Should You Migrate from BI360 to Solver Cloud?
As an organization using BI360, you have a reporting and planning system that enables users with Excel to create and run reports and planning templates. From their desktop at the office to a terminal server (with a VPN), users can run their reports and enter budget data. If you also have Composer or Publisher, users can create ad hoc reports with Composer and distribute reports on a scheduled basis with Publisher.
You may have heard, however, that the Solver Cloud is here. You might have heard about migration discounts encouraging you to move to the cloud. In this article, we’ll walk through some benefits of the cloud and address some challenges you might be considering as obstacles to migrating.
Let’s start at the beginning. Software generally has to be installed to use it—this is the case with BI360. If the SQL Server, terminal server, or user workstation change, you must install the software. It’s that simple.
The tricky part is installing older software on newer technology. BI360’s last version was created a few years ago. While it can be installed on current versions of Windows, there are some issues with Office.
With Solver Cloud, the only users who need software installed are report and template designers. There is an Excel add-in but it is made to be compatible with the current version of Office. For people who only need to run reports, enter budget data, or administer the Data Warehouse, log in to the cloud. That’s it!
Using the Software
As was mentioned above, you only need access to Excel when designing reports and templates when using Solver Cloud. Everything else is done in a browser. Even better than that, the browser can be on a computer, tablet, and phone.
Figure 1 Report run in a Chrome browser
Figure 2 Planning Template in Solver
With BI360, users open Excel and then open a report or template and run it there. With Solver, users select the report or template and run it in the browser. Reports and templates can be downloaded to Excel. Using the browser means access anywhere.
For keeping your data secure, Solver has multiple options available. Administrators can use Azure AD single sign-on and multifactor authentication. Ensuring users can access data securely will help administrators sleep better at night.
Reports need data. With BI360, you could use the BI360 Data Warehouse or connect directly to certain ERP and accounting systems. Both options are available in Solver.
One area that can be quite different is loading data into the Data Warehouse. With an On-Premise Data Warehouse, we typically use SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS). People who use SSIS know its capabilities, which are extremely broad.
Solver is hosted in an Azure SQL environment and SSIS is not available for connecting to it. However, Solver has several prebuilt connectors for loading data from sources, such as ERP systems and SQL servers.
There are options for handling the loading. You may switch to loading data into a staging table in Solver and then use Rules to push the data to the reporting tables. Rules are stored procedures. You can pull that daily import into the staging table, run a Rule to format the data and push it into the reporting table, then run the report. Everything above can be automated using Jobs and Publisher.
Figure 3 Solver Data Warehouse
Ad Hoc Reporting
Providing users with the ability to query the data without creating a one-time report will enhance the use of the system. If users can only create reports, they need a Report Designer license, and you can wind up with a lot of unused reports.
With BI360 you had Report Composer—a very useful tool. Solver introduced Ad Hoc Reporting to provide users with query capabilities. Any user who has a Live End User license (and permissions) can use Ad Hoc Reporting to create reports for one-time or recurring use.
With a Power BI-like interface, users can select fields and filters and pivot the data. In addition to getting rows and columns of data, users can create graphs and charts. The data and charts can be downloaded.
Figure 4 Ad Hoc Reporting
Lastly, we have dashboards. BI360 offered the Portal for reports, planning, and visualizations. The Portal used Microsoft Silverlight. Unfortunately, Silverlight is no longer supported, making the Portal out of date.
To enable users to access reports and planning templates, users will log into Solver and run them in a browser. Users can use browsers such as Edge, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari on Windows, Apple, and Android devices.
For visualizations, organizations can use Power BI. With the Portal no longer being updated and Microsoft continuing to add functionality in Power BI, you will have more functionality available to you. Moreover, Power BI also can run on multiple devices and platforms, whereas Portal, due to its dependency on Silverlight, was limited in use.
Figure 5 Power BI Report with Solver Data
When using BI360’s Data Warehouse, an SQL Server database, you can use SQL Server as your data source in Power BI. When using Solver, there is a connector for Solver available within Power BI.
Solver is the current solution for organizations who need reporting, planning, and dashboards. It is a Microsoft Azure SQL-based environment that enables users to run reports and enter planning data in browsers without a need to install software. For Report Designers, Solver supports current Office versions. Lastly, Solver receives monthly updates, adding new functionality on a continuing basis.