Office 365 Business Center Preview vs SharePoint

Microsoft included Business Center in Office 365 Business Premium. They added “Preview” after the word Center since it’s a new offering. This is the link for more information on Office 365 Business Center Preview. I’m not going to go through Business Center’s pluses and minuses since its new, but at this time it doesn’t even come close to the customer management that you can do through SharePoint.

Office 365 Business Center Preview does have a couple of advantages:

  1. Syncing of Business Center customer data with QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop. I did not try QuickBooks Online but I was not able to properly sync with QuickBooks Desktop. Also, the Contact features in Business Center have some bug issues that need addressing.
  2. Ability to generate customer invoices in Business Center and sync those with QuickBooks Online and Desktop. The invoicing capabilities/features are very limited at this time and I could not find information on how to sync with the desktop version.

Business Center functions in a closed environment, unlike SharePoint, making it hard to share data. I think Microsoft would have been better off making Business Center a SharePoint application.

Using SharePoint Online & Power BI Desktop to Solve the QuickBooks Online Salesperson Commission Void

The most voted on QuickBooks Online (QBO) feature request under the Customer Center category is Enable a Sale Rep to be assigned to a Customer/Client. This request has been sitting around since 2012 and was flagged as “Under Review” in 2016. Intuit has kind of address this request by suggesting that an Invoice custom field be used to assign a salesperson to a Customer Invoice. However, I’m not sure that this meets the needs of most users that want to report on their salesperson/customer relationship. Additionally, several comments under this feature request suggest the ability to compute sales commissions on a billed and collected basis be provided.

This post illustrates how these reporting needs can be met using SharePoint Online, Power BI Desktop, and Excel. I suggest the reader first review the posts QuickBooks Online & SharePoint Online Synchronization, Power BI and SharePoint, QuickBooks Online & SharePoint Online Synchronization Revisited, Using Power BI & SharePoint Online to Solve the QuickBooks Online “Type” Void, QuickBooks Online Tables via Microsoft Power BI Desktop Content Pack.

The post SharePoint for Customer Management and many other posts on this blog illustrate how SharePoint Online can be used for customer relationship management. Below is a screen shot of Customer & Prospect List using the Active Customer List. Here is where the Salesperson to Customer relationship is established and this used the Desktop Power BI report showing sales commissions by salesperson on both a billed and collect basis.

Note: A non SharePoint Online user could also use an Excel spreadsheet with Customer and Salesperson as subsititue for the above Customer & Prospect List.

Next I decided to use a simple Excel spreadsheet to track Salesperson and their commission percents.

I should note that in real life I would keep this information on the Human Resources SharePoint subsite.

As mentioned in the post QuickBooks Online & SharePoint Online Synchronization Revisited referenced above, I uploaded QuickBooks Desktop’s Larry’s Landscape and Garden Supply sample company into QBO. The sample company has more data for 2019 so that is the year I will use for the sales commission report. I will assume that Salespersons are paid commissions on a quarterly basis and focus in on the 4th Quarter of 2019.

I then modified QBO’s Sales by Customer Detail report as shown below. I ran the report for both accrual and cash basis and exported the reports to Excel.

I then opened Power BI Desktop and connected to the above Excel reports as a data sources, the SharePoint Customer & Prospect List, and the Salesperson Commission Spreadsheet. I then set the relationships:

I then modified the Excel Accrual spreadsheet table.

As you can see, I eliminated the columns that were not necessary. Notice that I did not eliminate the Memo/Description column. This is because if there are shipping and finance charges on an Invoice it tells you that in this field. I set up separate shipping and finance columns based on the formula in the screen shot. I assumed that a salesperson is not commissioned on Shipping, Finance Charges and Tax so I added a new column called Commission Base which is Amount-Shipping-TaxAmount-Finance Charges. I also computed the Commission Amount based on the Salesperson Commission Spreadsheet and assigned the salesperson based on the SharePoint Customer & Prospect List.

