Building a Best-of-Breed Business Intelligence Solution for Sage 500

This article discusses independent software vendor tools that will turbo-charge data management and analyses for Sage 500 users wanting to build a best-of-breed solution.

Some Sage 500 users will probably always wonder why they would want or need to deploy independent software vendor (ISV) tool(s) on top of their accounting system.  This confusion is perhaps an obstacle for ISVs and a concern for some Sage 500 users.  There are a couple of clarifications that seem to organically come out of the conversation.  First, no ISV can create a tool that can be a solution for every single organizational hurdle.  A great example would be how competitive mobile device brands, like Apple or Android, provide their own native mapping applications, but still allow you to download an app from another manufacturer, which is similar to modern flexible enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, like Sage 500.  Because every organization using Sage 500 has particular objectives, specific budgeting requirements, and rules, the accounting system vary in how effective it is for each company.  ISV technologies enable organizations to customize their data management and analytics.

Let’s zoom in on the term, “best-of-breed.”  PC Magazine defines best-of-breed as “the best product of its type.”  The top software of any kind is not designable from a manufacturer’s or a marketplace perspective, so “organizations often purchase software from different vendors in order to obtain the best-of-breed functionality for certain key business areas.  While ERP vendors provide a wealth of applications for the enterprise and tout their integrated system as the superior solution, every module may not be best-of-breed.  It is difficult to excel in every niche.”  In other words, just because you’re a big Sage 500 fan doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look into adding a third party tool to extend the accounting system output to accomplish your specific analytical goals.  Some customers aren’t aware of what is available to upgrade analytics, consolidations, budgets, data visualizations, and storage for modern, powerful, easy-to-use, and flexible Business Intelligence (BI).  Let’s discuss your options to expand your Sage 500 experience.

Financial reporting has been the main analytical focus in terms of ISV tools.  I’ve written about Sage 500 report writers before, and they’re still as popular as ever.  Sage 500’s built-in reporting function is quite simple in comparison to modern marketplace offerings.  These days, ISV software delivers accounting logic, reusable report templates, sub-ledger analytics, and a direct integration to Sage 500 and other data sources for rich and accessible insight.  Some are Excel add-ins, some browser-based, and some bring together both components for ultimate flexibility.  And some even extend this flexibility by bringing financial reporting mobile applications.  Financial planning is also popular for budget managers who are hoping to achieve a best-of-breed tool for their corporate performance management.

When it comes to budgeting and forecasting, I consistently hear about how tedious these processes can be.  Back-and-forth email conversations, security concerns, and the manual task of piecing together disparate spreadsheets, then distributing the complete budget – no wonder budgeting is a responsibility most dread.  However, budgeting is more efficient with easy-to-use, Excel- and/or web-based ISV tools that are powered by accounting logic.  Modern planning solutions enable users to securely streamline and distribute ownership over the planning process.  If you were confused about why you should deploy an add-on tool for Sage 500, you’re probably also unsure why Excel would require any sort of supplement.

As globally embraced as Excel is, there are several ISVs producing Excel add-ins that not only upgrade Sage 500 tasks, but furthermore deliver features and functionalities within Excel via a ribbon on the toolbar – allowing you to avoid training on a whole new set of formatting and formulas.  In terms of reusable templates and accounting logic that streamline reporting and/or budgeting (in addition to many other functions), Excel simply is not that high performing.  You can craft charts, graphs, and other dashboards in Excel, but data visualizations are still the top BI solution priority for CFOs in today’s marketplace.

Dashboards or data visualizations showcase your data in easily digestible formats, like charts, graphs, and/or scorecards.  Despite the ability to design data visualization in Excel utilizing Sage 500 information, neither system specializes in dashboards, so they tend to underwhelm.  Third party software vendors have answered the call from consumers for aesthetically bright, accessible, and rich data visualizations.  Even though most BI marketplace survey results indicate that dashboards are the number one priority for customers, there are also plenty of Sage 500 users who aren’t only seeking data visualization solutions, but also data storage and performance management options.

Whether you’re shopping for online analytical processing (OLAP) cubes, data marts, or data warehousing, ISVs are bringing more and more solutions for your data management requirements for analytics, record-keeping, and any industry regulations.  An OLAP cube doesn’t operate on an open, relational SQL server platform, so the technology needs to be managed by someone with OLAP-particular experience and skills.  Still, OLAP cubes are prevalent, so this personnel requirement doesn’t appear to be a problem in the corporate workforce.  On the other hand, some ISVs have taken the historically in-house development task of data warehouse design and have rolled out fully built, configurable SQL server tools for organizations to install.  A data warehouse can store more than just financial data – and you can replicate your information to a warehouse with click of a button or through a set routine.  Reporting from a BI data store means you can achieve higher performance because you don’t have more than one user slowing down the Sage 500 server with live report queries.  In the context of ISV BI tools and where they fit on the market for data management, they are pinpointing and reacting to consumer needs for business user friendly, dynamic, and efficient collaboration for analytical tasks.

There are a plethora of technology options nowadays – and I didn’t even try to exhaust a list of notable ISV offerings, but I hope you more clearly understand how and why BI tools can expand the Sage 500 experience in valuable ways.  It will be smart to identify which particular functions are essential to your company and then, do your research to make your processes more impactful, streamlined, and generally more successful.  Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Excel, web, 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 500.

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