Have you ever thought about how long it takes you to put together a regular report in Dynamics AX? If you’re an experienced SQL developer, it’s probably pretty easy and only takes a few hours. If you happen to be one of the many non-technical users out there, however, it likely ranges from days to weeks. Although Microsoft has been recognized by Gartner as a leader in business intelligence (BI) and analytics platforms, the tools built into your Dynamics AX system aren’t easily accessible to everyone.
The BI tools that exist in Dynamics AX, although robust, require a unique skill set to make the technology work to meet your analytics needs. There are four major skills you must have on your IT team to set up your BI strategy out-of-the-box in Dynamics AX, and use the tools included effectively:
- A Database Guru who has a deep understanding of how Microsoft’s database structure was built and knows how to code.
- A Technical Expert who can write SQL and MDX code in BIDS and has a background in Integration and Analysis Services, Data Warehousing and OLAP cubes.
- A seasoned Reporting Veteran who understands how the data should be presented and has the skills to use SQL Reporting Services and Excel.
- A Data Delivery Professional with user-experience design skills that understands SharePoint.
These skills certainly exist throughout the Dynamics community, but they are in high demand and as a result, require a pretty penny to hire and retain. Outsourced development might do the job for infrequent one-off reporting requests but if your BI solution is based on the native Dynamics AX cubes, you become extremely dependent on highly skilled Dynamics and SQL Server developers to build new environments, implement any changes, and to maintain it.
The other issue is actually taking all of these skillsets and building a cohesive BI environment your company can use. These technical experts don’t necessarily speak the same language as your non-technical user, which can cause clashes and miscommunication throughout the entire implementation process. It also requires a huge investment of time, money, and resources to build a team like this, which is out of the question for most organizations.
As powerful as Dynamics AX BI tools are, third-party solutions exist to solve these problems. Microsoft itself recommends using professional organizations (i.e. ISVs) to make the most of its BI platform and tools. These third-party solutions are designed for your Dynamics AX system and can be installed quickly, as they have the heavy lifting already done for you.
Before you jump in, it’s important to do your due diligence. Dynamics AX is your primary data source and you need to make sure the third-party BI solution you choose makes full use of Microsoft’s BI stack and fills the gaps in user experience and self-sufficiency. To get a better understanding of what alternatives are out there, download our framework for evaluating BI solutions in Dynamics AX. It will help you understand what functionality you need and equip you for your software selection process.