I made the same changes to the Cash basis version of the spreadsheet.

I then added 3 Visualizations to review the data and placed each on its own page.

You will notice that I did not use the invoice and payment tables available through Power BI Desktop data source connector for QBO’s. While developing this post, I ran into difficulties with how the invoice and payment data is extracted from QBO. There were duplicate amounts that I could not eliminate. My work around was to use a QBO custom report and export it to Excel. This is disappointing since the connector would allow refreshing of the data directly from QBO. If data changes after exporting the Excel spreadsheet, you need to reimport it.

QuickBooks Online Tables via Microsoft Power BI Desktop Content Pack

The post Using Power BI & SharePoint Online to Solve the QuickBooks Online “Type” Void discusses how the three products can be brought together to improve management reporting and fill a void in QuickBooks Online (QBO). I will be publishing more posts on how SharePoint Online and Power BI can address other reporting voids in QuickBooks Online. Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to first list the tables currently available through the Power BI Desktop Content Pack for QuickBooks Online. The post QuickBooks Online & SharePoint Online Synchronization Revisited provides some additional background information.

Below is a screen shot of the current QuickBooks Online tables listed in the Power BI Desktop’s data source Navigator. As you can see there are 39 tables and 2 functions.

Power BI tries to figure out the table relationships for all but a dozen or so tables but doesn’t do a great job of it. Many of the tables are also de-normalized so you don’t need them all to do reporting. The GeneralLedger table is a good example because it contains Account Name, Customer Name, etc.

Using Power BI & SharePoint Online to Solve the QuickBooks Online “Type” Void

The post QuickBooks Online & SharePoint Online Synchronization Revisited provides an overview of how Power BI can be used to not only synchronize both online products but also integrate them. The post SharePoint for Customer Management discusses how a SharePoint Online list can be used for customer management. One of the fields in the SharePoint Online Customer list is “Customer Type”. While the QuickBooks desktop version supports various “types” for financial and management reporting, the QuickBooks Online version (as of the time of this post) does not support these capabilities. Below is an illustration on how Power BI, SharePoint Online, and QuickBooks Online can be brought together to full this reporting void. The illustratiom is a Power BI report displaying total customer billings by customer type.

The first consideration is how we are going to sync the SharePoint Online Customer List with QuickBooks Online customers. The post QuickBooks Online & SharePoint Synchronization discusses how customers can be imported and exported using Excel. I’m going to assume that SharePoint Online is being used as either the CRM or lead tracking application. Consequently, the customer data in SharePoint Online is imported into QuickBooks Online via Excel.

Here are the overall steps I undertook to develop the report in Power BI Desktop.

1. Because I already established a connection to my SharePoint Online site, I chose Recent Sources and then the SharePoint connection.

2. Selected the Customer & Prospect List table and then edited the query to only include Customer Name and CompanyType. I also renamed the columns Customer and Customer Type.

           

3. I connected to the QuickBooks Online data source, you can see it in 1, and selected the Customer table. I eliminated all the columns expect for CustomerParent, Customer Full Name, and Id. Renamed Id to CustomerId and CustomerParent to Customer Name. The reason I needed CustomerParent is because QuickBooks Online treats jobs/projects as Sub Customers. The total billings report that I am illustrating is at the Customer level so we need to know the parent name.

4. I then selected the QuickBooks Invoice table and only kept the columns you see below.

5. I then set the relationships between the quires.

6. Just to be on the safe side, I copied the Customer Name from both the SharePoint Online Customer & Prospect List and QuickBooks Online Customer quires and pasted them into Excel so I could compare them via a formula to make sure the names are exactly the same.

7. Lastly I added the three tables you see below to form the report.

For illustration purposes, I kept the report simple. Parameters could have been added for dates, amounts >, etc. Graphs and drill downs could have been used for visual effects. My purpose was to show how Power BI and SharePoint Online can be used to improve financial and management reporting for QuickBooks Online users.

