and analytics. It seems the commitment and effort continue to pay off! Microsoft was recently positioned as a Leader in BI and Analytics in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for the 10th year in a row. Microsoft was rated highly in completeness of vision and ability to execute. The combination of these two makes them a leader in the industry.

Microsoft recognized that with more and more companies transitioning to online platforms, there was more data now, than ever before, for companies to analyze. The problem is, not everyone knows what type of data is out there and how the combination of certain data sets can create actionable insights. Many executives express frustration because they know their business data is valuable, but they don’t know how to ‘get at it’.

Kamal Hathi, the General Manager for Microsoft Power BI, had this to say about the placement from Gartner in an official Microsoft blog post:

Today I’m thrilled to share that for the second year in a row, Microsoft has been positioned furthest to the right for completeness of vision within the Leaders quadrant of Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms – the 10th consecutive year Microsoft has been positioned as a leader.

We’re humbled by this recognition for the innovation we’ve delivered with Microsoft Power BI in the past year, including significant growth in both the vision axis and execution axis since the 2016 report. But, more importantly, we’re encouraged by the progress we’ve made as a community in executing against the ambitious goal set when Power BI was made generally available only a short time ago in July 2015: Provide BI to more people than ever before, across all roles and disciplines within organizations.

gartner magic quadrant bi and analytics

Gartner Magic Quadrant

Gartner is well-known for their “Magic Quadrant reports where technology solutions are classed as leaders, challengers, visionaries or niche players by their completeness of vision and ability to execute.  I find the Gartner Magic Quadrant to be extremely valuable and a good depiction of the marketplace.

Here is how Gartner describes the four quadrants:

Leaders execute well against their current vision and are well positioned for tomorrow.

Visionaries understand where the market is going or have a vision for changing market rules, but do not yet execute well.

Niche Players focus successfully on a small segment, or are unfocused and do not out-innovate or outperform others.

Challengers execute well today or may dominate a large segment, but do not demonstrate an understanding of market direction.

Microsoft Power BI

Power BI is a self-service business intelligence solution delivered through Excel, Office 365 and Dynamics 365. It takes a company’s data and brings it together to create visual reports and dashboards for users to discover trends and actionable insights.

Power BI is built and optimized for the cloud and mobile technology – users can access their reports and dashboards anywhere. Additionally, Power BI makes it easier to analyze and visualize data, uncover insights and track data over time to help make better business decisions. Business can even transform, shape and merge data into compelling and interactive reports. Businesses can deploy Power BI quickly and at a cloud scale while still being in complete control of the cost due to a flexible, subscription-based pricing model.

power bi desktop view

Power BI is a favorite among our customers. They appreciate its power to generate meaningful reports that help them uncover key insights into their business. Furthermore, some are astounded at just all that Power BI can report on.

Gartner had this to say about Microsoft in their Gartner BI and Analytics Platform report:

STRENGTHS

Cost: Microsoft is placing downward pricing pressure on the BI and analytics market with both a free desktop product as well as low subscription price per user per month. On an annualized basis, Microsoft Power BI is roughly one-third of the license cost of a three-year perpetual BI license, but 80% lower than other cloud BI products. Low total cost of ownership was cited as the second most important reason for reference customers choosing Microsoft Power BI. However, potential customers should be aware that additional data scale-out options incur additional costs when leveraging Microsoft SQL Azure or HDInsight in the cloud — once they reach the 10GB per user limit in the standard Power BI Pro price. Being free but functionally deficient does not succeed; this was a problem with the first release of Power BI. However, Microsoft has now narrowed feature gaps and successfully executed on its “five by five” strategy — five seconds to sign up and five minutes to “wow” the customer.

Ease of use plus complex analysis: Microsoft’s customer reference scores place it in the top quartile for ease of use and complexity of analysis. Ease of use for content consumers was also the most-cited reason for customers choosing Microsoft Power BI. It was also placed in the top quartile for composite ease of use; however, there is room for improvement in ease of administration and authoring (where the vendor was average). Customers now want ease of use not only with simple queries, but also with increasingly sophisticated types of questions — mashing together multiple data sources from multiple fact tables. Microsoft’s ability to manipulate data from multiple data sources — both cloud-based and on-premises, relational as well as Hadoop-based, and including semistructured content — contributed to this high composite score.

