Reporting capabilities and limitations in both Dynamics CRM / 365 and Salesforce(PART 1)

In my previous experiences as a consultant, I’ve had the chance to help many of my clients address their reporting needs and requirements in the Dynamics CRM platform. More recently, I’ve also helped clients with the same need, this time, within the platform. This allowed me to have a good understanding of both platforms reporting capabilities and limitations. Ultimately, I’ve built some nice dashboards that helped and allowed my clients better run their business.

Let’s start at the beginning and ask the question:. What does a Dashboard mean in this context? Like the dashboard in a car, which provides the driver with all necessary information, a dashboard in the business world is meant to provide a quick overview of the business in order to help with decision making.

Both Dynamics 365 and provide the possibility to create some nice looking dashboards.

This is what a Dynamics 365 Dashboard might look like:

Dynamics 365 Dashboard

And this one is an example of a Salesforce dashboard:

Salesforce Dashboard

They look pretty nice….and similar, don’t they?

This might definitely help in a sales speech but you need to be careful and not look at the tip of the iceberg. Reporting is such an important piece of a business solution. You might need to dig a bit more (still at a higher level)  into your reporting needs before even choosing the platform. Typically both the client and the solution implementer (Service Provider) allocate a block of hours to the reports requirement, gathering activity and only build the reports and dashboards at the end of an implementation; often to realize that the platform does not really fit the client needs. As a client, you should be as clear as possible about your reporting requirements as well as the ones you are willing to sacrifice in case the platform does not support them.

In the Dynamics 365 platform, you can build OOB reports and dashboards. In addition, you can build custom SSRS reports, Power BI reports or also use Excel as a reporting tool. I personally never had the need to use the latter. Why would you want to still report in Excel if your platform  allows you to do it natively?

As a CRM consultant, I’ve always pushed my clients to use OOB reporting when possible. Some clients have requested really advanced and complex reporting needs (I usually smile when I remember some of them :D). Honestly, I was always able to build whatever my clients wanted within the Microsoft ecosystem. The capabilities are impressive, and sometimes amazes me of what is possible.

In, you can also build OOB reports and dashboards. However, when I started using the platform for reporting, I was surprised with some of the platform limitations. I honestly expected better from the platform. I’ll talk in details about some of the limitations in PART 2 of this post and probably more in future posts!

One can argue that is not a reporting platform. I am sorry, but remember the Dashboard definition above? Ultimately every organization’s goal when, for example, implementing a CRM, is to build some executive dashboards for displaying key performance indicators (KPIs) and effectively run their business. I’ve implemented reports and dashboards for almost every organization I dealt with.

So far, I find the platform very limited when it comes to reporting. On the other side, Dynamics 365 reporting capabilities are not only impressive but also quite promising. Just think of the possibilities with having a built-in Office 365 (e.g. Power BI, etc…) and Dynamics for Operations (Microsoft’s ERP, previously AX) integrations and the promising CDS (Common Data Service) for building a solution with advanced reporting while having a 360° view of the customer!

Stay tuned for PART 2 when I talk in more detail about Salesforce reporting limitations…