Common Management Reporter Challenges and Alternatives for Microsoft Dynamics AX Users

This article will focus on alternative report writers for Dynamics AX users who share common Management Reporter (MR) issues.

MRAs a regular subscriber to several Business Intelligence (BI) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) user groups, I’ve come across common issues regarding Management Reporter (MR) for those using Dynamics AX. In today’s business world, a modern, dynamic financial reporting tool is extremely important to making smart business decisions while developing your company and brand. This article will discuss the options for investing in a new reporting tool to expand your organization’s Microsoft Dynamics AX experience.

Microsoft Dynamics AX is an ERP system for mid-size to large companies. It is considered the most robust and scalable ERP out of the Dynamics family. Dynamics AX is available for on-premise as well as for private cloud installation, with the most recent version being AX 2012. However, earlier this year in March, Microsoft also announced AX in the public cloud. This has been referred to as “AX7” but Microsoft renamed Dynamics AX to “Dynamics 365 Enterprise” this past summer, and more recently to “Dynamics 365 for Operations.”

Management Reporter (MR) is an interactive reporting application that was created for businesses that can use the application to create, maintain, share, and view their financial statements. MR has thousands of users worldwide due to its affiliation with Microsoft and Dynamics AX. There a number of challenges I have heard from my colleagues. Some say that MR is slow to update reports. For instance, when a report from MR is running, it is not reflecting recent journal entries that are posted in AX. Other AX users are having trouble running MR with designer access. For example, when this group of MR/AX users tried to generate a specific report, the report was able to move into processing, but the report then disappeared. Therefore, the report does not generate. Others have similar issues and have found that they need to reboot their server to fix the problem. Yes, some found the solution, but who wants to reboot each time?

MR is really similar to its predecessor, FRx, with a classic structure creating a report with row and column tables. Back when FRx became was retired, some Dynamics users trusted MR because it was very similar to FRx in almost every way. But the other users did not convert to MR because of several things: the marketplace has changed since FRx was first introduced; MR users were disappointed because MR felt more of a replacement for FRx and less of a true upgrade: MR is still only GL reporting without the flexibility of real-time web reporting; and MR doesn’t offer the familiarity of Excel formulas and features. More specifically, the only significant change has been in the user menu gateway. Because MR only does GL reporting, users need to invest time in learning another report writer to report on receivables, payables, sales and other sub-ledgers that enable AX users to review and analyze all the data in the ERP system. With all the modern tools offering easy accessibility, flexibility, mobility, and collaboration, it makes sense why people are looking for alternatives.

Data integrations are arguably the foundation to financial reporting. Do you need real-time analytics that can be achieved through a live integration from Dynamics AX, or do you prefer pulling information from a BI data store, like a DW or an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube for a stronger performance? Additionally, SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services) is one technique to make financial reports, but keep in mind that it does not create the formatted reports with data handling. In AX, you typically rely on an OLAP cube, which requires a technical skillset such as Multidimensional Expressions (MDX) knowledge. With a live integration, Dynamics AX users can pull data right from AX without having to replicate company information to a cube or DW for up-to-the minute financial statements, but that can also take a performance hit on the AX server. Most reporting tools are usually live reporting or data store reporting exclusively, but not both.

If you missed Solver CEO Nils Rasmussen’s blog post about MR riding into the sunset, Rasmussen mentions that Microsoft knows that they will need a good reporting and budgeting tool for AX cloud, and Dynamics AX customers have one of the best Independent software vendors (ISV) communities of any ERP competitors, so there are various integrated third party solutions ready to take Microsoft Dynamics’ financial reporting to the next level. As BI becomes more prevalent in the business realm, Microsoft should further encourage Dynamics users to explore more third party solutions. MR is a report writer that is not a part of a comprehensive corporate performance management (CPM) suite. Most modern and innovative reporting tools for mid-size and large companies such as Hyperion, Host Analytics, Adaptive Insights, and BI360 offer comprehensive suites, which typically includes financial reporting, budgeting, planning, forecasting, and financial consolidation.

There is a lot to consider when shopping around for the right financial report writer for your business, but the main elements include how you want to integrate data, choose platforms and specifically, the ease of use for business users and accessibility that you are seeking to expand your Dynamics AX experience. Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and general review BI360’s easy-to-use Excel, web, and mobile financial reporting tool for real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis and collaboration, with the option of email distribution of reports, as a powerful alternative to MR.

 

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