This article will focus on Management Reporter (MR) and the options for investing in a new reporting tool.
Management Reporter (MR) is an interactive reporting application that was designed for business professionals that can use the application to create, share, maintain, and view their financial statements. Microsoft offers MR for their ERP customers as a native General Ledger (GL) report writer in Dynamics AX, GP, and SL, almost aided by the more technical reporting tool, SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to solve ERP reporting problems. If you attended Microsoft’s Amplify conference in May this year, you probably have heard that MR will no longer have any major releases, but rather go into maintenance mode with only minor updates. In other words, the product is clearly heading for the sunset. Many companies who have used MR and its predecessor, FRx, are already looking for an alternative. This blog article will zoom in on the concerns regarding the impact of this change and the solutions to these concerns.
In the article, Does MR for Microsoft Dynamics support your BI strategy?, it is mentioned that Microsoft Dynamics users have been dissatisfied with Microsoft Reporter. It started when Mark Polino, Director of Client Services at Fastpath and a 9-time Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) Award winner, wrote about Management Reporter in early 2016 about his frustration and disappointment as well as rethinking MR for Dynamics ERP.
MR was supposed to be a replacement and an upgrade for FRx users. Both applications were widely-used, free or low cost offerings from Microsoft to deliver financial reporting functionality for general ledger (GL) only, and regardless of the service packs and cumulative updates, in many people’s eyes, MR has utterly failed. MR launched in 2011 when FRx was retired on January 1, 2011. MR was promoted and seen as an upgrade to the outdated, but popular FRx report writer, until the errors that users experienced with MR were troublesome, whether it had to do with the updates or the technology. In terms of upgrading the FRx experience, Microsoft incorporated a SQL server database as a back end data mart. This added data mart, which was quite a big selling point, was arguably one of the aspects of the application that was causing customers the biggest problem.
Although MR has some advantages such as its ease of use, improved collaboration with IT, free offering, and its integrated view of the business, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Microsoft Dynamics ERPs have been experiencing issues and inconvenience. In terms of Dynamics AX, there were a lot of changes in the database with the 2012 version, but since MR only offers GL reporting, AX users, especially bigger companies with complex reporting needs, were left with the need to combine MR with a native AX report writer.
In the last article regarding MR, Solver CEO Nils Rasmussen mentions that out of 200,000 Dynamics ERP users, there are around 48,000 GP customers, and the majority of the GP users are running their financial reports in MR while some are still using FRx. Third party solutions such as BI360, Jet Reports and BizNet are offering GL and sub-ledger reporting that will give GP users a boost in their reporting capabilities when they switch over to a new reporting tool.
Another concern is that the product does not support Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Therefore, customers have invested in a third party solution with a live NAV integration, such as the Excel-based report writers such as BI360 and Jet Reports. Dynamics SL is also supported by MR, as well as with third party solutions like BI360 BizNet, and more. Some professionals do not think Dynamics SL customers will be affected if they have to leave MR and instead, design their reports with modern Excel add-ins and all the formatting and calculation functionality of Excel. With BI360, companies can let end users run their reports in a web portal, and they can also expand the reporting to include dashboards and budgeting as well. Lastly, MR will be supported for the next 10 years only, and there will no longer be any major new features. On the bright side, you still have time to research and invest in an alternative if a new financial reporting tool is not pressing. As mentioned before, there are some pros to MR, but it will never prevail over what third party solutions can offer. Rasmussen said it best: “Microsoft can now focus on their core ERP offerings and ERP cloud initiatives, and get rid of the complaints and noise around Microsoft Reporter, while leaning on their world class community of partners and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) to give their Dynamics customers an ever better financial reporting and budgeting experience than in the past.”
As Business Intelligence (BI) and Corporate Performance Management (CPM) are becoming more prevalent in the business world, Microsoft should further encourage Dynamics users to explore more robust third party solutions such as BI360, Jet Reports, BizNet, ZAP, and more. These offerings may improve users’ reporting needs better than MR, and they may also build a more thorough BI/CPM plan where they can include other BI tools such as dashboards, data warehouses, budgeting and reporting. Not only did Microsoft announce that they will no longer do major development for their MR financial report writer, but they will also stop developing their Forecaster budgeting tool. I will cover Forecaster in our next blog article, so stay tuned.
Solver enables world-class decisions with BI360, a leading web-based CPM suite made up of budgeting, reporting, dashboards, and data warehousing, delivered through a web portal. Solver is reinventing CPM with its next generation solution. BI360 empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of Excel in the model design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.