As arguably the most popular facet of Business Intelligence, financial reporting continues to evolve for the modern business world. Microsoft Dynamics NAV users are probably aware that, like most accounting systems, NAV offers a built-in report designer, simply called Report Designer. While some organizations can effectively analyze the data they manage and analyze to make decisions by using Report Designer, the tool is limited in its efficacy for most companies of a healthy size. This article will discuss and zoom in on the options you have for powerful, modern financial reporting for Dynamics NAV, with a specific focus on key feature and functionality considerations you should evaluate before investing in a solution.
I think it might be helpful to start with the bigger picture. First of all, if you are in the market for software that is created by an Independent Software Vendor (ISV), meaning that you are investing time and money into a solution beyond the native Report Designer, it should be easy to use for you and your team. Perhaps this seems like a no-brainer, but every product is going to market themselves as user friendly, as we see the business world moving away from products that have to be managed by the IT department. But easy to use involves familiarity and flexibility – and some products cannot offer that by the nature of their platform. Some third party report writers are Excel add-ins, meaning that the formatting and coding of Microsoft’s spreadsheet software that is popular around the globe gives users a head start learning an accelerated, modern reporting tool. Proprietary platforms tend to require more learning.
I’ve seen online and discussed in person the conversation about why customers would go beyond the Microsoft BI stack when the trusted company who produces Dynamics NAV has a whole gamut of options for analytics. And the answer is related to the topic of proprietary versus Excel add-ins. Even though Microsoft produces Excel, they don’t anchor their related financial reporting products in Excel. Therefore, even though the functionality of Excel lends itself well to data analysis, if you choose proprietary platforms like Microsoft’s SQL Reporting Services, FRx, or Management Reporter, you have to learn a whole new set of formulas and coding that are not only unfamiliar, but also not as flexible as Excel. Speaking of flexibility, this is another important factor to consider when investing your time and energy deploying a solution to enhance your Dynamics NAV experience.
Again, when looking at the bigger picture, flexibility speaks to the evolution of the business world to the on-the-go, global culture that we know it to be more often than not. As the internet marketplace and partnerships extend the exchange of goods and services beyond our backyards, our executives and sales teams are working remotely more frequently than ever, whether working from a home office or traveling to meet prospective clients or participate in conferences and summits or even collaborating with a partner. Meanwhile, business does not slow down as we whir around the globe or across the country, and data driven decision-making must go on. You should be looking for a solution that is a true upgrade in this regard.
Whether you are in a hotel lobby, in a customer’s boardroom before a meeting, or in the back of a cab, if you need to check in on the health of your organization or contribute to business decision-making that moves the company forward while on-the-go, there are options for you to securely access your data. As the Cloud continues to become more popular in designing and developing software, the BI solution marketplace has followed suit. There are several pure Cloud options, which store all of your data in a hosted space on the web. Usually, with pure Cloud reporting tools, you are not able to perform real-time analyses on your data, meaning that you will have to also deploy an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse to pull your data from when generating reports.
BI data stores give you the opportunity to store multiple types of data in one place, enhancing financial consolidations organically, and they provide a higher performance data query because of the stability. However, they usually do require a replication of your data to the OLAP cube or data warehouse, which can be a click of a button or a scheduled, more routine process, before you can get an up-to-the-minute data analysis. And there are products to give you even more flexibility in that regard.
Hybrid Cloud solutions allow you the option of accessing your data from anywhere you have an internet connection and running the program on-premises as well – and some are even powered by Excel. If you can combine the flexibility of cloud computing with the familiarity of Excel formatting and live integrations, your team is going to be thanking you. Additionally, mobile reporting is definitely cresting the horizon as a powerful new product category.
If accessibility is an issue around the clock, at different points on the globe, it was only a matter of time before smart phones and tablets offered customers the option to access data anywhere they carry their mobile devices. Some of the functionality is organically restricted, based on the size of screens and usually related to the variables and KPIs that shape reports and dashboards, but if you are on the go with access to only your tablet or your smart phone, this feature could be extremely valuable. While mobile reporting is the arguable future, you should be looking ahead anyway.
In order to align all of the moving parts of your team and their collaborative BI analytics workflow, it is important to look ahead. You might be in the market this year for a financial report writer, but 2-3 years from now, if you are prepared to invest in a budgeting tool, you should plan ahead and invest in a solution that is a part of a comprehensive BI suite. If you go with a stand-alone product now, any additions later on will invite the pain of learning a distinct software, lacking a fully integrated set of processes, interacting with multiple support teams, consultants, and/or partner. There’s a lot to consider when implementing a third party financial reporting solution, but it will be worth your time to pick the best solution for your team’s specific goals and needs. 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 NAV.