Blogiversary Top 20 (#5) PowerPivot to the People

We’re celebrating our one year blogiversary by reposting the Top 20 Most Viewed in the last year, as determined by you, our readers! Follow this link to see the entire list. Enjoy!

As a Controller at a small to medium-sized business, I struggle with the big BI question:  do I invest in a business intelligence package or do I do it myself?

When I first became aware of PowerPivot, a free Excel add-on that became available with Microsoft Office 2010, I was excited and also a little relieved. While the emergence of PowerPivot didn’t completely solve my dilemma, it sure gave me some significant options for more data accessibility. I didn’t have to depend on my partner or an IT employee with special skills to build me a dataport from NAV, or to piece together an SQL query, or to build a cube I could apply queries to. Because I have PowerPivot, suddenly I can be Super-Controller; accessing tables directly in my NAV database, pulling ginormous amounts of data into a single spreadsheet, and manipulating the data with lightning speed into familiar Excel pivot tables, all without asking for help.  powerpivotcrush

So, when I read in a recent article from MSDynamicsWorld.com that New Office 2013 Licensing May Put PowerPivot, Power View Out of Reach for Some Microsoft Dynamics Users, I was actually pretty alarmed and then pretty upset. How dare Microsoft give us this shiny new Christmas dream and then snatch it away like some kind of horrible data-reneging Grinch!

I went looking for a few more answers about exactly what was going on, and what I found out was that Microsoft has actually taken PowerPivot out of most versions of Office 2013. This is a big deal because it was previously available in all versions of Office 2010, so Microsoft is actually removing functionality. PowerPivot is only available in Office 2013 if you get Office Pro Plus through volume licensing or through Office 365 subscriptions. Basically, this means PowerPivot is not available in any retail Office 2013 packages, so therefore, is only reachable by companies who have enough purchasing power to utilize volume licensing packages. So, a tool that was designed, in my opinion, to give BI power directly to the people by making it simple enough for financial folks to pull their own data, has now been restricted to only business class licensing. If you’re looking for some interesting theories as to why this might be, read Hey, Who Moved My (PowerPivot 2013) Cheese?

Mr. Excel himself (Bill Jelen), the uberist Excel geek of them all, has some great stuff to say about PowerPivot, including “PowerPivot is the best new feature to hit Excel in 20 years” and a few other things here including a great short video explaining why we should care.  I just said in a recent NAVUG Ask the Experts Finance webinar only two weeks ago that as a financial professional who uses NAV, learning to use PowerPivot should be the most important skill finance people should learn in the next year.

Microsoft has missed a huge opportunity to finally settle a score in the BI arena for small to medium businesses by making this move.  There has always been the argument that using Excel spreadsheets is a risky proposition for financial professionals. You can really create some big problems for yourself if you are not careful in how you manage your spreadsheets.  Some companies even go so far as to outlaw them and attempt to go spreadsheet free.  Companies who sell BI packages lean on this pretty hard, trying to remove spreadsheets from the list of available choices.

I say this risk is greatly offset by the benefit of being able to use a tool that can pull, in a safe way, massive amounts of data that can be manipulated by the typical Excel end-user quickly and efficiently.  For me, the benefit PowerPivot brings to my company tips the scale on sinking money into a BI solution, and keeps me firmly in the DIY BI camp, with Excel as my primary tool. Making PowerPivot available in all new versions of Excel seals the deal and makes BI in Excel a revolution of equality, ensuring equilateral Excel adoption in the business world.

I’m glad to see so many people bringing forward a call to action to bring PowerPivot back to all versions of Office, not just Pro Plus and Office365 subscriptions. I’m adding my voice, and will continue to ask Microsoft to bring PowerPivot to the people!


Blogiversary Top 20 (#15) Why NAV users should be using dual monitors

We’re celebrating our one year blogiversary by reposting the Top 20 Most Viewed in the last year, as determined by you, our readers! Follow this link to see the entire list. Enjoy!

My company began using dual monitors a few years ago for power users, and have been putting them into place for all users this year. Does this change make a real difference in user productivity?

