In today’s business world, Business Intelligence (BI) analyses are largely driving decision-making for the future of your organization by making sense of important company data. Even so, it would make sense if the number of financial reporting options, as well as the different features and functionality available, is overwhelming to you, even if you are familiar with BI processes, especially when trying to achieve industry-specific analytical objectives. Recently, I discussed the vagueness in product marketing with a finance professional for a manufacturing organization – and how frustrating it can be to try to shop for a solution that speaks to her manufacturing-specific analytical goals. This article will discuss what you need to know regarding modern financial reporting tools to expand your Microsoft Dynamics NAV processes, with a focus on manufacturing and distribution data management and analysis.
Let’s start with a big picture, identifying the main points to consider when shopping for a modern, powerful BI financial reporting tool. You have options in regard to integrating your data. With some independent software vendor (ISV) solutions, you can query data right from Dynamics NAV and/or additional data sources. Integrating live translates to a real-time analysis, with data directly from the NAV database. You can also utilize a BI data store like a data warehouse or an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube, which stores different types of company data on a stable platform, providing aggregated, high performance analyses.
BI data stores are definitely an additional investment, but perhaps an unavoidable one for your team. First, you’ll have to replicate company information from your data source(s) to the BI database, so you can achieve an up-to-the-minute analysis. Even with the additional cost, a BI data store delivers a higher performance when running reports. Depending on whether you opt to go with a pre-built, configurable data warehouse or a more technically complex OLAP cube, your investment could include time, money, and personnel (to manage the tool). You will have to weigh your options to best achieve your organization’s specific goals.
Next, let’s talk technology platforms. Today’s financial reporting solutions can be Excel-powered, browser-based, proprietary, or some combination of these. Excel is globally popular with finance teams, so it might seem like Excel-based platforms would be the easiest to deploy, which isn’t necessarily untrue, but you have other options to evaluate. A modern Excel add-in solutions is a ribbon addition to the top toolbar, which expands and accelerates the spreadsheet tools to streamline analytics with your Dynamics NAV data. That said, the web has built some momentum in the technology world, and financial reporting has followed this trend.
Browser-based financial report writers have shown to be revolutionary regarding how we manage and analyze data, specifically in terms of the flexible access from anywhere you have an internet connection. Again, you have options: there are pure Cloud offerings, which means that they are hosted on the internet by a third party, usually proprietary, and typically require a BI data store. There are also a few self-service hybrid solutions that are browser-based AND Excel-powered, offering your team familiar formulas and formatting, in addition to the valuable web-based access. And lastly: proprietary tools for your consideration.
Some third party vendors will argue that Excel is a pain when it comes to manually linking spreadsheets and working as a team on financial reporting. These ISVs are usually trying to sell their own proprietary financial reporting tool that could be pretty powerful, regarding output, but your end users will have to learn their formulas, formatting, and coding outside of Excel. If the tool is a true solution for your particular “problems” as a manufacturing or distribution organization, then it might be perfect. If it’s too complicated for your users, it’s not worth it. Some tools deliver two platform options for more flexibility. Most Cloud report writers are proprietary, while some browser-based reporting tools are also powered by Excel report design and formatting. You will want to evaluate your options to figure out what can best meet your technology needs.
Other things to think about when expanding your Dynamics NAV financial report writing experience: ease of use, collaboration, and security. If a tool is not business user friendly, without involving IT, the value is drastically diminished. Today’s financial reporting tools should be expediting BI tasks and making them more accessible for your manufacturing or distribution company, so if that doesn’t seem like the case, you have other options. Also, your financial reporting solution should focus on secure collaboration as that’s what generally drives analytics today. In today’s business world, technology should be delivering secure ways to work as a team, whether you opt for an Excel, web, and/or proprietary platform. Now, let’s move into manufacturing and distribution financial reporting functionality.
Manufacturing and distribution financial reporting can be financial and operational in nature. You should be seeking multiple modules in a tool, so you can meet your analytical and reporting goals as a manufacturing or distribution company. Beyond the necessary financial reporting module that involves GL reporting, a sales module can offer some organization to tracking customer orders, back orders, finished goods, requisitions, sales orders, and ship dates. A purchasing module can provide a summary of purchase orders, whether you’re requesting raw goods, organizing diverse supplier components, or sufficient tools and equipment. A survey data module can deliver a supplier quality report that analyzes survey data and supplier ratings, costs, on time delivery, and the quality of materials from different suppliers. An inventory module can track what’s in stock by location, as well as stock keeping units (SKUs) and/or warehouse management. Finally, a manufacturing/production module details what is being produced by which operational line and any works in progress for a Build of Materials (BOM) report.
There’s a lot to consider when seeking a financial reporting solution. Solver offers Excel, web and/or mobile-based reporting as a stand-alone tool or as part of the comprehensive suite of BI modules and would be happy to generally answer questions and review BI360’s easy-to-use solution for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities for manufacturing organizations using Microsoft Dynamics NAV.