Without a powerful, intuitive financial report writer, you have got to just be surviving in the modern business era of data management and analysis, instead of thriving in your industry. In this article, I’m going to explore your options and functionalities that you can find in a variety of independent software vendor (ISV) solutions, so you are that much closer to implementing the right reporting tool for your Sage 300 Business Intelligence (BI) processes.
Financial report writers enable users to craft custom reports that utilize transactional information from your data sources, whether you report live from Sage 300, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application, and/or from an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse. Most enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems have reporting functionality built right into the platform, but there are several third party tools that you should look into for accelerated, streamlined, powerful, and business user friendly reporting. ISV tools are empowering finance teams to design custom, reusable reporting templates that deliver digestible analytics for decision-makers, for more informed choices regarding the future of the company. When considering options for your data management and analysis processes, it will be essential to consider your option when it comes to your platform: integration types, Excel, web, mobile, and/or proprietary interfaces, and general user friendliness for non-IT users.
When looking to invest in a reporting solution, you should think about the way you would like to integrate your data as a fundamental aspect when making a decision. You should evaluate which route is more effective for your needs, whether running reports live from Sage 300 or integrating with a BI data store. A live integration from Sage 300 translates to real-time analyses, directly from the ERP server. Moreover, you do not have to replicate needed company data to the BI data store to complete your analysis with up-to-date information.
With a BI data store, you are going to spend additional money, whether that means personnel to develop and/or manage an OLAP cube or going with a commercial, fully built, configurable data warehouse. However, if you have multiple users who are working in Sage 300, simultaneously running queries, sometimes larger in size, a BI data store allows you to avoid slowing down the Sage server, while still having a high performance tool.
Both BizNet and BI360 have Excel-based programs that can boast a live integration to Sage 300 and other ERP systems, but most ISV tools only integrate reporting data from a BI data store. But that’s not all you should be considering: what kind of platform would you and your team prefer to work on when crafting reports?
Most finance departments are full of professionals who have been working in Excel since at least undergraduate days. Some ISVs have built their own platforms for report designers, and they tend to argue that Excel is tedious and difficult when it comes to securely linking and managing spreadsheets. Regardless, since Excel is so globally prevalent, the formulas and formatting are so familiar that most finance professionals are power users at this point. Excel-based report writers are a ribbon add-in for the toolbar at the top of Excel that upgrades Microsoft’s spreadsheet program with functionality that allows for secure collaboration and accounting logic. BizNet and BI360 are database-structured Excel add-ins, offering Excel users an advantage when learning to maximize their reporting solution, and they eliminate any manual spreadsheet reporting issues. While Excel is an institution in the finance world, web-based reporting and Cloud computing define the current era of BI analytics.
Cloud computing refers to software hosting by a third party provider in the web and off site. Web-based solutions can be hosted on-site or in the Cloud, but both options enable users to securely access, manage and analyze their data from anywhere with an internet connection. In regard to financial reporting, you can now design and run reports on the web, with full drill-down and collaborative capabilities. There are pure Cloud report writers, which typically pull data from BI data stores, so live, real-time analyses are not an option, but there are some hybrid Excel-powered, web-based financial reporting solutions.
With business in full swing around the clock and across time zones, lots of corporate teamwork is spread out and diversely comprised of personnel, locations, and departments. Web reporting is most helpful to companies that are working in this spread out structure, specifically when remote staff is routinely connecting to the company network and/or server(s) while out of the office. Adaptive Insights and Host Analytics are pure Cloud interfaces – and proprietary platforms where data is moved out of Sage 300 and into the respective vendors’ cloud, while BI360 is a software that offers users the hybridity and related flexibility to generate reports in Excel, via a web interface, or a mobile application. In other words, don’t just pounce on the first web-based solution; you also want to make sure that it is business user friendly and flexible in nature. It would be a waste of money if you are delayed or at a dead end with software that is too complex.
As an extension of the popularity of web-based financial reporting, mobile apps are the next wave of flexible data management and analysis access. You can’t yet build financial reports on a mobile app, but you can view them and drill-down on your Sage 300 data. But again, don’t get swept up in the appeal of mobile reporting and lose sight of your specific BI needs. At least for now, look at mobile applications as a bonus to financial reporting solutions. It might be more important for you and your team to invest in a financial report writer that is positioned within a comprehensive suite of fully integrated BI tools.
When shopping for the best financial reporting solution for your specific BI needs, you should assess what features and functionalities would help you solve your current and future problems. Look at where you’ve been, where you are, and where you want to be in the future. 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 Sage 300.