Note: Organizations not using SharePoint Online can use a simple Excel Worksheet with client name and customer type to develop the same report.  Power BI Desktop comes with a connection for Excel data sources.

QuickBooks Online & SharePoint Online Synchronization Revisited

The post QuickBooks Online & SharePoint Online Synchronization discusses how the two products can be synchronized – the bottom line in that post being not very well. I decided to revisit this post after examining Microsoft’s QuickBooks content pack for Power BI . I briefly discuss Microsoft’s Power BI in my post Power BI and SharePoint. Power BI content packs connect to a service, in this case QuickBooks Online (QBO), and then create a Power BI dashboard and a set of Power BI reports. As Microsoft points out, the content pack is in beta and might change, so any reports and dashboards you develop may not work/need to be changed in the final version.

I uploaded QuickBooks’ Example Larry’s Landscape and Garden Supply company into QBO. (As a side note, the upload went smoothly.) I then used the Power BI content pack to connect to QBO. The content pack quickly developed a dashboard and reports for Larry’s Landscape and Garden Supply based on the example company. Below is screen shot of what was in the dashboard. The example company has very little data and its dated so the dashboard looks funny but it gives you an idea of what the content pack generates. Also Power BI map visualizations can generate odd results when first generated…I didn’t bother to go back and clean up the Customer/Client Map. You can drill down on the reports to see more detail. A neat feature of Power BI is the “Ask a question about your data”, it generates reports based on your question and based on my experience it does a pretty good job of providing the information.

As I mention in my SharePoint & Power BI post you can develop dashboards and reports for SharePoint Online lists and embed them on a SharePoint page. Power BI allows you to use multiple data sources in report development. Consequently, you can combine SharePoint List data and QBO data to develop integrated reports. Below is screen shot of a Power BI Desktop where I’ve taken in the Invoice table from QBO and the Customer & Prospect List from SharePoint so I can develop an integrated report using both data sources.

Combining SharePoint Online, QBO, and Power BI can provide small businesses with a rich environment for managing their businesses.

QuickBooks Online & SharePoint Online Synchronization

I have posted quite a bit on SharePoint and QuickBooks desktop integration and how both products can be used together. This post is on how QuickBooks Online(QBO) can or cannot integrate/work with SharePoint.

This post follows the same outline as the FreshBooks & SharePoint Synchronization post.

QuickBooks Online has 3 license plans: Simple Start for $13/month, Essentials for $27/month, and Plus for $40/month. The website has a comparison of features chart. The number of users that can access the application is 1, 3, and 5 respectively. This may be a hurdle for businesses that want full employee participation and communication.

Customer Synchronization

Like FreshBooks, QuickBooks Online does provide an example .CSV spreadsheet for importing clients. It also allows you to use Excel for customer import. Also like FreshBooks it requires client name on every row. If you have multiple contacts for a client, the result is the same client showing up multiple times after the import. Again like FreshBooks, you then need to delete all but one of the instances and then enter the contacts manually. So unless there is only one contact per client, you don’t want to be importing from a SharePoint list. You can export the Customer list to Excel so it is possible to sync SharePoint customer lists. Unlike the desktop version, the concept of types does not exist in the software. Meaning you can’t classify clients as commercial, residential, etc.

Project Synchronization

The post “The Case for a Project List” – I suggest you should set up projects in both SharePoint and QuickBooks. I also point out that although you can import from QuickBooks to SharePoint, there are multiple steps involved. It is easier to go from SharePoint to QuickBooks. There is no equivalent of QuickBooks desktop’s “Jobs”. You need to setup a sub customer for a job or project. To quote their Help “jobs in QBO are not as fully functional as they are in desktop, in QBO a job is just a sub customer.” This sub customer alternative does not allow you to import project information from SharePoint or any other application. Importing project data into SharePoint from QBO is possible via a transaction report, invoice list, etc. but it is cumbersome at best.

