Microsoft Dynamics NAV is filled with many tools that can help manufacturing businesses grow. This includes a cloud-based platform that makes data accessible through mobile devices, customer relationship management functions, and specific manufacturing features such as supply chain management and business intelligence. More importantly, with Dynamics NAV 2015, there is cross compatibility with Microsoft Office, Office 365 and Azure Server. However, that doesn't mean that companies should be limited to using just NAV. Microsoft offers other tools that work well with the ERP software. One of these is a far more powerful business intelligence tool known as Power BI.

Increasing the reach
Power BI is a cloud-based business intelligence program provided by Microsoft. Unlike the standard BI tools used for Dynamics NAV, the tools in Power BI are meant as a separate hybrid program. While it can be run independently from other programs, it currently has several plugins in development that will allow it work in conjunction with other systems. This strength has allowed it to be very accessible for businesses who may not have an ERP or CRM system, or are looking to augment their current BI functionality.

Recently, a new preview version of Power BI was announced by Microsoft recently in anticipation for the next version that will be ready in the coming months, as reported by MS Dynamics World. An important change made with the announcement is the addition of a free and premium version. While the free version is far more limited than its Power BI Pro counterpart, it's a great tool to consider trying out, while the Pro level pricing is very affordable for most small manufacturing businesses. Among the software that Power BI is compatible with currently is Dynamics NAV 2015, where a user can build a custom dashboard through Office 365 with the software embedded. This enhances NAV's already formidable BI tool set.

Like carrying intel in a briefcase
What makes Power BI particularly useful, however, is its functionality. Many businesses that use business intelligence are often working with on-premise solutions whose design may not be the most intuitive in terms of design. In addition, they weren't scalable. Power BI's focus is on both taking advantage of the cloud and making the user experience easy for anyone on the shop floor or in the office. Its design is meant to be intuitive to anyone who picks it up by creating simple custom dashboards that supply key metrics for review.

Along with an effective user interface, the cloud can be deployed in a way that allows data to be processed much faster than before. With this sort of power in place, there are a lot of things a company can do in order to get direct results from analytics, binding together initial results from the on-premise solution with more real-time information and the ability to create visual analysis. Finally, in combining ease of use with the cloud, Power BI is slowly becoming compatible with a series of mobile devices. The preview version offered a pre-release of Power BI for iPad, with other platforms being released in the coming months. Such power makes it easy to carry around BI, since it can easily be accessed by users anywhere.

To discuss Dynamics NAV solutions for manufacturing, join the Microsoft Dynamics NAV for Manufacturing LinkedIn group.