A modern, dynamic financial report writer is nearly a necessity for any organization that intends to stay competitive in the marketplace, navigating economic shifts and developing their brand by making data-driven decisions. This article will discuss financial reporting solutions, with a focus on their features and functionalities, so you can have a head start in finding the right report writer for your Microsoft Dynamics SL experience.
Third party financial reporting solutions grab company financials from your accounting system or other data sources, whether that is directly from Microsoft Dynamics SL with a live integration or from an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse. Like most enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, Dynamics SL has its own reporting function and most SL customers seem to be using Crystal Reports, although a lot of companies are relying on independent software vendor (ISV) report writers because of their power and their flexibility that the built-in tools don’t always offer. With many third party software, you can craft and reuse report templates that are customized to meet your data analysis needs and answer decision-makers’ questions about trends and trajectories of your company for future plans. In my experience, it appears that a lot of companies stick with pieces of the Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) stack or “free” products when moving beyond the built-in Report Writer, but financial reporting is too important these days to default to any certain product just because everyone else usually does. You should assess the importance of data source integration options, Excel, web, and/or proprietary platforms, and how easy the product is to use, among other aspects.
How you integrate your company data should be at the top of your list to evaluate when investing in a financial reporting tool for SL. You need to consider which method will best fit your team’s plans for the solution, whether you go live from Dynamics SL or a higher performance integration, pulling information from a data store. With a live integration, you get up-to-the-minute data analysis right from SL. And you won’t have to ensure that company data has recently been replicated to a database to get real time reporting.
A data store is its own investment – whether you go with an OLAP cube, data mart or data warehouse. However, if your company has more Dynamics SL users and are planning to sometimes simultaneously run substantial data queries, it could slow down SL’s server. Additionally, some data stores can hold different types of data all in one place.
In regard to ISV products for Dynamics SL, BI360 and F9 both can boast live integrations to Dynamics SL and other accounting systems, which is relatively unique in that most rely on data stores to generate reports. Beyond data integration options, another vital element that should help you shape your decision involves the solution’s platform.
In the finance world, most professionals have been using Excel since undergrad days. However, some third party manufacturers produce non-Excel reporting solutions, asserting that Excel is a pain in terms of linking and securely managing spreadsheets. You have to assess how big of an Excel fan you and your team are and decide whether to implement a familiar Excel add-in product or go with a proprietary platform. Both BI360 and F9 are Excel add-in ribbons that simply enhance the spreadsheet application by zooming in on security, accounting logic, and shared ownership. With a modern Excel add-in, the familiarity is going to allow you to hit the ground running with formatting. Excel may arguably be the standard bearer for data analysis and management, but the present and future seems to be solidly in the Cloud.
Cloud computing, or web-based technology, is hosted by a vendor and provides secure access to your data anywhere you can connect to the internet. When it comes to financial reporting, reports can be generated and run online, inviting collaboration and offering drill-down abilities. Generally speaking, pure 3rd party Cloud report writers tend to only pull company data from OLAP cubes or data warehouses, so live integrations are not an option, which is different than hybrid web-based, Excel-powered reporting tools.
Because of today’s global business world and the realities of around the clock operations, companies are working collaboratively around the world. Web reporting is the answer to the business end user needing flexible access to their decision-informing data. Adaptive Insights and Host Analytics are pure Cloud platforms, while a solution like BI360 is a hybrid Excel-powered, web platform, which means that you can design and run reports in Excel through the add-in ribbon functionality, in the web portal, or via a mobile application for smartphones and/or tablets. The internet is popular for the flexibility and mobility, but it is important that it is still easy to use for you and your team to build a financial report, especially since you could be on the go. If a “solution” is not business user friendly, you’re not going to be able to analyze data in the specific way your company needs, negating a true return on your investment.
Relatedly, the mobile device we are all living in has ensured that the future of financial reporting and other BI activities will begin happening more and more on our smartphones and tablets. Functionalities on our touch screens are developing, but there are a few options to view and drill down into financial reports of your Dynamics SL data. Mobile BI currently offers reporting and dashboard functionality, and this area of BI will likely develop at a rapid pace.
The idea of access to our data with just the tap of our favorite touch screens can sound pretty enticing, perhaps especially to the road warrior. However, since this is not a fully developed reporting tool (mainly due to the size of the screen and the newness of the product category), you should seek a financial reporting solution that meets your team’s specific needs before a mobile application is a make-or-break feature – at least, for now. Our relationship with mobile devices, as a society, will ensure that these BI applications will continue to roll out, and in the meantime, the third party vendors who already have them have a healthy head start.
There is plenty to consider when looking for the right financial reporting solution for your company, and this article was just to get you started. 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 the best report writer for Dynamic SL.