Task Plan Synchronization

You can setup Activities in QBO and these can be used as Tasks. Activities can be classified under a Category so a two level hierarchy is possible. I found no way either importing or exporting Activity and Category in QBO. Thus keeping SharePoint and QBO would require maintaining information in both applications.

Time Tracking

The post “SharePoint Task Plan – Tracking Time” discusses time capture alternatives. Like the desktop version QBO does not have a timesheet import capability (meaning through standard features). It does provide a timesheet report that can be exported into Excel and then imported to a SharePoint site for reporting.

Billing

QBO does not provide an import capability for sales invoices. This means that you would need to enter all invoice manually. This is not an issue if you are not preparing invoices in SharePoint. You can export Invoice detail and summary data into Excel. Consequently, that allows you to import sales invoice data into SharePoint.

Employee Synchronization

The posts “Example Employee List from QuickBooks” and “Setup Users by Importing” discuss synchronization between QuickBooks desktop and SharePoint Online. QBO does not have the same custom reporting capabilities and no other easy way of either importing or exporting staff data. Consequently, staff data would need to be entered and maintained in both places.

Document Management

QBO has no document management capabilities. There is nothing comparable to the desktop’s Doc Center. See the post “QuickBooks Doc Center or SharePoint?” for discussion on when SharePoint document management capabilities vs Doc Center.

Overall Import/Export Capabilities

QBO has limited import and export capabilities making synchronization between the two products difficult. CData’s Cloud Driver can be used with QuickBooks Online. See my post for “Real Time Updating Between SharePoint and QuickBooks” for information.

Bottom Line

Keep synchronization minimal between the two products. Use SharePoint for running your business and QBO for accounting.

NOTE: Also see post QuickBooks Online & SharePoint Synchronization Revisited.

Billy & SharePoint Synchronization

Billy is based in San Francisco, CA and appears to have around 40,000+ users. Billy has two versions: one for free and a premium version that includes all the features of the free version plus: multiple users, quotes and estimates, custom designed invoices and recurring invoices for $29.00 per month. This post follows the same outline as the FreshBooks & SharePoint Synchronization post.

Customer Synchronization

Customer are set up under Contacts as in Xero and FreshBooks. Unlike FreshBooks and Xero, Billy does not provide for importing clients. It does provide the capability to export Contacts to Excel.

Project Synchronization

The post “The Case for a Project List” – I suggest you should set up projects in both SharePoint and QuickBooks. I also point out that although you can import from QuickBooks to SharePoint, there are multiple steps involved. It is easier to go from SharePoint to QuickBooks. There is no concept of Job or Project in Billy. You can setup up a product or a service and use them to track projects but then you can’t use those fields for other billing purposes. Bottom line this is not a job/project oriented application.

Task Plan Synchronization

As in Xero, there is no concept of Task. You could use the product/service field to track tasks but then you can’t track a project. You could put task into the Description field on the Billy’s Sales Invoice but this a text box so it can’t be repeated in a drop down or combo list.

Time Tracking

The post “SharePoint Task Plan – Tracking Time” discusses time capture alternatives. Billy has neither a timesheet nor payroll capability.

Billing

Billy’s Quotes and sales Invoice features do not support importing of data. Their related reports can be exported into Excel so you could update SharePoint with Quote and Invoice information.

Employee Synchronization

The posts “Example Employee List from QuickBooks” and “Setup Users by Importing” discuss synchronization between QuickBooks and SharePoint Online. Billy does not capture employee information.

Document Management

Billy has no document management capabilities.

Overall Import/Export Capabilities

As mentioned above, Billy has no import capabilities but does provide report export capabilities. Like FreshBooks and Xero it does have an Application Program Interface (API) that can be used by third parties to provide integration, but I am not aware of SharePoint to Xero real time updating capability. See my post for “Real Time Updating Between SharePoint and QuickBooks” for more information.

Bottom Line

Like Xero, if you decide to run your business mostly using SharePoint Online, you can use Billy to do your basic accounting and financial statement preparation. You would also need to use a third party payroll application.