Vision: Microsoft is furthest to the right on the Completeness of Vision axis and has also continued to execute on its roadmap with frequent (monthly) product releases. Microsoft was relatively early to introduce search-based queries with Power BI Q&A, and has recently introduced Quick Insights as a basic form of smart data discovery. Microsoft continues to integrate its machine-learning capabilities as part of a complete solution, the Cortana Intelligence Suite. This vendor has also moved a step closer to linking insights to actions, with the recent integration of Power BI with Microsoft Flow and within its business application, Microsoft Dynamics.

Active community: Microsoft has a strong community of partners, resellers and individual users. This community extends the product with prebuilt apps, visualizations and video tutorials, in addition to the content provided directly by Microsoft. This additional content is available via the Microsoft AppSource, further contributing to Microsoft’s far-right placement for its Completeness of Vision. Microsoft’s reference customer scores placed it in the top quartile for the user-enablement metrics of user community and availability of skilled resources in the marketplace.

You can download the full report here.

As you can tell from what you read above, Microsoft Power BI is well positioned moving forward while still providing exception insight to businesses today. We are happy for the hard working Power BI team at Microsoft and thrilled that we offer such a valuable business tool to our clients.

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Dynamics 365 for Operations in the Cloud and On-Premise : The Best of Both Worlds

Major news in the enterprise Dynamics community was broken last week. Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations is nearly ready for a hybrid deployment, meaning enterprise-level firms will be able to experience the best of both worlds. The hybrid cloud deployment allows enterprise firms, who could not consider a cloud-only solution, to receive the multitude of benefits of Microsoft cloud technology while still maintaining the security and control they need in order to run their firm.

Some enterprise level firms, specifically manufacturers and retailers, rely heavily on smooth and consistent production in order to make their business profitable. As such, these companies tend to lean towards ERP and business solutions that are held and controlled locally. Additionally, some of these companies are forced into these types of solutions because regulations maintain that they capture and store a customer’s personal information locally. A cloud-only solution gives them the operating power they need to produce, but not the control or security they desire. That is no longer the case for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations.

Dynamics 365 for Operations Hybrid Cloud Announcement

In a blog post on February 23rd, Sri Srinivasan announced and detailed the availability of a hybrid deployment for Dynamics 365 for Operations. Srinivasan is the General Manager for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations in the Cloud and Enterprise Group.

At the Summit ’16 in Tampa, Florida, we announced the plans for a hybrid cloud deployment meant to accommodate these specific scenarios, so that organizations can combine the best of both worlds. Dynamics 365 for Operations plans to enable organizations to run their business processes from application servers at the edges, meaning that transactions are supported by local application services and business data is stored locally. Each such facility running at the edge is called “My Workplace”. The central cloud node provides a single view of the business across distributed ”My Workplace” instances while utilizing the power of the Microsoft cloud for embedded intelligence in business processes.

Sri Srinivasan, Microsoft General Manager for Dynamics 365 for Operations in the Cloud and Enterprise Group

Sri Srinivasan, Microsoft General Manager for Dynamics 365 for Operations

The Microsoft cloud connection ensures data aggregation, financial reporting, intelligence, and more. The cloud instance also provides the local installation with data failover in the Microsoft cloud, automated deployment and continuous updates, and elastic compute capacity to infuse “intelligence” into the business process when needed. This hybrid cloud deployment model scales out through federation of the on-premises nodes (My Workplaces), federated in the Microsoft cloud for a single, global enterprise view, which is a first for business applications.  By Summer 2017, we will support a single “My Workplace”, followed by federation of “My Workplace” instances in releases beyond. We are excited to offer this deployment option, “cloud and edge”, a true differentiated option that combines the power of cloud and on-premises in a unique way to offer scale, continuity, and intelligence.

Sri Srinivasan, Microsoft General Manager for Dynamics 365 for Operations

This is fantastic news for enterprise firms looking to harness the power of the Microsoft Cloud while still being able to run certain processes locally. Srinivasan went on to divulge that there will be an ON and OFF switch of some sorts that will allow companies to control cloud synchronization – keeping them in control of their business data.

