Finding a replacement for the retired FRx report writer can be frustrating and overwhelming, but for good reason. This article will discuss five financial reporting tools as a way to explore the today’s solutions to meet your company’s modern BI needs.
Some people might think the topic of FRx’s retirement is old news – and they would not be wrong. However, for several years, finance teams around the globe have relied on Microsoft’s free financial report writer, so the transition to a new tool has been slow and in some cases, resistant. There is an ecosystem of third party products that support professionals by hopefully making Microsoft Dynamics a best-of-breed solution by offering what the accounting system cannot. Additionally, as the years fly by, technology and the independent software vendors (ISVs) that manufacture Business Intelligence (BI) products continue to evolve at record speeds to meet customer demands for intuitive, powerful, business user friendly solutions.
For some, the move to Management Reporter (MR) was a default migration. Loyalty to Microsoft and familiarity with the family of products led thousands over to new financial reporter succeeding FRx. I have had a lot of conversations with customers about why they should invest in third party products at all, and I understand the confusion. Dynamics is a Microsoft product, so why wouldn’t you rely on a BI solution within the same family? Solver CEO Nils Rasmussen answered this question in detail on this blog, but the reality is that there is a growing public opinion that MR is underwhelming, especially after waiting almost a decade for a legitimate update to FRx.
There are a lot of options on the market today to replace and truly upgrade your financial report writing experience, post FRx retirement. There are so many products and ISVs that it tends to overwhelm financial professionals as they begin the shopping process. This article will focus on some of the top options for a solution to replace FRx as a modern and powerful, yet easy to use financial report writer. I’m going to discuss MR in more detail, as well as F9, BizNet, Renovofyi, and BI360, so that, as you start to reach out to some of these companies and set up meetings, you have an idea of what to look for in a product to meet your company’s specific business needs in the context of what the marketplace is currently offering.
Management Reporter might be described as a hit by some, as nearly half of FRx customers have moved to MR, but only half? And some are already jumping ship. The marketplace has changed since FRx was first introduced, and in a lot of ways, ISVs are benefitting from today’s customer-driven dynamic. To summarize the conversations I’ve had with disappointed MR users and the feedback on the internet, it is more of a replacement for FRx and less of a true upgrade. More specifically, the only significant change has been in the user menu gateway; it is still only GL reporting without the flexibility of real-time web reporting – and a proprietary interface that, while very similar to FRx, it doesn’t offer the familiarity of Excel formulas and formatting. With all the modern tools speaking to accessibility, collaboration, and mobility, it is no wonder that people are already looking for Management Reporter alternatives.
Recently, a more mature reporting tool, F9, has been creeping back into the spotlight, perhaps due to the frustrations with MR. F9 is a slight upgrade because it is an Excel add-in, meaning that most users have the power of knowing and using the spreadsheet program’s formulas since at least college. However, F9 is a first generation Excel add-in, so it is older, less intuitive and less efficient, especially when it comes to coding. Additionally, reporting does not go beyond the GL just like MR, and you only have the option of running live reports from the ERP. The flexibility of data warehousing, and web or mobile reporting is simply not here – something that will leave you behind in terms of your business decision-making.
Another option for exclusive live reporting with an Excel platform is BizNet. BizNet is a stand-alone product, so like the other options already mentioned, it is not positioned within a suite with other modules, like budgeting, dashboards, or a fully built data warehouse. This is not that uncommon, but again, if you are looking for an actual upgrade since you’re investing time, money, and energy anyway, why not have the option to expand and customize your BI capabilities? Another thing to note with BizNet is that they have integrated to over 20 Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and thus are spread thin across a large number of systems, which might explain why this tool often does not venture too far beyond GL reporting.
One solution went in a slightly different direction to insert themselves in the modern arena. Renovofyi is an exclusively web-based financial reporting tool that counts some of the former FRx team as part of their organization, which makes them a relevant player, especially when it comes to FRx report conversions. Relatedly, this product’s infrastructure is extremely similar to FRx, especially in terms of formatting, formulas, and row and column organization. Therefore, instead of going the Excel add-in route, this ISV acknowledges that FRx customers were really comfortable with the product, but moves it into the globally flexible space of the web. Unfortunately, the limitations of the proprietary interface of GL-exclusive FRx apply to this product, and if you’re going to spend money anyway, you might as well see a grander return on your investment – ease of use, flexibility, and depth to your financial reporting.
Solver’s BI360 combines a modern Excel add-in with the flexibility of web and mobile reporting, all the while being a full BI suite with budgeting, dashboards, and a fully built, configurable data warehouse. BI360 is a third generation Excel add-in, meaning that business and accounting logic is employed for building financial reports. BI360 has a web portal, equipped with a report library, that still preserves Excel formatting and formulas back and forth between Excel and the web. As one of the only companies that offers a mobile application for financial reporting, this product is not only easy to use, but truly accessible anywhere there’s an internet connection and/or you have your mobile phone. Perhaps most important to today’s professionals is the ability to report beyond the GL. Sub-ledger reporting empowers different roles to make informed department-specific decisions – and it can all be done within the easy-to-use Excel. There are a lot of modern BI capabilities, but it will be important to find the solution that is right for you and your company.
FRx’s retirement has been a pain to a lot of people, especially those that know how to use it like the back of their hand. However, it can also be perceived as an opportunity to truly upgrade to the present and future of BI functionality. Of course, it can be an overwhelming and time-consuming undertaking, but Solver would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Excel, web and mobile reporting solution, positioned within a full suite of BI tools for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities.