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Plug & Play: Power BI and Jet Enterprise in Dynamics NAV 2016

There’s no denying it – there’s a lot of BI solutions out there that all claim to be easy to set up and use! They usually have really flashy websites, impressive and bubbly dashboards, and tend to throw out as many synonyms for “simple” as Roget can possibly muster up. However, if you ever decided to bite the bullet and download a 30-day trial of their software and tried to hook it up to NAV, you would immediately see the issue with all of them: they just don’t get NAV.

The problem here has to do with how NAV stores data. It is a heavily ‘normalized’ database, meaning that it does a good job isolating data to where it absolutely needs to exist and then figures out ways to link it all together. You probably already know that when you’re looking at the header of an unposted Sales Quote, Order, Invoice, or Credit Memo, you’re actually looking at the same table (“Sales Header”) and that the lines are all stored on a completely different table (“Sales Line”) and are linked together by document type, number, etc. Then when you actually process the documents, the data can go to a number of different tables, from archives to shipments to invoices, etc. So, unless someone went in there and created a “Sales Transactions” definition to know how everything is linked and put together, these BI solutions just won’t cut it. You’d probably spent the entirety of your 30-day trial just setting up the relationships!

This is where Power BI and Jet Enterprise really shine – they have the ability to understand NAV because they have little bundles of interpretation packs that can interpret NAV for you!

Plugging into the Software

Microsoft Power BI

Along with NAV 2016, Microsoft released a Content Pack for Dynamics NAV – it’s basically a pre-canned “view” of your Sales and Finance data. Getting it is as easy as signing into Power BI and clicking Get Data, then Services:

Power BI Blog 1

Which then shows you all the content packs that are available for Power BI – you can see Dynamics NAV in the bottom-right (as well as Acumatica, a cloud-based ERP solution that we also provide, in the top-left):

Power BI Blog 2

Which then asks you for how to get to your database:

Power BI Blog 4

After some spinning and crunching yields the pre-baked dashboard view below:

Power BI Blog 5

And you’re done! Instant dashboard gratification!

Jet Enterprise

In a similar fashion, Jet Enterprise has a pre-canned “Cube” for NAV accessible via the CubeStore shown below:

Power BI Blog 6

When you open that up you see a bunch of ERP and ISV solutions listed, including NAV 2013-2016, shown below:

Power BI Blog 7

You download that, go through a series of setup parameters (to hook it up to the correct SSAS server, data warehouse database, staging database, etc.)

This package already knows that “Posted Sales Transactions” include the Sales Invoice/Credit Memo/Shipment/Returns/etc. so you don’t need to do any of the work!

Power BI Blog 8

Then after you Deploy and Execute, you can connect to that OLAP database using Jet Essentials (see below):

Power BI Blog 9

Or just connect using Excel’s inherent data manager and pivot off of the Cubes:

Power BI Blog 10

Et voila – quick dashboard and slicer action!

The Benefits

What this invariably means is that you have immediate access to insights into your data without the tedium of having to spend rigorous hours just setting the backend up! Naturally both of these solutions are very much based around ‘vanilla’ NAV setup. With NAV, most clients probably have some custom fields, tables, or processes that need to be considered with Power BI and Jet Enterprise. But, at the very least, you now have a starting point to work with – instead of a blank page, bottle of ibuprofen, and a demi-glazed stare while pouring over reference material and tutorials.

If you need any help, get in touch!

About this Series

Catapult’s Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2016 blog series is designed to give you a better understanding of the new features in NAV 2016 and what they look like from a user perspective. Our NAV team has combined their expertise and walks you through different scenarios for these new features – so you can decide if an upgrade is a good idea now or later. Here are the features we cover:

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