Deployment Options

With this new deployment method, enterprise firms will have a real decision to make when considering Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Operations. Do they want to take advantage of all the Microsoft Cloud has to offer? Or do they prefer to have a server nearby storing key information and running select processes? Even further, firms may want flexibility to change their ERP environment after the initial purchase without having to re-deploy a brand new ERP solution.

Here is what the Dynamics 365 for Operation team is working on at Microsoft:

  • New and existing customers will have paths forward to license both local business data and cloud and edge deployments. Existing investments will continue to be accounted for in our licensing.
  • Customers can license local business data deployments via a Dynamics 365 for Operations license with Software Assurance/Enhancement Plan or a subscription model.
  • Customers with active Microsoft Dynamics Enhancement Plans or Software Assurance, may upgrade to local business data as they remain entitled to access new versions and updates.
  • Transitions to Dynamics 365 cloud subscriptions are available to customers with active Microsoft Dynamics Enhancement Plans or Software Assurance.
  • Cloud and edge software and services will be licensed under the existing Dynamics 365 cloud subscription licensing model.

Dynamics 365 for Operations Deployment Options

Enterprise firms can select from three deployment options. The below photo examines the different scenarios and details of each deployment.

Dynamics 365 for Operations Deployment Scenarios

AXIO Enterprise Solutions for Dynamics 365

SBS Group’s AXIO Enterprise Solutions are both available on Microsoft AppSource for enterprise firms interested in optimizing and strengthening their Dynamics 365 for Operations deployment and solution. AXIO Core Financials spans all the important business processes in your firm (accounts receivable/payable, general ledger, fixed assets, banking, etc.) and is built directly on Dynamics 365 for Operations. AXIO for Professional Services gives businesses the same features as AXIO Core Financials plus several additional features needed specifically by professional services firms such as project and resource management, project accounting, government contracting and much more.

Both solutions are designed for companies who have multi-entity, multi-currency, multi-taxation and multi-language requirements. With direct integration with Dynamics 365 for Operations, AXIO Enterprise Solutions provide global scalability, enterprise-class extensibility, built-in intelligence, and compliance with all GAAP, IFRS, Sarbanes-Oxley, and DCAA requirements.

Register for our upcoming webcast and learn more about Dynamics 365 for Operations and AXIO Enterprise Solutions.

“Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Software Companies with AXIO for Professional Services”
Thursday, March 16th
1 PM – 2 PM ET

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Best regards,

Robbie Morrison
VP Enterprise Solutions and Services, SBS Group

About Robbie
Robbie Morrison has spent nearly 20 years helping customers build and deploy elegant technology and business solutions.  From start-ups to enterprise-class organizations worldwide, his knowledge of the Microsoft Dynamics ecosystem helps SBS Group customers maximize benefits from the ERP investments.  Robbie

Today, Robbie serves SBS Group customers in his role as Vice President, Enterprise Group where he provides thought leadership and manages the enterprise delivery team.  Robbie received his MBA from the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business.
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robbiemorrison

Bring Your Data to Life with Microsoft Power BI

This is the fourth in a series of five blogs, which attempt to provide airport accounting managers with information on how they can improve their financial management processes.  Previously, I wrote about the benefits of using a multi-dimensional accounting system like Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017, the key to improving productivity and accuracy of data by integrating your accounting system with other airport systems, and how to improve your reports by capturing key statistical data and combining this data with your financial data.  In addition, readers are encouraged to read my white paper (Modern Airport, Modern Tools) that covers the same topics in a summarized form. This post continues this series and discusses the benefits of implementing a data visualization product like Power BI.

What is Data Visualization?

Data visualization is a term used to describe products that present your data in a graphical format so you can see patterns and trends that might go undetected in standard financial statements like an income statement.  There are many data visualization products in the market, also known as business intelligence (“BI”) products.  Typically, these BI products cost a lot of money to implement, but this has changed with the advent of Microsoft Power BI.

