We talk to a lot of organizations evaluating CRM systems. The topic of integration comes up a lot. Integrating CRM with a separate ERP solution can be a project in and of itself, requiring a lot of hours and additional software. The most common business case I hear is, “We want sales users to have access to customer transaction history like orders and invoices.” Some people are surprised to hear it can take nearly as much time to synchronize CRM and ERP as it took us to build out CRM alone.
Not everyone has the budget for that so I might suggest they look at Power BI as a substitute. Maybe not so much a permanent solution, but as a reasonable stop-gap until you have the budget for the full-on integration. All you need to get started is a Power BI Pro license, a couple of finance reports, a CRM dashboard, and a little bit of know-how. Power BI Pro is $9.99 per month. Hence, integration on 33¢ a day.
If Power BI is new to you, here’s a link to an introductory video: https://youtu.be/M0onHJ6M0Co.
Let’s just say upfront this example illustrates a somewhat manual process. However, we’re only setting out to illustrate that Power BI is an economical alternative to a complex CRM/ERP integration. Let’s start with some typical source data from an ERP system. Two reports: Orders and Invoices. You can see the tables and values here:
We’re not going to try and squeeze a whole Power BI tutorial into the space of this blog — that would be impossible. But honestly, it’s not all that hard. I whipped up these dashboards in about 30 minutes (it took longer to write this blog), and I’m just a sales guy. Imagine what someone could do if they really knew what they were doing. We’ll pull these tables into Power BI, model and format the data, create tables and charts, publish our report to the Power BI service and lastly, embed the Power BI visuals in a CRM dashboard. Let’s jump ahead and see what our Power BI dashboard looks like for a CRM user accessing it in their browser or on their phone.
Here’s an Orders dashboard indicating YTD:
- Total order dollars
- Orders detail
- Orders by customer
- Orders by sales rep
Here’s the Invoices dashboard indicating YTD:
- Total invoice dollars
- Invoice detail
- Invoice by customer and status
- Invoice by sales rep and status
- Ship-to locations by state
Here’s what they look like on your Dynamics 365 for Mobile App:
The examples above give you an idea of what you can do with Order and Invoice data. You could do the same type of thing with Inventory or Aging data. Connecting Power BI directly to a cloud-based service like Dynamics 365 Business Central or Finance & Operations can take this to a whole other level.
I think you’ll agree that for 33¢ a day, Power BI delivers a ton of value for an organization looking to serve up ERP data for CRM users.
By Mark Abes, @MSDyn365Guy, Vice President, Dyn365Pros, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Partners, San Diego, Southern California.