This article will explore financial reporting features and functionalities in today’s software for manufacturing and distribution organizations looking to expand their Sage X3 experience.

In the modern business culture, Business Intelligence (BI) analytics are becoming the way of translating significant company information into impactful decision-making for your company’s future.  That said, I would bet that a lot of professionals, regardless of how well-versed in BI processes they are, find the marketplace financial reporting options overwhelming, if not confusing, regarding how they can apply functionality in the direction of industry-specific analytical needs.  I recently spoke with an accountant for a manufacturing company, and we talked about how vague product marketing can be for achieving goals that are particular to her manufacturing analyses.  With that in mind, this article will talk about what you should know and what you need from today’s financial reporting products to improve your Sage X3 experience, specifically zooming in on manufacturing and distribution data management and analysis.

Let’s begin by indicating a few main criteria that comprise today’s most powerful and dynamic BI financial reporting tools.  There is more than one way to integrate your data.  With some independent software vendor (ISV) software, you can pull data directly from Sage X3 and/or other data sources.  A live integration means real-time analyses, with information directly from the X3 database.  On the other hand, you can employ a BI data store, like an OLAP cube or a data warehouse, which can house multiple kinds of company data on a stable platform, delivering consolidated, high performance analytics.
With a BI data store, you have to budget for the additional investment in the device.  You also will have to replicate your data from the data source to the BI database, so you can accomplish an up-to-date analysis.  Even though you’re spending more for a BI data store, you will be getting a higher performance for running reports.  Depending on whether it is a technically complex OLAP cube or a pre-built, configurable data warehouse, your investment might be time, money, and staffing to manage the software.  You’ll have to evaluate your options to best meet your company’s particular goals.
Next up: technology platform options.  Modern financial reporting software can be Excel-powered, web-based, proprietary, or a combination.  Excel is internationally popular with finance teams, so it might follow that Excel-based platforms would be the simplest to implement, which I wouldn’t disagree with, but you have more options to consider.  Today’s Excel add-in software looks like a ribbon feature addition to the toolbar, which upgrades and enhances the spreadsheet program to more effectively analyze your Sage X3 data.  But the web has made a name for itself in the software world, and financial reporting is on trend.
Web-based financial reporting has proven to be revolutionary in terms of managing and analyzing your data, regarding the flexible accessibility from anywhere you can connect to the internet.  Again, more choices: you have pure Cloud products, meaning they are hosted on the web by a third party, are typically not Excel-powered, and usually require that you have a BI data store.  There are also a few self-service hybrid tools that are web-based AND Excel-powered, providing your team familiar formulas and formatting, as well as browser-based access.  You also should familiarize yourself with proprietary offerings.
Some ISVs will assert that Excel is logistically challenging when you have to link spreadsheets and collaborate on financial reporting.  These third party software manufacturers are typically marketing their own proprietary financial report writers that might be heavy hitters, in terms of output, but your team will have to learn their formulas, formatting, and coding outside of Excel.  If the product is a solution for your specific problems as a manufacturing organization, then it might be a good fit.  If it’s too complex for your team, it might not be worth the time.  Some software combines platform options for more power.  Most Cloud-based reporting tools are proprietary in nature, while some web-based report writers are on the web, but powered by initial Excel report design and formatting.  You will want to look into what is out there to better understand what will best meet your software needs.
Some additional things to consider generally to upgrade your Sage X3 financial reporting experience: business user friendliness, collaboration, and security.  If a product is not easy-to-use for your team, without involving IT, the value is greatly diminished.  Modern financial reporting solutions should be making BI tasks more accessible and speedy for your manufacturing company, so if your team can’t easily manage it, there are other (better) products that will offer exactly that.  Relatedly, you should be selecting a tool that invites teamwork into your analytical processes – and in secure ways.  At this point in the technology world, products should be meeting consumer needs for secure collaboration, whether you choose to go with an Excel, web, and/or proprietary interface.  Let’s conclude this article by discussing manufacturing-specific financial reporting functionality.
Financial reporting for manufacturing and distribution companies can be operational and financial in nature.  You should be looking for several modules in a solution, so you can meet your analytical and specifically, reporting objectives as a manufacturing and distribution organization.  Besides the requisite financial reporting module, which entails GL reporting, a sales module can provide some order to tracking your customer orders, back orders, requisitions, ship dates, sales orders, and finished goods.  A purchasing module can produce a summary of purchase orders, whether you’re requesting raw materials, structuring diverse supplier components or adequate tooling and equipment.  A survey data module can deliver a supplier quality statement that evaluates survey information and supplier ratings, on time delivery, costs, and the quality of supplies from different suppliers.  An inventory module can track your inventory by location, as well as stock keeping units (SKUs) and/or warehouse management.  Finally, a manufacturing/production module zooms in on a Build of Materials (BOM) statement, detailing what is being manufactured by which operational line and any works in progress.
There’s plenty to think about when shopping around for a financial reporting solution, and Solver offers Excel, web and/or mobile-based reporting as a stand-alone tool or as part of the comprehensive suite of BI modules and would be happy to generally answer questions and review BI360’s easy-to-use solution for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities for manufacturing organizations using Sage X3.