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Microsoft Dynamics Business Intelligence: Buy or Build?

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Business intelligence (BI) can play a huge role in your operational efficiency and growth when adopted successfully. Once you’re up and running, BI optimizes internal processes, identifies new trends, supports smart decision making, and drives new revenue. But before you get to that point, you need to consider what kind of BI solution will get you there, cost-effectively.

As a Microsoft Dynamics ERP user, you have the option between two approaches to deploying a BI solution. You can either build your own BI solution in-house or implement a ready-made BI solution built for Dynamics, like Jet Reports.

As advocates for data ourselves, we want to help you on your journey toward Microsoft Dynamics business intelligence and make sure you choose the right solution to achieve your analytics goals. We’ve broken down both options for you and evaluated the pros and cons of each one based on the following areas:

  1. Up-front Development
  2. Time to Market
  3. Ongoing Support
  4. User Accessibility

OPTION 1: Build Your Own BI

If you have a team of internal resources dedicated to your Dynamics system, then your first instinct is to do it yourself. When taking on a project of this size, it’s important to know what that actually means. Not only are you responsible for the extensive up-front analysis, design and coding of a data warehouse, but your team is also expected to maintain and support any changes or new requests. Here is an overview of what you can expect:

Upfront Development

At a glance, building your own BI solution seems like the lower cost option – like most DIY projects. But when you take a step back and factor in planning, coding, testing and documentation, the numbers increase drastically.

Given that the average business intelligence project takes a minimum of 300-500 hours and the average BI resource costs around $200/hour, you’re over $50,000 just to get started.

Even a medium sized business could be facing enterprise sized costs for deploying a DIY business intelligence platform:

Stage Hours (avg.$200/hr)  Total
Upfront Analysis and

Requirements Gathering

35 hours  $7,000
Coding and Development of

Data Warehouse

 180 hours  $36,000
 Data Migration and Testing  75 hours  $15,000
 Report Building  110 hours  $22,000
 UAT and Deployment  60 hours  $12,000
 TOTAL COST:  460 hours  $92,000

And that doesn’t consider the cost of having your development resources distracted with an internal project, and not focused on other strategic engagements.

This conservative estimate to deploy the basic BI requirements would also probably be doubled or tripled if your developers haven’t done this before.

Time to Market

It takes significant time to build an analytics solution from the ground up. By the time you add up the data and application integration, reporting engines, data visualizations and system security, your looking at a year to eighteen months from start to finish. To build a BI solution means that you also must use the traditional SQL programming methods. Even for experts, this approach takes 5x longer than a ready-made solution with data warehouse automation. A big risk to this delay is the relevancy of data. Businesses evolve fast and the data requirements you gathered a few months ago, or especially a year ago, will be out-of-date.

Ongoing Updates, Support and Maintenance

When users and executives want to change the data they see, you need to be able to make those updates to your homegrown system quickly. In a manually coded environment, that means an experienced data expert has to be available to perform these requests, in addition to adding new data points, bug fixes and customizations. It is also important to consider how your BI solution will respond to Dynamics ERP upgrades – because most of these reports will not be portable to the newest version. We’ve seen it happen time and time again when reports, dashboards and a good chunk of the back-end programming must be redone entirely.

User Reports, Dashboards and Accessibility

Building the data warehouse and cubes that organize and govern the data your company will pull from is just one part of the equation. The success of your BI project relies on how easily your users adapt and access their data. Unless there is a user interface that facilitates self-service reporting, you will face the challenge of meeting the constant demand for reports, dashboards, and data queries. DIY doesn’t usually include

tools like reporting building, Power BI and web portals – so consider them additional costs to the growing price tag.

OPTION 2: Buy a BI Solution

If you decide to buy, you will be purchasing a third-party BI solution from a Microsoft Independent Software Vendor (ISV), like Jet Reports. These solutions are flexible analytics platforms, highly adaptable for both data organization in the back end and reporting and dashboard formats on the front end. Without the design and build on your plate, your BI project will be focused more on customizing the solution to meet your data needs and getting your team on board.

Upfront Development

With a ready-made solution, almost all of the time-consuming upfront coding and programming is already done for you. These solutions are built for Microsoft Dynamics products and they’ve been previously tried and tested by thousands of companies with the same data challenges. Choosing to buy will essentially cut your costs in half and have 80% of your BI solution deployed within a day.

Here is an example of what an average mid-size business could expect to pay for the deployment of a purchased BI solution. Of course, factors such as user count, data volume, and requirements will vary the cost:

Stage Hours (avg.$200/hr)  Total
Data Warehouse Automation

Platform Licensing Fee

Unlimited Users $26,00
Installation and Deployment of Pre-Built
Dynamics Configuration
2-4 hours $800
Customization and Development 5-10 hours $2,000
User & Admin Training 10 hours $4,000
TOTAL COST: 17-24 hours $32,800

Time to Market

Third-party BI solutions provide a faster time-to-value, allowing you to deploy, adopt and accelerate ROI more quickly, often in days, or even mere hours, as opposed to months or years. In addition to delivering a turnkey, ready to use BI platform built for Microsoft Dynamics, the most advanced solutions also have Data Warehouse Automation (DWH) to streamline BI customizations and development, which is 5x faster than the traditional coding methods. Along with the technology, vendors also have highly experienced BI and analytics consultants who do this type of work day in, day out.

This results in faster, better and more cost-effective delivery of analytics in your business.

Ongoing Updates, Support and Maintenance

These solutions also have their own support services with the best data experts’ money can buy to ensure you get the most out of your investment. Your business requirements will evolve and constantly change so it’s important to have fast, reliable support to keep your system relevant and running optimally. If you want to add a field to your data warehouse, or a calculated metric to your cubes, a pre-built solution with data warehouse automation can accomplish this in minutes, versus hours or days. Also, one of the best parts about a pre-built BI solution is that you can use it for life – even with Microsoft Dynamics upgrades because the vendor is ensuring ongoing compatibility for thousands and thousands of companies and users.

User Reports, Dashboards and Accessibility

The ultimate end goal of implementing a BI solution is to empower your employees with the tools to create their own reports from day one. Most third-party BI solutions, like Jet Reports, include an easy-to-use, intuitive user interface for writing reports and dashboards in Excel. We also have a built-in Web Portal, an easy Dashboard Builder, and Power BI integration to ensure users are self-sufficient.

Find the Right BI Solution for your Business

The time has come for better analytics and data visibility from your Microsoft Dynamics solution – so what’s your decision? The reality is, the do-it-yourself approach is much more expensive than a ready-made BI solution in the long run. It’s a lot riskier, and a lot less flexible, which simultaneously increases the likelihood of failure and decreases user adoption. Why take the long way when you can buy a solution that is already built for Microsoft Dynamics and ready to use in days?

Check out Jet Reports for yourself and see how we can save your business a lot of money and time.

Schedule a demo now