Microsoft Power BI

This blog will focus on Microsoft Power BI, a suite of business analytics tools that allow you to analyze data, monitor your business and get answers quickly with rich dashboards available on every device.  Power BI was launched in July 2015 and has been rapidly adopted by organizations and now has millions of users worldwide.  Power BI can be used on all your devices, including laptops, tablets and smartphones.  Just think how amazing it would be to be able to see a dashboard showing your airport’s financial data and key performance metrics on your smartphone while sitting in a coffee shop or hotel lobby.

power bi mobility

There are two versions of Power BI:

  1. Power BI is a free version, which offers basic functionality.
  2. Power BI PRO offers additional functionality and data capacity and costs $12.20 per user per month (at the time of writing).

Although the basic version is free, you may need some consulting help to connect Power BI to your accounting data and design and develop some dashboards.  You could do this yourself, but this would take time to learn the product and it is recommended that you retain a consultant who has this experience since you will get it done much faster.  SBS Group can help you with this if needed.

What is a Dashboard?

A dashboard is a graphical representation of your key data.  A dashboard is something you create or something a colleague creates and shares with you. It is a single canvas that contains tiles, with each tile displaying a single visualization that was created from a dataset and pinned to the dashboard.  You can combine data that is stored on-premises with data on the cloud into the same dashboard, for example, you could combine your accounting data and airport key performance metrics, into a single pane of glass, providing a consolidated view across the organization regardless of where the data lives. Each metric, or insight, is displayed on the dashboard as a tile.

The following simple dashboard has three tiles and shows revenue for a helicopter company in Western Canada (the data is not real).  The tile on the left shows a map with circles, which show the helicopter bases.  The tile on the top right shows the revenue for each base broken down by individual helicopter, and the tile on the bottom right shows revenue by individual helicopter.  If you click on one of the bases on the map, the two tiles on the right will change to display data for that specific base. You can then drill down to the transactions from a bar or slice of the pie chart. As you can see, this is called “data visualization” because it depicts your data in a visual way.

power bi dashboard

By using an accounting system that has dimensions (please refer to a previous blog for an explanation of dimensions), you can use those dimensions in the dashboard. The above dashboard was created using two dimensions, one for “base” and one for “helicopter”.  Microsoft Dynamics NAV has 8 dimensions so you can start to see the power of using dimensions to help create stunning dashboards that will give you a visual view of how your airport is running.  With a well-designed dashboard, you can see your whole business on one dashboard.  What is more amazing about this new technology is that you can see this dashboard on a laptop, tablet or smartphone from anywhere as long as you have a connection to the internet.

Take Action…

Millions of users are now using Power BI to help them understand their business performance.  Download Power BI today from https://powerbi.microsoft.com and start using it.  Contact me if you need help with Power BI, or help with any of the other topics covered in this series of blogs.

Paul Fernandez B.Sc., ACMA, CMA
SBS Group Pacific Canada

About Paul
paul-fernandezPaul Fernandez is the general manager of SBS Pacific Canada, which is part of the SBS Group. He has worked as a professional accountant in industry for 25 years in various senior financial positions. He founded his consulting practise 15 years ago and has worked as a consultant implementing accounting systems at many companies, drawing on his own experience to advise clients on the design of their chart of accounts and multi-dimensional reporting structures. Contact Paul at pfernandez@sbsgroup.ca.

 


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The Microsoft Cloud for Professional Services – Focus on Mobility

mobility professional services

The professional services workplace is not what it used to be, and it’s certainly no longer a particular place. With an increasing industry focus on globalization, the workforce has followed suit, resulting in professional service organization (PSO) staff spending less time at their desks and more time in front of their clients.

Demands have increased on project teams to provide more immediate and meaningful contact with customers and information. This means that project teams are moving away from the concept of the traditional office and working either on-site at customer locations or on the road. In both cases, connectivity to systems, tools, and accurate and collaborative project information is critical.  We see requirements in a number of areas.

Comprehensive Access to Firm Resources – Many service delivery organizations want more support for mobility, and demand for compliant access to all tools and technology is growing especially among millennial employees.  Firms are also seeking offline project-related data entry if they don’t already have it.

