Since its initial release by Microsoft in July 2015, Power BI has caused a great deal of commotion in the industry because of its rich and surprisingly easy to use non-technical end-user dashboarding and visualisation capabilities. Naturally these kinds of dramatic entries into the technical space come with a generally mixed degree of curiosity and instinctive fear of it outmoding whichever existing tools people are currently relying on for similar functionality. “How does this impact my existing investments?”, users ask. “Does this replace part or all of what we need to be using, or does it complicate the stack even more?”, some muse. “And what’s this Peanut Butter and Jam business in the title?”.
A sizable portion of users pondering this particular conundrum are some of the 10 000+ global customers that are currently actively using Jet Enterprise for Microsoft Dynamics NAV, AX or GP. Jet Enterprise, of course, is the automated data warehouse solution from Jet Reports, providing a complete Business Intelligence platform in all of its reportable glory to a veritable host of executives, managers, data analysts, financial specialists and their assorted peers. It’s been around for quite a while and has become somewhat of a staple when it comes to reporting on the aforementioned ERP’s. So with that in mind, should those who have already invested rip out what they’ve got and opt for Power BI instead? It’s almost tempting when you see how pretty it is!
The good news is that while Jet Enterprise and Microsoft’s Power BI are both very impressive reporting solutions, they aren’t competing products at all. Both are built using the Microsoft technology stack, and while both offer easy to use self-service reports, their areas of focus are actually quite complimentary.
At its core Jet Enterprise is a data warehouse that serves as a central repository for an organisation’s data, often from numerous sources, and it effectively consolidates and restructures all of this data to optimise it for reporting. Typical reports currently powered by this solution might be financial, manufacturing and sales data housed in analytics-centric reports that provide filterable charts and tables detailing the various facets of what’s happening inside the company. For instance, users may evaluate sales trends, investigate optimisation possibilities in production, identify cost anomalies or analyse customer purchase behaviour.
Power BI, despite being a relatively new product, is a rich dashboard and visualisation tool specifically designed for non-technical users. It works well, can report on a very wide base of data sources and has seen noteworthy adoption worldwide. It also runs both as a desktop tool and in the cloud, making it useful to present data in a simple, real-time fashion to a large audience.
It’s important to recognise that these are fundamentally different types of reporting, however. Where Jet Reports allows users to create sophisticated highly analytical reports all the way down to a transactional level at any point in the organisation’s recorded history, Power BI provides more of a summarised overview in the form of dashboards. The focus here is on delivering simple views on critical business data, usually in situations of higher variability such as KPI’s. While no less valuable, these dashboards can track real-time changes and provide handy quick overviews, but don’t offer the same depth and flexibility as those generally used with Jet Enterprise. As an example, Power BI wouldn’t be able to do financial statements or custom calculations.
At this point you might find yourself wondering which reporting solution to choose. Why not opt for both? Since Power BI works perfectly well using Microsoft SQL Server technologies as a data source, Jet Enterprise could present a rich source of well-maintained data to draw from. In fact, it would be a very simple matter to point Power BI to your data warehouse and configure your dashboards to feed from the already near(-ish) real-time data there. Together the two solutions could greatly enrich your current reporting potential, meaning you can have your cake and eat it too. Because they go together like peanut butter and jam. (See what I did there?)
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