Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central is an adaptable enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution that is popular for its ability to cater to the unique needs of businesses across various industries. One of the key strengths of Business Central is its extensibility, allowing users to tailor the system to meet specific industry functions, compliance requirements, and individual business needs through extensions and apps.
However, with this tailoring of the Business Central business management solution comes the challenge of efficiently reporting and analyzing data from these applications. Here, we’ll explore the challenges faced when reporting from Business Central extensions and how you can quickly, and easily, overcome these hurdles.
What is a Business Central Extension and Why Are They Important?
A Business Central extension is a modular package of functionality that can be added to Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. It allows businesses to customize and extend the capabilities of Business Central to meet their specific needs and requirements.
In simple terms, a Business Central extension is like an add-on or plugin that enhances the functionality of the core ERP system. These extensions can be developed by Microsoft, third-party developers, or even by the organization’s in-house development team.
Business Central extensions are designed to offer industry-specific features, comply with regional regulations, integrate with other applications, or provide custom functionality tailored to the unique workflows of an organization. Under the hood, these extensions can include various elements such as new tables, fields, pages, codeunits, reports, or user interfaces.
Microsoft AppSource is the primary online marketplace to provide a searchable collection of pre-built extensions users can download and install. While not all extensions or third-party applications on the market are available in AppSource, this is where many Business Central users start in their exploration for Microsoft Dynamics expandability or point-solution hunting.
Sometimes extensions are custom built for individual organizations by specialized developers to address the very particular workflow, production, or delivery requirements of an organization. Where Business Central’s predecessor, Microsoft Dynamics NAV (formerly Navision), required this to be done directly in the core codebase, extensions have replaced that practice as the evolved and required approach to bespoke customizations.
Extensions essentially eliminate all risks to the ERP’s longevity and stability and encompass a number of advantages over direct alterations to the core application. The main benefits of using Business Central extensions include:
- Customization Without Complication: Extensions allow businesses to adapt Business Central to their specific requirements without modifying the core codebase. This means that organizations can receive automatic updates and upgrades from Microsoft without affecting their customizations or requiring costly and time-consuming upgrade projects.
- Seamless Integration: Extensions are built for Business Central and go through testing to ensure seamless integration with the existing Business Central system, ensuring a smooth user experience and fast implementation of the functionality it introduces.
- Scalability: By using extensions, businesses can scale their ERP system according to their growing needs and add new functionalities as the organization expands.
- Compliance: Extensions can be tailored to meet industry-specific or regional compliance standards, ensuring that businesses stay in line with regulatory requirements.
- Collaboration: Since extensions are often built by third-party developers, organizations can benefit from a vibrant ecosystem of add-ons and solutions that enhance Business Central’s capabilities.
- Easy Deployment: Installing extensions is a straightforward process, and it doesn’t require extensive technical knowledge. They can be deployed from Microsoft AppSource, the official marketplace for Business Central extensions.
Overall, Business Central extensions play a crucial role in enhancing the versatility and adaptability of an organization’s ERP system, enabling businesses to have a tailored solution that meets their unique needs while still benefiting from the continuous improvements and support provided by Microsoft.
Challenges of Reporting from Business Central Extension Data
While extensions offer the advantage of seamless, scalable customization with Business Central, they also present some reporting challenges.
Native Business Central reporting tools, by default, don’t adequately handle the complexities introduced by extensions. Instead, they focus on the standard functionality of the ERP. This leads to limitations and difficulties in generating accurate and insightful reports on the important data generated by the add-ons that allow organizations to cater to their industry.
Moreover, extracting data manually from various extensions for analysis can be time-consuming and prone to errors. The specialized technical expertise required to overcome these challenges often poses a significant barrier for many users, adding to the cost and complexity of the reporting process.
For example, a Business Central extension that expands inventory management capabilities can help to optimize inventory control, demand forecasting, and replenishment processes. The extension may enable maintaining optimal stock levels, reduce carrying costs, and enhance order fulfillment. However, for all the inputs the extension allows to manage it, Business Central’s standard reports won’t include the new tracking fields to see this in an inventory or analysis report.
To address this, the organization’s Microsoft Dynamics VAR or reseller might employ specialized development resources to modify the standard reports in Business Central or custom write a new one. Unfortunately, this approach isn’t only costly, it’s not easily scalable and evolvable, requiring the same resource costs and capacity to modify, alter, or even change simple filters on the report.
The Solution to Fast, Easy Custom Reporting from Business Central Extensions
The gap in reporting flexibility for Business Central and its integrated extensions aren’t lost on most professionals in the Microsoft Dynamics delivery industry. Add to that, most legacy reporting tools on the market were built for the on-premise Dynamics ERP ancestors that didn’t demand speed, compatibility, or performance in cloud environments. The good news is, there is a solution.
Cosmos Data Technology has emerged as the ultimate answer in tackling the challenges associated with reporting from extensions as it is the first, and only, third-party reporting tool developed specifically for Business Central cloud.
Cosmos was built by industry reporting and data analysis veterans to be a powerful and user-friendly reporting and analytics platform that provides a centralized solution for reporting from any source of data within Business Central, including extensions. Best of all – no special set-up or configuration is needed for Cosmos to read and pull from your extension data.
Cosmos’ intuitive interface empowers users to build, customize, and share meaningful reports and Power BI dashboards without the need for complex data modeling or technical expertise. Users can seamlessly access and analyze data from all their extensions and apps, streamlining the reporting process and minimizing bottlenecks.
The platform leverages the familiar Microsoft Excel environment, enabling users to work comfortably with data and create dynamic reports effortlessly. Cosmos also offers seamless two-way Power BI integration, allowing users to combine Business Central data, including extensions, with powerful visualization capabilities.
Cosmos Data Technology offers a plethora of benefits that significantly improve reporting from Business Central extensions, including:
- Eliminating Reporting Bottlenecks: By providing quick access to all your data and a user-friendly, intuitive reporting environment, Cosmos eliminates reporting bottlenecks and enhances decision-making speed.
- Simplified Reporting Process: Cosmos simplifies the process of creating reports and Power BI dashboards using optimized, organized Business Central data, including data from the extensions that customize the database. Ad hoc reports can be created in minutes, and existing reports can be modified or customized even faster.
- Unsurpassed Performance and Speed: Cosmos reports run, on average, 48x faster than other Excel-based reporting tools for Business Central and offers the unique ability to run unlimited reports simultaneously without tying down a workstation or Excel application.
Ready to simplify your reporting process and harness the full potential of Business Central extensions?
We can show you in 30 minutes how easy it is to report, analyze, and conquer your data challenges! Book a demo of Cosmos today.