In September, Microsoft announced that it had partnered with Jet Reports to offer Jet Express, an Excel-based reporting tool for Microsoft Dynamics NAV. The offer is impressive – it’s free to anyone on a current Microsoft maintenance plan, on Microsoft Dynamics NAV version 2009 and Excel 2007 or higher.
Jet Reports has been around for a while, is a proven product in the marketplace and there is local support throughout Australasia, making it a reporting solution worth considering for Dynamics NAV implementations. At Intergen we offer a range of business intelligence and reporting solutions, and the offerings from Jet Reports provide some useful tools for Dynamics NAV customers; if you have more complex requirements, or need to support other systems, there are other solutions that are also worth considering.
The relationship with Jet Reports allows Microsoft to fill the gap it’s had in its portfolio for a while: providing a simple report writer which allows non-technical users to write reports. Jet’s strategy with this offering is a common one used by software vendors: the company assumes that you’ll like the free Express edition and then upgrade to one of the paid versions. My review is based on the Jet Express edition and I have some more information below on the company’s other offerings.
I have used Jet Reports before, but it’s been some time since I last used the tool. The install was relatively painless and easy to connect to my local database. I have had feedback from one customer that it took a little bit of fiddling around as you do also need c/front added to your license and the classic client installed locally. After watching the videos on the Jet Express website I created some basic reports from scratch and using the template reports helped me understand how to get the most out of the functions. The verdict:
- Jet provides a good resource site which is dedicated to the Express edition (see http://jetexpress.jetreports.com/en/index.php) which offers downloads, training videos and a support forum.
- The template reports are excellent; they show you some good uses of standard Excel functionality that you might not have thought of yourself.
- Multicompany – The ability to write a GL-based report which goes across all of your companies will help those users with multiple companies.
- Real-time results – Jet reads directly from the database, therefore when your reports are refreshed they include the most up to date data.
- Support for any table – The Table Builder function allows you to connect to any table in NAV and show any field including NAV’s flow fields to show for example balances of customers.
- Easy to use – The formulas you use in Jet are quite similar to other Excel formulas and you can link to cells to populate the formula, making the formula dynamic and flexible.
- No limit on number of Jet users – Yep, that’s right: there isn’t any licensing of the Jet Express product so you can install on as many desktops as you like, although it’s worth noting that Jet does use a Dynamics NAV license when it is running (although not when the report or Excel is open).
- Drilldown – you can drilldown on summary results and see some transactional detail in another Excel sheet.
The not so good
- Potentially slow response for large data volumes – Customers who have been using Jet for a while and have large transaction volumes have reported some reports taking a while to respond. Jet has provided a solution for this in their Jet Enterprise edition (which is a paid solution) which offers cube functionality, but this will remove the real time advantage of Jet.
- Table Builder can’t be edited – The Table Builder offers a nice GUI for selecting tables and fields but once you close the Table Builder you don’t get to use the nice GUI to edit – you need to use the formula editor instead, which is more complex to use. Hopefully this will be something they will fix in a future release.
- Jet won’t work for those of you using RTC over a WAN to connect to a remote server, as Jet needs to connect to a local system. I believe this will be addressed in future editions due to Microsoft’s ERP cloud strategy.
The Jet range
For those of you interested in what is available in the other editions of Jet, the next product in the range is Jet Essentials, which includes the features listed in the table below. If you’re interested in knowing more about this, or want pricing information, please contact me.
In summary, I was impressed with what is available in the free edition of Jet Express and would definitely recommend those that haven’t already downloaded it to go ahead and give it a try. Let me know how you get on and if you have any experiences to pass on.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.