Business Intelligence for Acumatica

In this article, Business Intelligence (BI) solutions for your Acumatica ERP system will be explored and discussed in depth as a consumer guide.

Today’s business world basically requires that our processes and technology platforms be accessible and flexible, and mobile applications are also showing up on the market more and more as an example of how successfully independent software vendors (ISVs) have responded to consumer requests to stay up to date with the fast pace of the international corporate realm, including data management, analyses, and reporting for Acumatica users.  Today, you should depend on BI tools that are flexible enough for your team in terms of accessing operational and transactional data for more informed, faster decision-making, whether you are working remotely or in the office.  ISVs are answering this consumer call for a focus on flexibility in BI solutions.

Third party BI software is expanding Acumatica functionality by delivering best-of-breed financial reporting and planning, as well as data visualizations and storage solutions.  Additionally, modern BI tools are offering the business end user choices.  I would guess that there’s been a time when you’re out of the office at some point or another when you needed to access company data, sometimes urgently.  Using Acumatica, you know the benefit of browser-based technology for modern accessibility alone.  But if you need richer, more robust reporting, budgeting, or dashboards, you might run into the restrictions of Acumatica’s functionality in these areas.  You might also have to deal with third party BI applications with sometimes shaky remote access to Acumatica, like VPN, Terminal Server, or Citrix.  If you want a solution to these problems, there are ways to achieve it – with modern web-enabled BI software.

There are some primary aspects to think about when shopping for a BI software upgrade that will accommodate your company’s current and long term goals.  First, consider how you want to integrate your data: do you require a live integration because you need real-time data analytics from Acumatica – or could a BI data store integration from a data warehouse or an OLAP cube serve you best?  Do you need both?  You’ll also want to weigh your platform choices: would an Excel add-in solution provide the familiarity that your business end users could leverage to quickly master the tool?  Perhaps a web-based product would make the most sense because you’re used to accessing your data from anywhere you can connect to the internet with Acumatica.   Luckily, some modern offerings are powered by Excel on the web, in regard to report design.  Additionally, mobile applications are becoming more popular in the BI realm because you can access and view financial statements, dashboards, and KPIs wherever you have your mobile device.  You’ll want to also consider tools that are positioned within a comprehensive suite of completely integrated BI tools that can streamline your procedures.

Your integration options will be either to pull data directly from Acumatica for real-time analyses and/or by depending on an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse.  Simply, with flexibility being so important in the modern software landscape, you will want to think about making a software investment that allows you to integrate both ways.  Some tools allow you to decide how you want to query information for a particular task.  If you’re a smaller organization with fewer users and less substantial data pulls, you probably just need a direct-from-Acumatica integration.  Companies that want to avoid making the Acumatica server sluggish due to multiple users at times pulling larger amounts of data simultaneously will probably benefit the most from the high performance of a BI data store.  And it’s not a bad idea to look at your BI roadmap plans.  If you’re envisioning growth that will complicate your workflow in the future, you should invest in a solution that can accommodate that evolution.  The best technology will deliver flexibility in the form of hybridity.

Flexibility is a big part of what should be your #1 priority in software: business user friendliness.  Since Excel is ubiquitous, tools that are driven by the globally trusted spreadsheet application enable users to work within a familiar platform instead of a proprietary interface that comes with its own set of formatting, coding, formulas, and rules that you’ve likely never seen before.  The top Excel add-ins upgrade the program with dynamic accounting and business logic and sub-ledger analytics for simpler design and smart results.  You have more to consider, in terms of features and functionalities, to achieve the ease of use and flexibility you need from modern BI tools.

Some of today’s BI solutions combine the familiarity of Excel and the flexibility of web and mobile into one product.  As Cloud- and web-based solutions become more popular, BI tools have followed the trend.  Business doesn’t wait until you’re back in the office, so you should invest in BI tools that give you access to your information on the web, even better if the tool is powered by Excel, so that you can move through your processes with ease and flexibility.  When you’re evaluating your specific organizational BI task needs, consider the staff you have working remotely already, in the future, and anyone who will continue to work on-premises every day.  Your end users should be able to access, manage, and analyze your data wherever they have an internet connection, and now you have some options to do that, even if you just have a mobile device on you.

Cloud- and browser-based solutions are definitely the present and future of BI, and mobile devices relatedly add flexibility for Acumatica.  As we rarely go anywhere without our smartphones, of course BI analytics would join our world of mobile apps.  Because mobile BI is new to the scene, not every ISV has produced a mobile app.  Something else that’s rare:  a complete suite of fully integrated BI tools.

Perhaps you’re only interested in expanding your financial reporting processes with Acumatica right now, but you shouldn’t just look into stand-alone report writers.  If you are planning for growth, you should look at BI suites that also provide budgeting, dashboards, and/or a BI data store.  If you invest in a stand-alone reporting tool now, you might end up piecing together software from different vendors, which translates to multiple sets of sales, consulting, and support professionals.  Or you might end up replacing your stand-alone tool with one that is part of a suite.  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 Acumatica.

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