Accessibility to Business Intelligence – Project and engagement managers are demanding the ability to analyze data, search for content, receive alerts or simply consult metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) on mobile devices. Location is no longer a constraint on information or even action, particularly in the case of real-time information delivery.  Benefits include real-time visibility, 24/7 availability of critical data and effective alerts and messaging.

Usability – The independent nature of many professional services staff members drives demand for device independence and user-customizable applications that can be personalized to consume information as needed by users through intelligent delivery of information based on profile and preferences (location, position, etc.)

Collaboration – Effective collaboration means combining mobile app functionality with simple services like text messaging as well as more complex collaboration tools such as internal or public collaboration applications. This enables the sharing of rich content (e.g., voice, images, and text), the ability to enable comments and share text messages along with and about data, and the ability to leverage pre-existing security to ensure reliable and secure information communication.

mobility

The Microsoft Cloud provides the mobile capabilities that professional services need.

Office 365 provides familiar Office tools enabling staff to create, edit and share documents from traditional laptops or any iOS, Android™, or Windows device with anyone in real time.  Online services like Skype for Business, SharePoint Online and the new “Teams” app further support collaboration and communication.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is Microsoft’s new approach to end-to-end intelligent business applications in the cloud. Dynamics 365 unifies ERP and CRM into one cloud service with new purpose-built apps to manage all your core business functions including Sales, Customer Service, Finance, Field Service, Operations, Marketing and Project Service Automation.  With native integration to Office 365, universal browser access, and mobile apps for iOS, Android™, or Windows devices, employees can have secure access to all the information, services and resources they need wherever work takes them.

Services are hosted at Microsoft data centers, offering the most comprehensive set of certifications and attestations of any cloud service provider to ensure organizations comply with national, regional, and industry-specific requirements governing the collection and use of individuals’ data.

With over 800 professional services customers across the US and Canada, SBS Group is the leader in Microsoft solutions for professional services and project-based businesses.  If you are interested in learning more about the Microsoft Cloud for Professional Services, please email us info@sbsgroupusa.com or call 732.476.5900.


Register for our upcoming Professional Services Webcast!

The Microsoft Cloud for Professional Services Firms
Wednesday, January 11th
12 – 1 PM ET

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SBS Group Announces Online Marketplace Availability of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials

SBS Group is the first Microsoft Partner to offer electronic purchasing of Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials.

SBS Group, a leading technology firm and industry innovator, is ready and prepared to offer Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials to its customers and prospects. Furthermore, SBS Group provides interested businesses a set of Dynamics 365 for Financials packages to satisfy the complexity of businesses’ financial management needs.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials is Microsoft’s revolutionary business solution for small-to-medium sized businesses. Dynamics 365 was officially made available for purchase on November 1, 2016. Dynamics 365 for Financials helps businesses manage their financial, sales, service and operational needs in one comprehensive, powerful solution.

“Through months of preparation and planning, I am proud to say SBS Group is one of the first partners fully able to implement and support Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials to our clients and prospects,” said James Bowman, President and Chief Executive Officer of SBS Group. “To allow our clients and prospects a seamless online experience, our online marketplace allows them to subscribe to the entire Dynamics 365 lineup completely online – making us the first Microsoft partner in the US to offer these services.”

SBS Group is the first Microsoft Partner to provide online purchasing capabilities for companies interested in Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials. Interested businesses can visit shop.sbsgroupusa.com to access Dynamics 365 for Financials pricing and product information. The online, mobile-capable, marketplace streamlines the order process for the customer from accessing additional product information to comparing solution packages to, ultimately, purchasing a Dynamics 365 for Financials package.

Learn more about Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Financials at http://www.sbsgroupusa.com/solutions/microsoft-dynamics-365/financials.

About SBS Group
SBS Group is a national Microsoft master VAR (Value Added Reseller) with Gold level competency in enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM). Over the past 30 years, they have been recognized as Microsoft Partner of the Year, Inner Circle Member and Microsoft President’s Club member multiple times. The company is headquartered in Edison, New Jersey and operates offices across North America. For more information, please visit SBS Group’s website at http://www.sbsgroupusa.com. Follow us on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/company/sbs-group, on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/sbsgroup and find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/SBSGroupUSA.


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