This article will discuss the top features and functions that you should be looking for in today’s financial reporting solutions to upgrade your Microsoft Dynamics AX reporting and consolidations experience.

Due to the importance of data to drive business decision-making, a powerful, dynamic financial report writer is necessary in order to remain successful in your industry.  In this article, I’ll discuss your Business Intelligence (BI) software options in terms of features and functionalities, so you can invest in the right financial report writing tool to overcome obstacles to powerful analytics and meet your goals as a Microsoft Dynamics AX customer.

Most report writers generate customized financial statements, with actual financials from your data sources, including the option to run live from Dynamics AX or other data management systems, or from an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse.  Dynamics AX has its own report designer built right into the program, but like with all accounting systems, it was not made for BI analyses, so third party reporting tools are much more robust and dynamic in their reporting capabilities.  These independent software vendors (ISVs) are enabling finance professionals to design and reuse custom reporting templates that speak to executives’ needs to understand the organization’s status quo and utilize this data to make informed decisions about the future.  I have noticed that most Dynamics AX customers have traditionally reached for the Microsoft BI Stack – or Atlas XL when outgrowing AX’s reporting tool, but your options beyond these two are too valuable to just follow the line toward any specific software.  You’ll want to think about integrations, accessibility, ease of use, and flexibility, among other aspects.
A good starting place is how you would like to integrate your data.  Some financial reporting tools only pull from a BI data store, while others can run live directly from Dynamics AX.  An OLAP cube or data warehouse is going to cost more, regardless of the product you choose, and you’ll have to make sure that your data is replicated to the database for up-to-date analyses.  But, depending on how many AX users are simultaneously querying sometimes substantial data sets, BI data stores provide the high performance analytics without slowing down the AX database.  On the other hand, integrating live means that you can achieve real-time analysis with up-to-the-minute data from Dynamics AX.
Solver’s BI360 and Globe Software’s Atlas XL both provide live integrations to Dynamics AX, which is unique in that most reporting tools require a data warehouse or an OLAP cube.  BI360 can also integrate data from a BI data store, so you’ll want to evaluate your financial reporting needs and consider what product will help you to achieve your analytics goals.  Additionally, you want to think about the different platform options available today.
If you’re like most finance teams around the globe, you are familiar with, if not power users of Excel.  Some third party BI vendors are arguing that Excel is a logistical pain when you attempt to securely link and maintain spreadsheets.  Simply, these vendors have created proprietary software outside of Microsoft Excel, so their beliefs have driven them to produce a tool that does not employ Excel.  Excel’s features, functions, and formatting are globally familiar to finance teams, so that means learning a whole new set of formulas and coding with proprietary interfaces.  Excel add-in reporting tools, however, upgrade the spreadsheet program with functionality that securely includes collaboration and dynamic accounting logic into the familiar software.  BI360 and Atlas XL are Excel add-ins that are database-driven and minimize manual Excel reporting issues and training time on the product.  Despite how popular Excel has been and continues to be, Cloud and web-based reporting is the present and future.
Web-based software (including Cloud computing, which is hosted by a third party provider) provides accessible, flexible, and secure data management and analysis from anywhere you can connect to the internet.  You can design and run financial reports within a web browser, collaborating on analytics remotely, while still able to drill down into your data.  For the most part, pure Cloud reporting tools almost always require integrating from an OLAP cube or data warehouse, so a real-time ERP report is not an option, which is not the case with some hybrid web-based, Excel-powered reporting solutions.
The business world today is more and more international in nature, so companies are comprised of teams that are spread across coordinates and time zones.  In this culture, web reporting is a powerful solution, especially with the amount of remote employees contributing to data management and analysis, as well as decision-making.  Adaptive Insights and Prophix are proprietary web report writing interfaces, while Solver’s BI360 provides hybridity by giving you the choice to craft financial statements in Excel, run the reports in Excel, in a web browser, or even on an app from their mobile devices.  The web is an undeniably flexible platform, but you will want to evaluate the business friendliness of a product’s features and functionalities.  If your finance team is not able to easily learn to use (and hopefully maximize) the solution, is it really a solution?
With the proximity of our mobile devices at any given moment, it was only a matter of time before business processes made their way onto our phones and tablets.  Even though report design isn’t currently available on mobile apps, there are products offering mobile report viewing equipped with drill-down capabilities into Dynamics AX.  With that said, mobile financial reporting apps should be perceived as a bonus, for now anyway, because they don’t offer the full functionality that you will need.  More and more vendors will begin rolling out mobile reporting as our devices enable to stay connected, both personally and professionally, anywhere our data plans reach.  The vendors already offering mobile reporting apps will have the competitive edge to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what the consumer needs.
Seeking the right financial reporting solution to adequately accelerate your Dynamics AX experience should include an analysis of your organization’s needs and goals.  It is a significant investment and therefore, an important search.  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 Dynamic AX.

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