Some real world examples of what my team uses dual monitors for:

    • More than one NAV session at a time. As long as you have the licenses for it, you can have more than one NAV session open at a time. This is great for when you need to run a report that ties up your session for a while like the AR aging or AP aging or inventory valuations. Use one session to run these reporting hogs in, and another session to look up information for something else you’re working on.
    • Answering email questions. Open up that email on one screen, and reference the information you need on another.
    • Spreadsheet stretch.  Sometimes when you have a ton of data to deal with, it sure helps to see it all in one place.
    • Remote access. If you’re in more than one computer at a time, perhaps your laptop and also a computer back at the office via remote access, being able to see one on each screen is a big help instead of hitting Alt-Tab all day.
    • Using the help menu or other documentation. Are you trying to figure out how to use something new? Put up the application on one screen and the help menu (or user guide) up on the other screen.
    • Comparison. Whether you’re looking up more than one option on the internet or comparing what you have in your production versus development databases, using dual monitors is a great way to see what you options you have without having to switch between screens to remember what you saw.
    • Connecting with your customer. When on the phone with a customer, our customer care team has NAV on one screen and a view of what our customer is looking at on our website on the other. This allows them to better answer the customer’s question about the product, and also make suggestions later as to how we can improve on the customer experience.
    • Entry to NAV on one screen, information on another screen. If your work is transactional, and you need to enter invoices on one screen, but reference a document on another screen, this is a great way to use dual monitors. Don’t print out that document, just put it up on your second monitor.
    • Paperless processing. Ultimately, dual monitors make paperless processing possible for my company. We’re working on a paperless initiative in our accounts payable area right now which couldn’t have happened without dual monitors. Getting users to reference documents on-screen has been an easy, natural transition and while we’re saving a tree or two, the better argument has been the time saved in not printing, organizing, and filing those documents.

Return on investment of dual monitors

If you’re not convinced yet, take a look at the ROI of dual monitors. Let’s say a second monitor costs $200. Estimates of productivity gains range anywhere from 10% – 50%. If you have an employee who generates $200,000 of revenue annually, at a conservative estimate of 10% productivity gain, this could equate to a $20,000 increase in revenue; a one hundred-fold payout on your initial investment.


Blogiversary Top 20 (#16) Tips and tricks for a flawless budget load in NAV

We’re celebrating our one year blogiversary by reposting the Top 20 Most Viewed in the last year, as determined by you, our readers! Follow this link to see the entire list. Enjoy!

Hopefully, you’ve completed your budget work for 2013 and all you need to do to finish is to load all that information to NAV so you can begin to report against your actual financial numbers. If you’ve done this before, you might already know that NAV’s budget tool can be a bit fussy and also a bit cryptic about why it won’t accept your carefully prepared data. Here are four quick tips to help you with getting that data into NAV quickly, correctly, and in one try.

1.  Export first, then import. This is the single most important detail about getting budget data loaded into NAV. You can choose to export an existing budget or even choose to export a blank new budget. Exporting a budget as your first step establishes a working template you can populate your data into, including dimensions. As long as you start with this template, you are already most of the way there to a successful NAV budget load.

budgetload

2.  If you’re using dimensions, validate your data against the provided drop downs. Make sure all budget lines that use dimensions are only using valid dimension names. Any deviation from the allowable values that already exist in NAV can cause your budget load to error out or load without balancing.

budgetload2

3.  Clear the formats from your numbers. Once you’ve copied and pasted or typed your numbers into your Excel template, use the Excel “Clear Formats” function on all cells that contain a numeric value to make sure they are all returned to a formatted status of general. NAV does not accept any other format than the one in the template, and use of other formats, including use of commas in the numbers, will cause the budget tool to give an error and keep you from loading your budget successfully.

budgetload3

4.  Use the “Add Entries” option for a brand new budget load and the “Replace Entries” option for a subsequent version. The add entries option should only be used for a brand new budget load, otherwise the entries will be added on top of the already existing entries, doubling or tripling them. If you need to load a second or third version or some type of correction, always use the replace entries option instead of the add entries option. If you really get stuck with a bunch of errors, the best thing you can do is delete your budget and reload from scratch.

budgetload4

Take one last look through your data to make sure it’s accurate and exactly what you expected. You can use the budget tool to do this, or even better, put together a quick account schedule that shows your entries using “G/L Budget Entries” instead of “G/L Entries”. Make sure to look at your total balances, balances by fiscal period, and balances with dimension filters applied. Once you’re satisfied that all your budgeted data has loaded correctly and completely, you’re ready to produce financial reporting showing actual versus budgeted numbers!


