This article will discuss the benefits of consolidating your many reporting tools.
How many of us use five or more report writers across our business systems? I know it sounds absurd, but most organizations do use that many reporting tools across their ERP system and other databases. When looking to invest in a reporting tool, how you integrate and present your data is very important. It is the backbone when it comes to making wise business decisions. In this article, I will focus on various options for consolidating multiple reporting tools to navigate your organization-specific issues in managing and analyzing your data.
Before we get into consolidating multiple reporting tools, let’s define what financial reporting is, as that is one of the most important areas of reporting. Financial reporting is the process of producing statements that detail an organization’s financial status. A financial report writer allows users to build customized reports that use transactional information from the users’ data source, integrating live from your ERP system, a data warehouse (DW), or an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube. Of course, an increasing number of modern financial reporting tools are just as good at reporting from CRM systems and other important operational data source, thus reducing the need to buy, install and learn multiple report writers.
Report Writers provide many benefits. For example, report writers give updated and consolidated information as well as give an effective means of internal communication about performance. Report writers also solves current problems faced by the organization and helps directors in decision making and policy framing. Finally, they provide information that is reliable, permanent, and otherwise unknown to shareholders, the Board of Directors, among others. These are all fantastic benefits, but as mentioned above, if most companies have five to seven report writers across their business systems, that leaves room for challenges. Organizations usually have multiple reporting tools for separate needs, such as financial statements, sub-ledger transaction reports, a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, a payroll system, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution and more.
Solver CEO Nils Rasmussen notes in his article, The Top Reasons Why Most Companies Are Far From Business Intelligence Nirvana, that the issue of having multiple report writers is more tools to learn, more tools to upgrade, more tools to maintain, etc. and that is why most companies end up exporting their data to Excel and create reports and budgets there. Additionally, the sales team and the other departments sometimes implement an analytics tool to provide them with dashboards and easy ad-hoc analysis. Rasmussen then discusses how it will fix short term pain, but it will not take you to “BI nirvana.”
There are multiple problems when investing in numerous reporting tools. For instance, to name a few, it gets expensive to maintain and purchase each reporting tool. It is also expensive to upgrade to new versions. It’s complex to maintain different user security models and related user management, and hard to learn all features in every reporting tool. Finally, it is difficult and almost impossible to consolidate the information from the different report writers into one place, so usually users resolve to manually exporting to- and formatting reports in Microsoft Excel. This makes the reports extremely prone to error and costly, as it takes an incredible amount of time in delaying information because users have to manually compile everything. Users no longer no longer want to rely on manual Excel processes to view and process financial data, but they want reports that can be dynamic enough to display whatever updated information managers need without doing additional labor. There are Excel-based reporting tools that are simply an add-in tool that enhances Excel’s spreadsheet function with features that enable secure collaboration and accounting logic. Report writers that offer Excel add-ins, provide Excel users a head start on learning the reporting module as most business users already have a lot of spreadsheet skills, and there are no manual Excel reporting problems involved. On the other hand, some third party manufacturers have built proprietary-interfaced report designers for those who argue that Excel is not secure. Other platforms, such as the web and Cloud computing, are all the rage as they are increasingly becoming the present and future of Business Intelligence (BI). Many of them work in conjunction with Excel.
A common solution to modern software, such as corporate performance management (CPM) software or BI tools, is to invest in one flexible report writer that can perform statistical and operational reports and financial statements, offer a DW where your data and information from different sources are compiled in a single database and the single reporter writer has access to all the information through the DW, and can distribute e-mails to end users or provide access through a web browser for end users, so they can use reports to answer any questions they may have without asking other people to run reports for them. You can consolidate your report writers and achieve additional BI capabilities by investing and aiming for a single BI solution that covers financial and operational reporting, data warehousing, budgeting and forecasting, and dashboards/analysis. This is also known as a BI suite. If a key functionality or feature is not covered by the BI suite you have chosen, then make sure it integrates directly with a powerful 3rd party add-on for whatever functionality or feature is missing in the suite. A good tip to keep in mind is to make sure the BI suite eliminates or reduces the need to maintain many report writers as well as many BI tools.
Having multiple report writers for financial statements, a payroll system, transactional reports and more leaves room for error, costly expenses, and waste of time. To improve your BI experience, you should familiarize yourself with what features and functions would help solve your business problems when either consolidating various report writers or you look for the best financial reporting solution for your specific BI needs. Solver, Inc. is happy to answer any questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Excel, web, and mobile interfaces for real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis and collaboration, with the option of email distribution of reports.