Every year, springtime brings updates and new features for companies running Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. Referred to as ‘Business Central 2023 Wave 1’ (Wave 2 is in the fall), this season’s new release forecast calls for a variety of user experience, development, and application updates. But with Microsoft’s detailed (and let’s face it, a little bit dry) documentation on inclusions for Wave 1 this year, a major question begs to be answered – what’s worth really getting excited about or paying attention to?
As it turns out, Microsoft’s efforts in reporting and analytics are getting a lion’s share of the pre-release buzz, mainly because most of the other updates for Business Central are pretty routine and not-so-flashy for the average user. In particular, the upcoming addition of ‘analysis mode’ directly inside the Business Central client is set to have the most impact on upgrading everyday usability and usefulness from Microsoft’s rapidly growing cloud business application platform for growing small-to-midsize (SMB) businesses.
Embedded Analysis Mode you say? Prime opportunity for us BC reporting and data enthusiasts at Cosmos to dive in.
In this article, we’ll detail what the new analysis mode feature for Business Central, what it is, its value, explore some probable use cases, and discuss how it compares to popular upgraded or third-party reporting tools like Cosmos.
Let’s pivot on over to the good stuff, shall we?
^Yep, that’s a bit of a spoiler.
What is Business Central Analysis Mode?
Not to be confused with Analysis Views or Financial Reports (formerly Account Schedules), the main tools for creating user-defined financials and queries by global dimensions, the new analysis mode feature is, in the simplest explanation, a rudimentary, low-fidelity PivotTable experience directly inside Business Central.
In its defense, this new feature is a little more helpful in application than that description denotes.
Analysis mode delivers a new type of view on Business Central list pages. When you click on ‘Analyze’ from your page, analysis mode begins, and you’ll see a PivotTable-like grid box pop up on the right-hand side with a default grouping.
For example, let’s say we are on our Customers page, and we click ‘Analyze,’ you can see below that ‘Pivot mode’ appears to configure your field, row, column, and value options. In our Cronus database test experience, analyze mode did default to grouping by Responsibility Center and we weren’t entirely sure why, but unselecting that field in the pivot was easy enough.
Remember that you only have fields accessible from that page. For example, when we tried to group by Salesperson, that wasn’t an option as it doesn’t exist on that page.
Occasionally, analysis mode doesn’t appear on pages where you think it might. One example of where you’ll see it is absent is Chart of Accounts. However, since you get it on most of the usual suspect pages, including GL Entries, you can often get to the information a different way.
If we were to enter analyze mode from our GL Entries page, you can see that we can start to group rows by GL Account, Customer Group Code, and columns by posting month. Even though we can’t pull the GL Account Name, because that field isn’t accessible from here, it does make for a handy little query.
You can save any of the analysis mode templates created for yourself to access again later, but you cannot share them with anyone else, including other Business Central users in your organization.
Voila! You have now used the new analysis mode feature.
Analysis Mode Uses and Limitations
At its core, analysis mode allows Business Central power users to get quick answers to some questions without needing to export data to Excel, leave the application, or create a bespoke report for simple queries. It’s undeniably a slick upgrade for the Business Central in-client experience. What it isn’t? Just about everything else.
Analysis mode in BC is not operational reporting, financial reporting, analytics, data management, or even collaboration. Here’s a hit list summary of its main uses and limitations:
Business Central Analysis Mode Feature Uses:
- Quick PivotTable-like query on most pages in Business Central.
- Group data by available fields to see subtotals and values.
- Small note: if you have a third-party application that actually adds data to a particular Business Central page, it will be available in analysis mode as well.
- Summarize information from a page by desired hierarchical structure.
- Duplicate and create multiple tabs to represent alternate views on the data tailored for different tasks.
- Save created analysis for individual reuse/access.
- Improve your ability to get certain Business Central data details without leaving the application.
- Use case examples: Recently added vendors, sales statistics, or follow-up items.
Business Central Analysis Mode Limitations:
- Doesn’t work on data sets larger than 100,000 rows (Microsoft has said that they will probably increase this to 500,000 rows at some point in the future).
- Won’t allow you to pull/include data or fields that are not accessible from that page.
- No charting or graphing.
- No export to Excel option.
- Pivot mode list fields in randomized, non-alphabetical order, making some data difficult to find.
- No sharing or collaboration.
- Does not perform comprehensive financial or operational reporting.
- Performance over the web browser can be slower with larger data sets since all the transactions will be loaded into your browser in order to work with them.
Analysis Mode VS. Cosmos
In Microsoft’s documentation about the new analysis mode feature, they are very transparent that this doesn’t replace ‘Excel, Power BI, or other [third-party] data analysis applications.’
