Understanding What Executives Look for in Business Intelligence with Dynamics GP

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In this article, we will explore the perspectives of some key leaders in regard to BI software that reports on, plans with, showcases, or manages Microsoft Dynamics GP data.

Oftentimes, the executive team tasks an employee, usually in the finance and/or IT department(s), with finding financial reporting, budgeting, dashboards, or data management solutions for the organization.  You might clearly understand what your team needs to achieve department-specific goals, especially with the muscle memory of processes as they heretofore have gone.  But you might not exactly understand what is important to your team of decision makers, whether that is strictly the executive team or a larger group of stakeholders.  In this article, we will explore the perspectives of some key leaders in regard to BI software that reports on, plans with, showcases, or manages Microsoft Dynamics GP data.

Solver’s team of decision makers includes CEO Nils Rasmussen, COO Corey Barak, CIO Hadrian Knotz, CTO Mike Applegate, and Controller Gina Louie.  This is the team that has led the organization to be recognized by The Silicon Review as the 50 Best Companies to Watch in 2016 and by CFO Tech Outlook as one of the Top 10 Budgeting and Forecasting Solutions in 2016, as well as placed on the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Corporate Performance Management software the past two years.  Let’s zoom in on each role’s perspective when looking for BI that can be a true solution for a modern company.

Cutting to the chase, CEO Nils Rasmussen said, “As a CEO, I am particularly focused on Revenues, as well as Trends on various KPIs.”  This makes sense across the board for executives, but he elaborated. “Expenses are quite controllable while revenues can swing quite a bit, even when seasonality is known,” Rasmussen added. “So, by closely tracking various angles – by month, by sales person, by partner, by region, by product – of revenues through reports and dashboards, on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, I have a pretty good idea of where we are heading in the short- to mid-term.”  Rasmussen also uses reports and dashboards to analyze KPIs for profitability, margins and for various statistics to supplement the revenue analysis, as well as the monthly financial statements.

His tips for shopping for a BI solution, like BI360?  “I would look for user friendliness, so that I would know that we did not have to rely on IT or outside consultants to build and maintain reports,” Rasmussen offered. “I would also want the end-user side of the tool to be web-based and to be able to integrate to all my important data, so that I can consume all my reports and dashboards in a single web portal.”  He suggested an Excel-driven tool, or other spreadsheet-like interface, for familiar, flexible report design, as well as a web interface for end user deployment and access from anywhere.  He additionally mentioned that he would like for the BI reporting tool to also offer dashboard functionality and to come with the option to add a budgeting module to avoid having to implement a totally different tool with a different vendor for the planning area.

Moving right along, COO Corey Barak shared how BI helps him do his job.  “My role includes managing the entire operations of Solver, responsible for the company processes and our BI internally,” Barak said.  “Zooming in, I’m responsible for the company budget and forecast, working closely with our Controller.”  He mentioned several things that he’d look for in a BI tool, including flexibility in that it is a tool you can do anything with, the ability to create dashboards on top of any data or across multiple data selections, the ability to load data from any source or manually enter/input data.  Barak iterated, “I also don’t want to depend on consultants to do things.  Give me the training.”  He suggested looking for a tool that can do everything speedily and efficiently: reporting, budgeting, forecasting, dashboards, operational reporting.  He mentioned the ability to securely enter and manipulate data, like statistics, that is missing or that needs clean-up as a valuable functionality, as well as out-of-the-box templates.  The final three elements important to this COO’s role include hierarchy trees, security, and online access.

Because they work closely together, it seems logical to next discuss what Controller Gina Louie looks for in a BI tool to manage the financial health of Solver.  “As the Controller, I find that it is important to have Business Intelligence because it allows the finance group to be able to tell a story about the financial results that the company is seeing,” Louie said.  “This is especially important when presenting the financial results to the executive committee because not only does it let them know the historical results, but also the whys behind those results.”  She added that it’s helpful to have a tool that not only reports information at a summary level, but can also drill-down to the details easily and readily.

As far as analytics, Louie relies on variance analysis against budgets and forecast, trends regarding revenue and revenue mix, cash levels, A/R days outstanding, margin and profitability KPI’s, operating expense variances and levels, and product mix.  Her recommendations when shopping for a BI solution include “as much report automation as possible and reduction in report running time as much as possible, so that more time is spent analyzing rather than number crunching,” Louie said.

CIO Hadrian Knotz brought a valuable IT perspective to the discussion.  “As the CIO of Solver, I think a lot about our current internal systems as well as on planning for the technical side of our future,” Knotz said.  “Capital Expenditure (CAPEX) and Operation Expense (OPEX) reporting, as they relate to IT systems, are the primary areas that I focus on in terms of analysis.”  In terms of shopping for BI tools, he indicated “the ability to ingest and handle data from any system in our organization” as the most important element to consider.  According to Knotz, many IT vendor-supplied reporting tools are pretty substandard, and reports generated out of most systems seem like they were not given much thought during their development cycles.  “Being able to easily produce custom reports on any data from our operational systems is a huge benefit,” Knotz concluded, “one that we are just starting to really take advantage of with BI360.”

Finally, CTO Mike Applegate spoke to his BI experience and reiterated some of the things to look for in a solution.  “As Chief Technology Officer, I depend on access to both financial and operational data to monitor and measure the success of the product development division,” Applegate said. “I start by establishing an annual financial budget. Once the budget is established, I am constantly monitoring our actual R&D costs against the budget and ongoing forecasts.”  These processes enable him to make better financial decisions throughout the year. “Additionally, I rely on operational data from our product management system to ensure our work velocity is on track with our goals,” Applegate added.  “I also like to show mashups of financial data and operational data to paint a clear picture of product advancements against R&D spend.”

His priorities for a BI solution include an environment in which multiple types of data from multiple source systems can co-exist, starting with the ability to enter data in a custom designed budget “form template.” He concluded by saying, “consuming the data should be possible with both formatted reports as well as dashboards, to quickly access data visualization of key performance indicators.”

As you can tell, there are some common themes in the search for a modern, dynamic BI solution from the perspectives of decision makers.  That said, it can still be an overwhelming task.  You have a lot to consider, but 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 dashboards as a way to accelerate company performance management beyond Dynamics GP.

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