The modern business culture insists that our procedures and software solutions be flexible and accessible, and the mobile platforms that are rolling out are just one example of exactly how independent software vendors (ISVs) are responding to consumer demands to keep up with the on-the-go nature of the global corporate scene, including data management, reporting and analyses for Sage 300 customers. These days, you should be relying on BI software that is flexible enough for your company in regard to accessibility of your operational and transactional information for smarter, quicker decision-making, whether you are working in the office or remotely. Third party software manufacturers are responding to this user experience need for more flexibility in BI tools.
ISV tools are expanding the Sage 300 functionality by offering best-of-breed financial reporting, budgeting, dashboards, and data storage/management. Furthermore, today’s BI software is providing the business end user options. I would bet that you’ve been out of the office at least once where you have needed access to company information, and sometimes, it is urgent. If you’re still relying on on-premises BI software, you are aware of the restrictions you face, primarily due to having to be in the office or use sometimes unreliable remote access programs, like Citrix, Terminal Server, or VPN. If you’re looking for a true solution, this isn’t one in the context of today’s on-the-go business world. Let’s talk about achieving a true upgrade.
There are at least a handful of elements to consider when seeking the BI software upgrade that accommodates your team’s current and future needs. You should think about data integration options: do you need a live integration because you need real-time reporting from Sage 300 – or would a BI data store integration from an OLAP cube or a data warehouse work? Do you require both? Next up: platform options. Would you prefer an Excel add-in tool for the familiarity that would allow your business end users to hit the ground running with a new BI tool? Or would a Web-based product be the upgrade you’re seeking because your team can access data from anywhere with an internet connection? Fortunately, some products are still Excel-powered on the Web in terms of report design. Relatedly, mobile applications are becoming more prevalent because you can access financial reports, dashboards, and KPIs wherever you carry your mobile device. Also, you should look for tools that are part of a complete suite of fully integrated BI software that can simplify your processes.
Your BI technology options will either integrate live from Sage 300 for real-time reports and dashboards and/or by relying on an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse. Frankly, with flexibility being such a big selling point for modern software, do you really want to invest in software that only allows you to integrate one way? Some options enable you to choose how you want to pull data for a specific process. If you are a smaller company with not that many users and less substantial data queries, you probably only need a live integration from Sage 300. Corporations that would like to avoid potential Sage 300 server slowdowns, because of multiple users sometimes simultaneously pulling substantial data sets, will likely benefit more from the higher performance of a BI data store integration. Additionally, it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead. If you envision the growth of your company to result in logistically nightmarish workflow in the not-so-distant future, you should choose technology that is accommodating of that development. The top software will offer you flexibility in the form of hybridity.
Flexibility contributes to what I believe should be your top priority in software: ease of use. Because of Excel’s ubiquity, software that is powered by the internationally trusted spreadsheet program allows users to work within a familiar interface, as opposed to proprietary platforms that come with their own set of formulas, coding, and formatting that you’ve probably never seen before. The premier Excel-powered reporting and planning tools expand the application with dynamic business and accounting logic and sub-ledger analyses for easier design and richer results. And there’s more features and functionalities you should be weighing when considering the business user friendliness and flexibility you want/need from software today.
Modern BI tools bring together Excel familiarity and web/mobile flexibility into one platform. As Cloud- and Web-based technology has become more desirable, BI tools are following suit. Business doesn’t pause while you’re out of the office and on the go, so look for BI tools that provide you access to your data on the Web, preferably a tool that is powered by Excel formatting, so you can flexibly move between interfaces. When you’re analyzing your particular organizational BI process needs, think about personnel who are already working out of the office, who will be working remotely in the future, and who will still be on-site every day. Your team should have access to manage and analyze financials anywhere they can connect to the internet, and you now have some options to do that – even on mobile devices.
Cloud- and Web-based tools are definitely the present and the future of BI, and mobile devices extend that for Sage 300. With our smartphones functioning as alarm clocks for a lot of us, it makes sense that BI analyses would pop up on our mobile devices. Since mobile BI is relatively new, not every third party software vendor offers a mobile app. And another rare offering: a comprehensive suite of fully integrated BI solutions.
Maybe you’re really only looking to upgrade your GL-exclusive financial report writing for Sage 300 currently, but don’t just look at stand-alone reporting tools. If your roadmap involves company growth, you should plan to look at BI suites that also offer budgeting, dashboards, and/or a BI data store. If you go with a stand-alone reporting software now, you could end up piecing together tools from disparate vendors, which means multiple teams of vendor, consulting, and support professionals. Your other option would be to replace your stand-alone report writer with one that is positioned within a suite. Lots to consider, but Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s web-powered, easy-to-use Excel and mobile BI tools with both real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis, budgeting and collaboration as a way to accelerate company performance management beyond Sage 300.