Non-profit Reporting with Microsoft Dynamics GP

This article focuses on financial reporting options for non-profit organizations utilizing Microsoft Dynamics GP, zooming in on features and functionalities to expand your analytics.

Financial reporting has traditionally been the lead singer if Business Intelligence (BI) processes were in a band, and it is no different for non-profit organizations.  If you’re utilizing Microsoft Dynamics GP, you know that the accounting system is equipped with several native financial reporting functions.  However, plenty of organizations are moving to independent software vendor (ISV) offerings for their regular financial reporting tasks, but why?  Third party software solutions for financial report writing are designed in response to consumer demands, streamlining and expanding analytics for more robust insight into your data, trajectories, successes, and challenges.  This article will explore the benefits of an ISV financial report writer for non-profit organizations using Microsoft Dynamics GP.

Let’s start by identifying some key general criteria that should power your search for a financial reporting tool.  The number one priority for a software solution should be business user friendliness, so your user team can manage the product without having to rely on the IT team.  If the tool is too complex for your accounting and finance folks to use, you’ve just wasted time and money implementing a product.  Next, collaboration is such an essential part of decision-making, even for smaller non-profit organizations, so you should look for a software that enables powerful teamwork, moving away from the manual process of piecing together separate spreadsheets and long, back-and-forth e-mail exchanges.  Collaboration then makes security even more important as an element to consider.  Access rights and password protection are two ways for you to make sure that sensitive data remains secure.  These three criteria should be your foundation when weighing various reporting options for your non-profit Dynamics GP analytical tasks.

Beyond these overarching aspects, there are several elements to today’s solutions that you should be evaluating when shopping ISV financial report writing software options.  Identify how you want to integrate your information; which software platform you’d like; if mobile reporting can assist your analysis tasks, specifically for on-the-go decision makers; and whether a full BI suite fits your analytics roadmap.  Beyond these aspects, you also should evaluate how a financial reporting solution can help you meet goals specific to not-for-profits.

Data integrations lay a foundation for your software search.  Today’s reporting tools allow you to pull your Dynamics GP data in different ways.  The native Dynamics reporting tools, like Management Reporter and GP Reporter Writer, provide a live integration right from the Dynamics GP ERP database, so you can produce a real-time report.  This is perfect for professionals who require up-to-the-minute data for pressing deadlines, but you might run into a sluggish Dynamics GP server if you have users pulling significant data, sometimes simultaneously.  That said, you don’t get the report design flexibility you can experience with ISV reporting options, some offering live integrations from GP.  If flexibility is a concern, integrating from a BI data store, like an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or data warehouse, delivers a more powerful performance for analytics.  A BI data store is an additional technology cost, and you have to replicate your data from Dynamics GP and other data sources for an up-to-date financial statement.  This blog has covered deciding between an OLAP cube and a data warehouse before, and depending on what you prefer, that could narrow down which products you can choose between to implement.

Next, look at platform.  Excel is probably the most popular software in the finance realm, so add-in solutions are relatedly pretty prevalent on the financial reporting market.  Add-in tools take Excel and expand the power by delivering sub-ledger reporting, drill-to and drill-down abilities, etc.  Basically, the toolbar ribbon addition enhances the analytical experience within a familiar interface.  However, proprietary tools have carved out a place in the marketplace.  Some are quite powerful and impressive aesthetically, but since they aren’t Excel-based in terms of formulas and formatting, there will probably be a longer learning curve for your end user team.  Lastly, the web is the newest buzzy thing for technology, and financial reporting has followed this trend.

Web-based financial reporting tools deliver accessibility and flexibility that can’t really be matched.  Today’s business world, including the non-profit sector, consists of more and more road warriors and employees working remotely.  Access to your data and analytics from anywhere with an internet connection is extremely valuable.   And now, there are products that extend analytics to mobile devices for on-the-go team members, so they can access financial reporting from anywhere with their mobile devices.  The key focus in business solutions is flexibility.  A comprehensive suite of BI tools provides flexibility as well as hybridity.

Hybrid offerings deliver you the best of all your options.  This comes in the form of financial report writers that are both Excel-driven and browser-based, so you can craft, set up, and automate financial statements for your non-profit organization on the web using familiar rules, coding and formatting.  Also, if you go with software that is part of a full BI suite, even if you’re just shopping for a financial reporting solution currently, you are investing in a business user friendly future for your analytics.  For example, most not-for-profit organizations have big budgeting needs, so this can benefit your team to have both reporting and budgeting tools integrated as part of the same product suite.  If you can deploy BI tools incrementally, a complete suite means fully integrated software modules, similar interfaces, and one team of consulting, sales, and support professionals, which is your time, money, and energy saved.  Let’s chat about financial reporting particularly for not-for-profit organizations.

As a non-profit, you should consider the following in the context of financial reporting:  if you think about how much the fundraising part of your work has changed over the past two decades, moving from special events and direct mail to online and mobile donations, social media efforts, and e-newsletters, and so forth, on top of traditional methods, you know that the amount of data to manage and analyze is notable.  Furthermore, Microsoft Dynamics GP likely isn’t the only data source you are using, and you probably have teammates across your organization who require access to easy-to-use, secure analytics for smarter, collaborative decision-making – and the native reporting functionality can be sub-par for most not-for-profits of a healthy size.  Solver would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s Excel, web and/or mobile-based, easy-to-use financial reporting module stand-alone and component in the comprehensive suite of BI modules for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities for non-profits using Microsoft Dynamics GP.

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