While financial reporting is arguably the cornerstone of Business Intelligence (BI) analytical processes, dashboards are the top priority in terms of solutions executive teams are seeking. Both are important to understanding the overall health of your organization, and you have choices for both on-premises and web-based, Cloud-hosted financial reporting and data visualizations. Sage X3 users should be in the know regarding today’s best software options for achieving accessible, easy-to-use, robust analytics, specifically in terms of financial statements and dashboards. In this article, I will discuss both financial reporting and data visualizations for Sage X3 customers – and the modern business problems you can solve with today’s powerful BI software.
Let’s start by pinpointing the most important characteristics of financial reporting and dashboard solutions. I am confident that your number one priority should be business user friendliness. Professionals at all levels of your organization should be able to access, understand, and produce financial statements and/or dashboards without IT having to manage the product. Of course, there will be some training involved, but the software shouldn’t be too complex for business end users to manage. Next up: collaboration. BI analyses can be performed and produced by a single person, but usually, we’re working in team settings to best interpret the data. Therefore, the financial reporting and/or dashboards solution you implement should accommodate and empower teamwork, eliminating back-and-forth e-mail threads and heavy attachments that have to be manually pieced together. And with collaboration, there is an increased need for security so you don’t have sensitive data getting into the wrong hands. Modern security measures, like password protection and configurable user access, should strengthen your BI processes.
With both financial reporting and dashboards, there are several considerations that you should be making in the shopping process. First of all, you have options when it comes to the type of platform, whether it is Excel- or Web-based, and/or a proprietary interface. You’ll also want to evaluate how you want or need to integrate your data, live from Sage X3 and/or from a BI data store, like an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse. Is the solution positioned within a fully integrated, comprehensive suite of BI tools? Does the financial reporting and/or dashboards software have a mobile application as an option? You have a lot to consider, but an investment of any sort, especially technology for your team, should involve as much. We’ll zoom in on both financial reporting and dashboards for Sage X3 customers, using the key characteristics to inform our exploration of the considerations just mentioned.
It might seem like there’s an obvious right answer – or a couple of correct answers when it comes to the platform that will best serve most customers. With Excel being so established in the finance realm around the globe, most working with it since at least undergraduate days, you might assume that Excel is the best platform for most organizations. Excel add-ins do typically upgrade the spreadsheet application with sub-ledger analytics, drill-down capabilities, and more, so you can work within an interface that you’re familiar with AND expand your analyses, for both financial reporting and data visualizations. There are also proprietary platforms, usually as a marketplace response to consumers who find manual Excel processes tedious and lackluster. These products aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, perhaps because of their power or aesthetics, but you’ll want to really weigh the business user friendliness factor with any proprietary software because the learning curve might be significantly lengthier with a completely non-Excel set of formulas, formatting and coding. Finally, the Web has truly proven to be a heavy hitter in the marketplace, for both reporting and dashboards.
The simplest way to describe the value proposition of Web BI tools is flexibility. Because business is becoming increasingly more spread out, with remote and on-the-go professionals, the Web allows employees to access important data to inform decision-making. Furthermore, with product licensing, Web reporting and dashboards can come out more cost efficient with browser-based analytics. Decision-making and action item deadlines do not pause and wait for you to be in the office to access requisite information. Web-based reporting and dashboards can also be powered by Excel, combining familiarity with flexibility. But there’s more to consider.
In terms of integrating your data for reporting and dashboards with Sage X3, you have a few choices: a live integration, pulling data from a BI data store, or a hybrid. Querying data live from Sage X3 means you are achieving a real-time analysis, but depending on how many users are pulling significant amounts of data, sometimes simultaneously, the Sage X3 server can become sluggish. A BI data store is a higher performance integration, but requires you to replicate your data to the OLAP cube or data warehouse, which is an additional investment. Some products offer the choice to decide when you require real-time analytics, pulling from X3 for more urgent financial reports, and querying data from a data warehouse for more routine dashboards. Speaking of which, the additional investment of a BI data store can also be additionally costly in terms of business user friendliness.
Complete suites of BI tools enable users to work seamlessly between tools with similar interfaces and one team of sales, consulting, and support professionals. You should look for a suite that offers budgeting, forecasting, and modeling functionality, as well as a fully built data warehouse, so you can work with a business user friendly Microsoft SQL Server powered space for multiple data types. Even if you’re only on a mission to upgrade your reporting or dashboard processes with Sage X3 right now, a comprehensive BI suite allows for growth and development of your company.
Finally, as successful as Web reporting and dashboards have become, it’s no surprise that mobile applications have rolled out to accommodate truly on-the-go professionals trying to make enriched decisions for the future success of the company. Mobile reporting and dashboards allow access from anywhere you carry your mobile device, although they are currently limited in terms of how much you can analyze at one time due to screen size. Bottom line: you have a lot to consider in terms of reporting and budgeting, so don’t make a decision just based on mobile applications. Solver would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use, powerful Excel, Web, and mobile financial reporting and dashboard tools, positioned within a complete BI suite, for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities for Sage X3.