Because the new Business Central analyze feature isn’t even built to deliver or perform the same functions as Cosmos’ lightning-fast reporting and analytics solution, this is a bit like comparing bats to bugs. However, the constant prevalence of Microsoft releasing new reporting, query, and analytics features every year always increases chatter and raises the question from both solution delivery partners and users alike, ‘how is this different than X or Y?’ Fair.
Analyze mode is really meant to be a new and expanded way to interact with data on list pages in BC. Group, filter, and summarize the fields available from that page, much like you would a PivotTable in Excel, to get some quick answers to questions related to the information accessible from that view. Save your pivoted query if you like, and there you go! No graphing. No sharing. No combining data from other tables. It’s as if Business Central has a new ‘let’s break this down a tad more and look at it a different way’ button.
Cosmos on the other hand is a complete, fast, and robust reporting and analytics solution. As the only true cloud reporting platform built specifically for Business Central, Cosmos can deliver the ability for users to create any operational report, financial statement, or dashboard quickly and easily they need, in the format they desire directly in Excel or Power BI.
Through a completely centralized cloud platform (i.e. serverless), Cosmos provides all the upside of a traditional data warehouse, including speed, optimized data model, limitless combinations, ease of data access, and seamless integration with third-party BC applications, but without the expensive price tag or high overhead.
See the chart below for a side-by-side view of how this comparison looks. This is by no means an exhaustive list of capabilities for Cosmos, but it paints the picture you might be looking for if you want to quickly compare the new feature for Business Central.
|Analysis Mode in BC||Cosmos|
|Inside Business Central||●|
|NRT (Near-Real-Time) for Optimized Data Processing||●|
|Data Grouping and Subtotals||●||●|
|Save / Access Again Later||●||●|
|Combine Additional Data from Multiple Tables||●|
|Unlimited Data Set/Size||●|
|Turnkey BC Data Model||●|
|Integrated w/ Power BI||●|
|Sharing and Collaboration||●|
|Prebuilt Customizable Reports/Analysis||●|
Additional Business Central Wave 1 2023 Release Features
Curious what other features and updates are surfing Wave 1 alongside analysis mode? We don’t want to leave you hanging (ten or otherwise). Here is a summary of additional, but less sexy, functionality coming to Business Central between April and September of 2023:
- Easier approval workflows with Microsoft Power Platform automation
- Sample apps for faster Power App development
- Additional Intercompany GL settlement capability
- Supply chain enhancements for greater inventory and warehouse process efficiencies
- Addition of more countries and regions
- Complete move to Visual Studio Code for developers
- Allow for simple per-customer extensions
- Business Central administration updates with more self-service features to manage the environment
- Support for non-deductible VAT
- In-app user assistance improvements
- Continued integration with Microsoft Teams
For the formal, and more detailed summary of release notes and investment areas, you can visit Microsoft’s Business Central release overview.
Leveraging the Next Generation in Business Central Reporting
There is some industry chatter that development and release of the analysis mode feature was motivated by the desire to help Business Central compete even stronger in the broader market by checking a box for more application embedded user-centered analytics features.
The small irony to that is Microsoft already has a leg up in two areas of the competitive cloud business applications market: one of the most trusted, appealing, and widely adapted visual BI platforms with Power BI, and the most expansive best-of-breed, third-party integrations for reporting, with solutions like Cosmos.
Of course, if you haven’t used the integrated Microsoft stack before, you don’t know what you don’t know. And hey –quick ad hoc data pivoting that the new analysis mode gives you can come in handy.
But if decades of history are any indicator, the big evolutions and advancements for Business Central reporting and analytics aren’t going to come from anything Microsoft builds directly inside their ERP applications. The next generation of reporting will come from innovative, dedicated add-ons that are purpose-built for Business Central cloud and integrate with Power BI so everyday users can leverage its robust visualization capabilities without SQL, DAX, or specialized technical expertise.
In fact, that’s exactly why we built Cosmos! As the adoption of Business Central cloud exponentially grows each year, a glaring market gap arose for delivery partners – customers still had to rely on on-premise reporting tools that were either built for other ERP solutions or built for Business Central’s legacy predecessor, Microsoft Dynamics NAV. What’s more challenging, these products could no longer deliver the performance, speed, flexibility, data platform, or customer usability that businesses require to lean on Business Central for more efficiency and growth.
Cosmos, on the other hand, allows for lightning-fast reporting, from all your Business Central data and applications, in a centralized user-centric platform, in the Excel or Power BI environment you know and want.
Ready to learn more? We’ll show you how you can implement Cosmos in less than 30 minutes with 30 customizable Business Central reports running that same day.