PowerPivot to the People

As a Controller at a small to medium-sized business, I struggle with the big BI question:  do I invest in a business intelligence package or do I do it myself?

When I first became aware of PowerPivot, a free Excel add-on that became available with Microsoft Office 2010, I was excited and also a little relieved. While the emergence of PowerPivot didn’t completely solve my dilemma, it sure gave me some significant options for more data accessibility. I didn’t have to depend on my partner or an IT employee with special skills to build me a dataport from NAV, or to piece together an SQL query, or to build a cube I could apply queries to. Because I have PowerPivot, suddenly I can be Super-Controller; accessing tables directly in my NAV database, pulling ginormous amounts of data into a single spreadsheet, and manipulating the data with lightning speed into familiar Excel pivot tables, all without asking for help.  powerpivotcrush

So, when I read in a recent article from MSDynamicsWorld.com that New Office 2013 Licensing May Put PowerPivot, Power View Out of Reach for Some Microsoft Dynamics Users, I was actually pretty alarmed and then pretty upset. How dare Microsoft give us this shiny new Christmas dream and then snatch it away like some kind of horrible data-reneging Grinch!

I went looking for a few more answers about exactly what was going on, and what I found out was that Microsoft has actually taken PowerPivot out of most versions of Office 2013. This is a big deal because it was previously available in all versions of Office 2010, so Microsoft is actually removing functionality. PowerPivot is only available in Office 2013 if you get Office Pro Plus through volume licensing or through Office 365 subscriptions. Basically, this means PowerPivot is not available in any retail Office 2013 packages, so therefore, is only reachable by companies who have enough purchasing power to utilize volume licensing packages. So, a tool that was designed, in my opinion, to give BI power directly to the people by making it simple enough for financial folks to pull their own data, has now been restricted to only business class licensing. If you’re looking for some interesting theories as to why this might be, read Hey, Who Moved My (PowerPivot 2013) Cheese?

Mr. Excel himself (Bill Jelen), the uberist Excel geek of them all, has some great stuff to say about PowerPivot, including “PowerPivot is the best new feature to hit Excel in 20 years” and a few other things here including a great short video explaining why we should care.  I just said in a recent NAVUG Ask the Experts Finance webinar only two weeks ago that as a financial professional who uses NAV, learning to use PowerPivot should be the most important skill finance people should learn in the next year.

Microsoft has missed a huge opportunity to finally settle a score in the BI arena for small to medium businesses by making this move.  There has always been the argument that using Excel spreadsheets is a risky proposition for financial professionals. You can really create some big problems for yourself if you are not careful in how you manage your spreadsheets.  Some companies even go so far as to outlaw them and attempt to go spreadsheet free.  Companies who sell BI packages lean on this pretty hard, trying to remove spreadsheets from the list of available choices.

I say this risk is greatly offset by the benefit of being able to use a tool that can pull, in a safe way, massive amounts of data that can be manipulated by the typical Excel end-user quickly and efficiently.  For me, the benefit PowerPivot brings to my company tips the scale on sinking money into a BI solution, and keeps me firmly in the DIY BI camp, with Excel as my primary tool. Making PowerPivot available in all new versions of Excel seals the deal and makes BI in Excel a revolution of equality, ensuring equilateral Excel adoption in the business world.

I’m glad to see so many people bringing forward a call to action to bring PowerPivot back to all versions of Office, not just Pro Plus and Office365 subscriptions. I’m adding my voice, and will continue to ask Microsoft to bring PowerPivot to the people!

This posting is one of the Top 20 Most Viewed in the last year! Follow this link to see the entire list.