They say quantity and quality don’t always go hand-in-hand. It’s probably fair to say that more often than not, they aren’t even on speaking terms.

 

This creates a typical challenge for many companies when it comes to their business data. Having too much information can be as limiting as having too little. Yes, you want your employees to have access to all the data they might need to make informed and timely decisions that drive the business forward every day, but mountains of raw data alone won’t enable this.

 

They also need to have the right tools at hand to be able to make sense of the data and tease out the important trends, so they can align what they find with your business strategy, and know which way “forward” actually is.

 

Empowering people by giving them access to the right quantity and quality of business data, where and when they need it, is not getting any easier. As the nature of business itself becomes increasingly complex and geographically distributed, it’s as important to get the data to the machinist on the shop floor, or the salesman out on the road, as it is to  get it to the executive in the board room.

 

And it’s no longer just the Road Warriors who need access to data from the road. The increase in telecommuting, as well as the expectation that employees are “always on, always connected”, mean that a significant percentage of employees now need to be able to access their business information while away from the office. And that’s not just checking their email, but also reviewing the latest financial forecasts, approving a purchase order, signing an offer letter, or a myriad of other tasks that require relevant and accurate business data. 

 

According to the Yankee Group, 50% of employees categorize themselves as mobile workers, and they spend on average 20% of their time away from their primary workspace (time spent at the coffee machine not included…obviously). 

 

Luckily for Microsoft Dynamics ERP customers, the recent availability of Microsoft Office 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to business customers will help in both providing data access and data insight.

 

On the data access front, help comes in the form of a new technology spanning Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 called Business Connectivity Services, or BCS for short.  This can support the “anywhere access” scenario for Microsoft Dynamics ERP customers by allowing them to take their business data offline. While this has been possible in the past, it required additional coding. BCS supports the connection of any data in a SharePoint list, including External Lists displaying data from Microsoft Dynamics ERP, with either Outlook 2010 or SharePoint Workspace 2010. 

 

The recently released Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 is the first in-market Microsoft Dynamics ERP solution to utilize BCS, although other Microsoft Dynamics ERP products are looking at making use of BCS as part of their next major release.

 

On the data insight front, Microsoft Excel 2010 has a number of new features such as Slicers and Sparklines that make data visualization and analysis easier. Slicers are a new addition to Pivot tables, that allow you to group and filter within a Pivot Table with a single click.  Sparklines are small charts in a worksheet cell that provide a clear and compact visual representation of trends in Microsoft Dynamics data that might otherwise be missed. And with the new PowerPivot add-in for Microsoft Excel 2010, a business person with a basic knowledge of their Microsoft Dynamics ERP data can link directly to that data using PowerPivot, and import data into an in-memory database via a wizard. The net result is the ability to create powerful PivotTables or Pivot Charts that are pulling in data (literally millions of lines) from Microsoft Dynamics ERP in real time. And, of course, the resulting analysis can then be shared using Excel Services for other employees to access from wherever they happen to be via SharePoint.

 

Bottom line? Empowering your people by enabling  them with both the quantity and quality of data they need just got easier.

 

So just for once, you can choose both!

 

Ross Thorpe

Microsoft Dynamics Product Marketing