In the modern business culture, perhaps especially for Professional Services organizations, a modern, robust financial report writer is essential to staying competitive in your sector, navigating the economy, all while developing your brand and your business. In this article, I’ll focus on today’s premier financial reporting tools, zooming in on the top feature and functionality offerings, so you can select the best reporting solution for your Professional Services team to enhance your Acumatica experience.
Independent software vendor (ISV) products tend to pull your financial data from your accounting system and/or additional data sources, either through a live integration from Acumatica or via a Business Intelligence (BI) data store. Like most enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, Acumatica has its own native reporting functionality, but more Professional Services organizations are implementing an ISV report writer due to their ease of use paired with dynamic, rich output that transcends the built-in reporting features. You can design reusable reporting templates with quality ISV tools, which enables business end users to manage and analyze their own data, with intel to provide decision-makers in regard to your organization’s future. More recently having spoken to several accountants at #BI360Focus15, the discussion of Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) stack or “free” software versus ISV offerings came up again. But financial reporting is such a vital task that you have to find what works best for your team. Key considerations when weighing your financial reporting options: how you integrate your data; platform options (Excel, Web, and/or proprietary); and business user friendliness, amongst other elements.
As the arguable fundamental consideration for processing your data, let’s begin with data integrations. What’s the best option for you – do you prefer to query data live from Acumatica, or do you require a higher performance, pulling data from a BI data store, like an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse? A live integration means you achieve real-time analytics directly from Acumatica without first replicating company data to the OLAP cube or data warehouse for up-to-date financial reporting. BI data stores, whether a cube, a mart, or a warehouse, are an additional investment, but some BI data stores are capable of housing multiple data types in one place. That said, if your organization has multiple Acumatica users sometimes simultaneously querying significant data sets, it can slow the ERP server down.
When it comes to ISV tools for Acumatica, not many products can integrate live from the ERP system or other data sources, but Solver’s BI360 can generate live reports for on-premises or private Cloud Acumatica installations. As for Cloud-based Acumatica deployments, BI360 provides a pre-built integration to load the BI360 Data Warehouse, which is where you would then produce reports, budgets, and dashboards. Most ISV report writers are typically exclusively live reporting or data-store-based reporting, but not both. In addition to deciding on the best data integration route, you should also think about your platform options.
In terms of your software platform options, there have been some recent evolutions. Even though Excel still reigns supreme globally, the Web is trending, and Acumatica is a perfect example of that. You will want to consider whether you need Excel formulas, the mobility and flexibility of the Web – or both. BI360 provides Web-based financial report writing that is powered by Excel formatting, bringing together familiarity and flexibility for accessible reporting, also offering you the ability to link and manage spreadsheets securely from anywhere with an internet connection. Alternatively, there are also tools that function on a proprietary platform, which means your team has to learn formulas, codes, features, and functionalities that are not Excel, but it could be a valuable option for you if it’s a powerful Cloud-based application, and your team wants to have both systems in the Cloud.
Technology that is hosted on the web, off site by a vendor, known as Cloud computing, empowers you to securely access your Professional Services information from anywhere you have the internet. You can produce reports on the Web, and some tools offer you drill-down and collaboration functionalities. Generally speaking, pure third party Cloud reporting solutions tend to exclusively pull company data from BI data stores, so a live integration isn’t an option, but that’s not true with hybrid, Web-based and Excel-powered solutions.
The modern business world sees more professionals working as a team, but in different locations. Web-based reporting allows for access to your decision-making data in flexible ways. Pure Cloud options include Adaptive Insights and Host Analytics, and there are also hybrid Web-based solutions, like BI360, which is Excel-powered and on the Web, which means that you can design and produce financial reports and project-related reports with information from Acumatica right inside Excel, in a Web portal, and/or within an application for mobile devices. Furthermore, you have the choice of installing on-premises or in the Cloud. When looking for a product, don’t just focus on all the flexibility without making sure that the product is easy to use for your business end users.
Flexibility in terms of Web and mobile access for financial and operational reporting is only going to become more prevalent, and Acumatica is a good example of why this accessibility and power is so potent in the marketplace, but what should Professional Services organizations be looking for in a tool? You should look for reporting functionality that allows you to track data by project manager, consultant, agent, client, type of service, and you usually can estimate and set goals of new customer revenue by looking at previous periods. In other words, you should seek a financial report writer that offers the flexibility for your specific Professional Services organization to zoom in and make sense of the data you have to make informed decisions about the future.
You have a lot to think about when seeking the right financial reporting solution for your Professional Services organization, but the primary aspects include your choices for data integration, platform options, and particularly, the business user friendliness and accessibility that you’re accustomed to with Acumatica. 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 Professional Services organizations using Acumatica.