Financial reporting is absolutely unavoidable in the modern business world. We’re all doing it, whether it is a homegrown Excel process, a legacy program, the native Microsoft Dynamics GP report writer, or an independent software vendor (ISV) solution. And the media industry is no different. In terms of process improvement, upgrading your reporting writing processes with a new solution means automated financial statements, modern security, accessible collaboration, and self-service analytics. This article will explore what you should be looking for in a report writer to meet today’s analytical objectives, zooming in on what a reporting tool should offer you as a media organization using Microsoft Dynamics GP.
Let’s dive right in – there are a few overarching characteristics that you should be seeking in a reporting solution. Let’s start with business user friendliness. As business intelligence (BI) and corporate performance management (CPM) continue to expand their purpose to include team members across an organization, your report writer of choice should be truly easy-to-use for business end users. It should additionally be the true definition of self-service, which looks like any user’s ability to open the reporting application and pull the information that they need without any required assistance from the IT team or even a power user.
Next up: collaboration. Business continues to trend toward being not just collaborative, but interdepartmentally teamwork-oriented. With more information getting into the hands of more information workers, instead of just the finance and accounting folks (as well as the IT team), collaboration is key to the success of modern media organizations. Therefore, your reporting solution investment should put collaboration, such as comments and sharing reports, at the core of features and functionalities.
Finally, security cannot be anything other than sound, especially with more hands on deck in the realm of reporting. Whether you’re opting for an on-premise report writer or a cloud or web-based tool, security can look like access rights and password-protected content, so that sensitive data doesn’t get in front of the wrong eyes. While there might have been some early skepticism and outright concern about security in the cloud, those days are basically a thing of the past, which should allow you to review some other key considerations. A few more things to consider include the platform and interface, how you want to integrate your various forms of media data, and a standalone product versus a full suite.
In regard to the platform, you have the option to go with an Excel-driven, web-based, and/or proprietary solution. If you’re reading this, you can’t deny the power of Excel, which most have been working in since at least college. Today’s Excel add-ins accelerate the program with robust, sub-ledger reporting that allows you to drill down into detail through easy-to-use functionality. Web and cloud products are surging in popularity because of the ease and accessibility of the internet as a platform, so you’ll see these continue to gain in the marketplace. Proprietary products are typically defined as vendor-specific applications that have interfaces different than Excel add-ins and web interfaces. These products have a following because of their power, their aesthetics, and/or their price, but require a longer learning curve because they’re not the familiar, flexible Excel or web interfaces. Nowadays, you can find hybrids, too. Your best bet might be to find an Excel-driven web or cloud product, so your users can access a familiar platform from anywhere with an internet connection.
Let’s talk integrations. This is pretty straightforward: would you like to count on a real-time analysis by integrating live from Microsoft Dynamics GP or pull a diverse set of data from a higher performance data store, like an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse? A live Dynamics GP integration is a powerful option, but can sometimes slow down the GP server. On the other hand, an OLAP cube or a data warehouse allows you to consolidate multiple data sources and provides a more stable, quicker performance, but requires you to replicate your information into the data store.
Before we discuss how modern report writers can specifically serve media organizations using Dynamics GP, let’s explore the difference between a standalone reporting tool and one that is positioned within a complete BI/CPM suite. You might be interested in going with a standalone reporting tool based on the product itself, but if you would like to add a budgeting tool or a data warehouse, you can plan on having to learn a completely different interface – and all that comes with that. A suite of BI and CPM tools can usually be purchased by module or discounted when purchased as a bundle, but more importantly, the best products are completely integrated on the same platform, making them easy to learn and easy to move between to accomplish different analytical tasks. If nothing else, going with a suite gives you the option of adding on to your toolbox.
Regarding media-specific analytics, you should look for tools that offer options to capture what you need to make important organizational decisions. You might want to monitor and compare revenue and sold quantity of ads, as well as companies and/or divisions of the media group in one single view. Perhaps your CFO needs to answer questions about revenue generating units (RGUs), brands, offering types, and service types. You might need to show circulation figures of Print Media products, metrics for a streaming radio company, a digital magazine, and/or a streaming TV company, and use behavior of subscribers. Your executive team might require reports on the USD revenue for every company, category group and media category in a matrix view, circulation figures for print media, or a basic Profit & Loss analysis. There are plenty of analytics that the media industry might require, but is the product you’re looking at capable of helping you achieve those analyses?
You have a lot of options in terms of products, and you are also investing your media company’s time, money, and personnel asset(s) in taking financial reporting to the next level. Solver, Inc. is happy to answer any questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use, Excel-powered consolidation tool for media Dynamics GP users with both real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis, comprehensive reporting and collaboration as a way to accelerate organizational performance management.