mike_applegate

If you use Sage 500, it is beneficial for you to know the features and functions of today’s financial reporting and consolidation tools offered by third party manufacturers so that you can pick the right tool to help you meet company needs and goals for Business Intelligence analysis and reporting with Sage 500.

In today’s data-driven business world, a modern financial reporting tool is a requisite for any company that wants to continue being competitive in the marketplace.  In this article, I will discuss the plethora of options and available functionality offered by independent software vendors (ISVs), so you can navigate the market to pick the best reporting solution for your data analysis needs and goals, powered by business intelligence (BI) analysis, all while enhancing Sage 500.

A financial reporting tool allows the user to build customized reports that use transactional data from one of your data sources, either integrating live from Sage 500, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program, or from an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse.    Most accounting systems are equipped with built-in report writing functionality, but there are plenty of third party products that you should consider for modern, powerful, and dynamic reporting.  ISV offerings are enabling finance professionals to craft reusable, individualized report templates that inform corporate leaders about the organization’s health, so they can then make the important decisions to progress.  It will be important for you to explore your options when it comes to accessing your data; Excel, web, mobile, and/or proprietary interfaces; and perhaps most importantly, the ease of use for business users.
 
When making an investment in a reporting tool, how you integrate your data should be a foundational element in your decision-making.  You will want to assess which is more advantageous for the specifics of your company: whether running live from Sage, integrating with an OLAP cube, a data warehouse, or another proprietary data staging space.  Integrating live from Sage 500 means that you will have access to real-time analytics, right from the ERP server.  More specifically, you will not have to ensure that your company information is first replicated to a storage database in order to access updated data.
You will have to invest a little more money in a data storage source, whether you decide to have someone develop and manage an OLAP cube or opt to go with a fully built, customizable data warehouse.  On the other hand, depending on the number of users who will need to run queries – and the size of said queries – in Sage 500 for reporting and consolidations, a data storage integration is preferable for high performance.
Both BizNet and Solver’s BI360 provide a live Excel-based integration to Sage 500 and other accounting systems, while a majority of third party options exclusively integrate data for reporting from a data storage source.  Meanwhile, you should also be considering the platform from which you will be designing reports.
If you’re like most finance teams around the globe, you and your team have been using Excel since at least college.  Some third party manufacturers have created proprietary interfaced report designers, and they are arguing that Excel is a pain in terms of securely linking and maintaining spreadsheets.  However, because of the ubiquity of Excel, formulas and formatting are second nature for most finance teams.  Furthermore, Excel-powered reporting tools are simply a ribbon add-in that enhances Microsoft’s spreadsheet tool with features that zoom in on secure collaboration and accounting logic.  BizNet and Solver’s BI360 are database-focused Excel add-ins, giving Excel users a head start on learning the reporting module, and there are no manual Excel reporting issues involved.  However, even though Excel is established in its popularity amongst finance teams, the internet and specifically, Cloud computing, are the present and future of BI.
When hosted by a third party provider, web-staged solutions, or Cloud computing, empowers users to securely access data from anywhere there’s an internet connection.  In the context of financial reporting, users can now create and run reports online, enabling collaboration and drill-down analysis.  Generally speaking, pure Cloud reporting options almost always grab data from OLAP cubes or data warehouses, so real-time reports are not an option, but there are some hybrid Excel-powered Cloud financial report writers.
Since business today is more around the clock and global in nature, many companies need to be comprised of lots of individuals, departments, and divisions around the world.  Web reporting works best for companies that are structured similarly, particularly where remote personnel are regularly connecting to the company’s network out of the office.  Adaptive Insights and Host Analytics are proprietary, pure Cloud platforms, but BI360 is a hybrid solution that empowers business users to either run reports in Excel, through a web portal, or on a mobile application.  The internet is extremely accessible on the go, but you want to make sure that it is also easy to use.  If the confusing experience of implementation delays or ruins the use of the product, how much money did you just waste?
As cell phones are now also functioning as alarm clocks for most of us, it only makes sense that financial reporting made its way into app form.  While you can’t yet craft financial reports on mobile apps, you can view reports on your phone with drill-down capabilities into Sage 500.  Since dashboards have already gone mobile in a number of products, financial reporting was a natural evolution for ISVs.
Because mobile applications for financial reporting are not comprehensive in their functionality, you should look for report writing tools that work for you and your goals first, and then, look at mobile applications as a bonus – at least for now.  More third party manufacturers will start rolling out mobile apps as smart phones become increasingly more important not only to our personal lives, but also to the professional realm.  Some ISVs have a head start, already offering a mobile modality to make report analysis that much easier for on-the-go professionals.
You should plan to evaluate your company’s data analysis and management needs as the first step of shopping for the right financial report writer to enhance your Sage 500 experience.  Because it requires such an investment of time, money, and energy, it is an important process.  Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Excel, web, and mobile platforms for real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis and collaboration, with the option of email distribution of reports, as the best report writer for Sage 500.

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