If Management Reporter does not seem like much of an upgrade from FRx, this article is a must-read, discussing what product features to seek in purchasing the right product for company needs.
Approximately 50% of FRx users have already made the leap to the replacement, Management Reporter (MR), which is good news for Microsoft. Unfortunately, the internet is abuzz with MR customers who are not happy with the product. It was supposed to be an upgrade, a modernized and consumer-driven response to the elderly FRx, trusted and widely used, but limited. Instead, MR has proven to mostly be an aesthetically enhanced menu interface with a lot of the same old FRx underneath the hood. Accordingly, the message of dissatisfaction is spreading, so FRx users looking to upgrade are starting to look elsewhere. Some MR customers, whether the investment has already been big or small, are starting to consider other options for financial reporting as well. This article will discuss MR’s limitations and explore a handful of alternative financial report writers.
MR connects natively to the Microsoft Dynamics AX, GP, and SL General Ledgers, built for the business user which eliminates management or intervention by the IT Department. Microsoft built MR to replace both FRx and Enterprise Reporting, providing one product for both Consolidation and Management Reporting. Unfortunately, MR does not export to or from cubes, Excel Pivot Tables, or data warehouses. Since it integrates directly to Dynamics, the speed in generating a report by running a queue can slow down other ERP processes, depending on the number of users. Overall though, MR is a lot like FRx, but with a visually modernized menu system; the reporting capabilities and report design screens are all very similar. In 2014, there are several things to consider when it comes to choosing the right report writer to achieve a return on investment (ROI) by enhancing financial reporting and make better decisions in order to grow and develop the company.
There are some key features that any finance team thinking about replacing MR should consider: live integrations to GL and sub-ledger data, Excel or proprietary-based reporting, web-based reporting capabilities, a mobile application, the option for a full business intelligence (BI) suite, data storage options, and how easy the product is for the business user to learn and implement. When put through the feature assessment, MR does not fare so well.
MR has one major thing going for it – integration to the Microsoft platform – but doesn’t respond to the consumers’ requests for enhancements. MR does offer live integration to Microsoft Dynamics, meaning real-time reporting on the ERP system. However, even though it is a Microsoft program, it does not utilize Excel for reporting, doesn’t have dynamic web-based or mobile capabilities, and is not positioned as a module within a complete suite that also offers a line of BI products, including a data warehouse for other data storage purposes. Because MR does not utilize the familiar Excel platform to build and run reports, it may or may not be easy to use depending on user background, but regardless, it is a little too simple of a product for many of today’s progressive finance teams. Reporting beyond the General Ledger is not an option – and neither is accessing data from any other source besides Dynamics. The consumer-driven marketplace is looking for a true upgrade instead of a simple replacement.
Looking for the right product can be overwhelming, from feature seeking to testing the product, from training and implementation to technical support. However, there are a few industry front runners for financial report writing that can be compared to understand different product offerings – and hopefully, give more of an idea of what to seek for in a reporting solution. This article will compare and contrast Jet Reports, BizNet, Atlas XL, and Solver’s BI360 as alternatives to MR.
Jet Reports is an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) offering a more mature reporting solution than MR. Reporting beyond the General Ledger, Jet Reports is also Excel-based reporting, live on the Dynamics AX, GP, and NAV ERP systems. The (ISV) offers a free tool for individual users, called Jet Express, which is relatively limited for the average company, but it is perhaps an opportunity to see the product in action at least. Jet Reports is exclusively a reporting tool, so when seeking additional BI tools, it requires going to another vendor, which means more than one product to learn, two or more support and consulting teams.
BizNet is another live reporting solution that has integrations to over twenty different ERP systems, including Dynamics AX, GP, and SL. They offer an Excel-based report writer that is not positioned within a comprehensive BI tool suite, meaning no data warehouse, budgeting or dashboard modules. A mobile application has not been developed for the product yet, but reports can be accessed and written to and from the web, right within Excel. Seeing as it utilizes Excel, it should be pretty easy for the business user to manage without the assistance of IT. It appears that the breadth of live ERP integrations is the value proposition for this product.
On the other hand, Atlas XL has succeeded by zooming in on one integration – a live integration to Dynamics AX. This product does sub-ledger reporting in addition to the general ledger, but doesn’t extend to ad-hoc reporting. Furthermore, this is a stand-alone solution, so no other BI modules. It is Excel-based, meaning that it should be accessible for any finance team. Web and mobile accessibility is not an option at this time, but with its focus on Dynamics AX, this solution has developed a depth of knowledgebase for the integration.
Finally, Solver’s BI360 offers live integrations to about ten ERP systems, with most customers using the Dynamics AX, GP, NAV, and SL systems at this time. It also allows for data to come from other data storage units, like for example, industry vertical systems or payroll systems. Reporting capabilities go beyond the general ledger, including ad-hoc reporting and legal consolidation. BI360 is positioned within a full BI suite that includes the Excel and web-based reporting, budgeting, dashboards, and fully built, configurable data warehouse, which can be purchased all at once or piece by piece, and the system is fully integrated – including a mobile application.
It is these main features that should be considered when picking out the perfect alternative to Management Reporter. Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Excel, web, and mobile platforms for real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis and collaboration, with the option of email distribution of reports, as alternative report writer for Dynamics.