The motivation to replace FRx may already be there, but the cost of doing so is a mystery. This article will lay out all of the figures to consider when thinking about replacing FRx, Microsoft’s now-retired report writer.
Reporting within FRx just doesn’t cut it for business today, not only because Microsoft officially retired the product a couple years ago. Reporting software is available to truly accelerate Excel and deliver drill-down, drill-to, beyond the General Ledger reporting features. Organization-wide, departmental, or even ad-hoc reporting are important capabilities today as the growth and maturity of a company relies on its ability to analyze transactional data.
Microsoft has replaced FRx, the tired reporting software, with another offering, Management Reporter (MR). However, the product has not been much of an upgrade, besides some more modern aesthetics – and after years of FRx, it is time for a legitimate upgrade, but what will that cost? This blog will aim to remove the mystery of the costs of investing in reporting software and the potential return on that investment.
Reporting software solutions have become increasingly more powerful in recent years due to the consumer-driven moves for simple, secure, and sophisticated reporting. There are several report writers that are Excel add-ins, meaning that the financial professional’s familiar spreadsheet software is simply enhanced for added capabilities while remaining business user friendly. Moreover, reporting tools use accounting and business logic that allows for automation and template reuse.
Furthermore, some critics of Excel-based solutions argue that Excel is problematic when it comes to security and the linking of spreadsheets. These critics are usually those with their own proprietary software, or more specifically, web-based. However, Excel add-in reporting tools are actually built with security and collaboration in mind. Excel-based report writers don’t require the business user to learn a whole playbook of formulas and functions that comes with a proprietary software, web or not. Additionally, there are options for Excel-powered, web-based reporting that allow for ease of access, with mobile reporting gaining in popularity as well. Regardless, there are several options on the market for modern, powerful financial reporting that are built with the business user in mind.
From here, most people then ask themselves, “How much is this going to cost me?” Pricing a reporting software solution can be broken down in categories: software cost, implementation, annual support and maintenance, and personnel cost.
Software cost can be a direct purchase, which is an upfront price, or it can be a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, where the buyer essentially rents the software, and it is hosted in the cloud or in-house. Direct purchase pricing ranges from $3,000 to $10,000 at the lower end of the market up to a $30,000 – $50,000 range or more at the higher end. If interested in looking at SaaS solutions, it will typically run from a few hundred dollars per month, up to five or six grand a month, depending on the user count. In terms of breaking even for SaaS versus an upfront purchase, it is usually around three years, but SaaS often becomes the more expensive option after that as it relates to software cost.
Implementation typically involves the initial installation, training and consulting. Training and consulting might seem like a place to save money, but in order to maximize the investment, it is highly recommended. In terms of costs, a modest reporting implementation can cost $5,000. The more complex, highly capable reporting solutions can be as much as $50k for implementation or more. Additionally, maintenance and support are an expected cost.
Support and maintenance are two different things. In terms of support, contracts vary by the vendor, but the price tag usually starts at $1,000 annually and goes up from there. Pricing is often based on the number of users and the original software cost. Maintenance is for updates or upgrades to the report writer and fixes to any errors. Generally, it is around 18% of the software cost and also paid yearly. For SaaS-based software, maintenance is a part of monthly SaaS fees, so it is not a separate fee.
Personnel cost is the time in-house staff spends managing and running the purchased reporting solution. With a business user friendly, modern modality, this should be less overall cost, including and perhaps especially the cost of time, than maintaining FRx or MR. Reporting tools takes the overly simple, limited FRx model and dream bigger, integrating live from the accounting system or directly from data cubes or data warehouses – either way, creating relevant, insightful reports that empower better business decision-making. ISVs are producing these report writers with the modern business user in mind and are able to propose the value of their solutions as direct answers to the frustrations finance teams are having with their current model, whether it be FRx, MR, or some other software.
Any company evaluating whether to move from FRx or MR to a modern reporting software should look at the return on investment (ROI) of the new solution, compared to the amount of frustration, time and energy spent with FRx. Additionally, there are potential hidden costs of reporting with FRx, including the aggravations associated with the limitations and lack of integration and platform options for reporting, and lack of support due to FRx’s retirement and the completely separate MR. Comparing that nuisance with the benefits of a secure, automated and accelerated software can very well make every penny worth it. A reporting solution can move the report writing and analysis processes along.
Finally, when looking at financial report writers, consider that some options are positioned as a module within a suite of Business Intelligence (BI) software. Therefore, if purchasing other BI tools for enhanced decision-making abilities, such as budgeting, dashboards, and/or a data warehouse, now or in the future, it might be important to think ahead and go with a module within a suite, so that you can keep your BI tools within the same product line. A report writer might also be cheaper when ordered as part of a larger suite. Solver offers a reporting module stand-alone and as part of the comprehensive suite of BI modules and would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use report writer for secure, empowered decision-making capabilities.