Nils Rasmussen
With Management Reporter riding into the Sunset, what is next?

As many Management Reporter (MR) customers and partners have now heard, there were two announcements from Microsoft in the past few weeks about the future of Management Reporter: one was at the Amplify conference in Anaheim, California on Sunday, May 22 last month, and the other was in writing and can be found here. This blog is a follow up to the first one, written after the Amplify conference, but now with more information available from Microsoft.

For people that like to analyze and read between the lines in vendor announcements, you can read into what is meant with “no major enhancements (of MR for GP)”. For anyone that has been in the software industry for a while, it typically means one thing: MR is going on life support, but there will be bug fixes and maybe some small improvements as well as the typical 10 years of support that Microsoft often offers on major products that are being sunset.

What about MR for Dynamics GP (whose team the recent MR announcement came from) vs Dynamics SL and Dynamics AX? The recent MR announcement came from the GP team, so the slowdown of MR development there is confirmed. Now, MR supposedly has the same engine, albeit different integrations, regardless of it being AX, GP or SL, so it would be quite strange if there would be full development of deep MR functionality (not talking User Interface here) for AX, but not for GP. However, that is just speculation and for sure there will be someone taking care of MR, at least for AX 7/cloud and maybe later AX updates. So, let’s leave that door open as AX in the cloud is a very high priority for Microsoft.

And, it is a known fact that SL has a smaller customer base than GP and thus, less resources behind it, so although there has not been any MR announcements from the SL team, it would be very strange if MR’s destiny is not the same there as it is for GP customers using MR.

What about Dynamics NAV? Microsoft tried to use MR on NAV for a while, but it was discontinued a while back because MR really did not work well on NAV’s multi-dimensional database, and NAV customers moved on and today, use the native NAV report writer or ISVs, like Jet Reports and BI360.

However, Dynamics customers have many choices, probably more than most ERP systems on the market, and reporting and CPM vendors are as usual standing ready to help the customers to greener pastures when they decide the time is right to move off MR.

With that said, while existing customers that are completely happy with MR can easily stay the course with MR for a while, new customers should then decide if it is worth the risk to invest time and money in MR report writing or if they should implement a closely integrated ISV product that does the same as MR and maybe more, like reporting on both GL and sub-ledger data. There are several of these products, including BI360, BizNet, Jet Reports, Prophix and ZAP. Some of them using Excel and some using browser interfaces or both. As with any type of ISV product in the ERP space, the goal of an ISV is to stay relevant and grow by always staying ahead of the ERP vendor’s own functionality, which is often free and embedded, like you will see with MR for AX on Azure.

So, let’s assume that MR has reached its retirement age for all or most of the Dynamics ERPs and is now moving into the retirement home to enjoy the rest of its life there, with “minor releases.” What is next from Microsoft? Are they going to ignore the need for financial reporting? Are they going to look beyond MR’s limitation to only report on GL data? What about budgeting features or embedded visualizations?

Let’s make some educated guesses about the alternatives Microsoft may be thinking about for financial reporting and corporate performance management (CPM). Here are some potential options (not in order of likelihood):

Option 1:

Microsoft can change their strategy on MR and rebuild it into a modern, non-proprietary, cloud friendly report writer and try to expand it into also reporting on sub-ledgers, so customers don’t need to use two or more report writers for their different ERP reporting requirements.

Option 2:

Microsoft can keep MR on life support until they launch a brand new tool. Who knows, maybe they are in stealth mode and already working on something related to expansion of Power BI into a more full-fledged combined BI and CPM tool?

Option 3:

Microsoft can acquire a CPM vendor. It would then be likely be a modern, cloud-based tool since Microsoft is extremely focused on the cloud in almost all regards these days.

Option 4:

Microsoft can develop partnerships with financial reporting or full-fledged CPM vendors while they figure out the future, which again will likely be #2 or #3 above, or they may lean on their ISV channel for the longer term.

Ultimately, Microsoft knows that they will need a good reporting and budgeting tool for AX Cloud, Madeira and NAV, as these three ERPs seems to be what they bet their long term cloud and on-premise presence on.

In the meantime, Microsoft Dynamics AX, NAV, GP and SL customers probably have the best ISV community of any their ERP competitors, so there are plenty of pre-integrated third party solutions ready to take Microsoft Dynamics’ financial reporting to the next level. What that next level is can be food for thought in a future blog.

Matthew Felzke
Retail Consolidations with Microsoft Dynamics AX

This article will discuss your options for the best financial consolidations solution to expand your Microsoft Dynamics AX experience as a retail company.

There is a population of retail Microsoft Dynamics AX users who are overseeing the financials for a parent organization’s multiple subsidiaries.  Aggregating operational and transactional data from multiple entities, sometimes with more than one currency, can be challenging without one of today’s financial consolidations solutions.  As the amount and importance of data steadily grows, corporate decision-makers can’t avoid needing a solution that can help consolidate information into a singular set of financial reports.  If you are using Dynamics AX as a retail company, this article will hopefully help you familiarize yourself with options for an easy-to-use, dynamic consolidation software.

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Matthew Felzke
Financial Reporting for Professional Services with Microsoft Dynamics AX

In this article, financial reporting solutions for Professional Services organizations utilizing Microsoft Dynamics AX will take center stage, so you can make the best software investment.

In today’s business world, maybe particularly for Professional Services organizations, a modern, dynamic financial reporting tool is vital to remaining competitive in your industry, making decisions to maneuver through the ups and downs of the economy, while developing the business and your brand.  This article will focus on the best financial report writers today, discussing the premier features and functionalities, so you can invest in the best reporting tool to expand your Professional Services organization’s Microsoft Dynamics AX experience.

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Matthew Felzke
Financial Reporting with Dynamics AX for Retail Companies

If you’re part of a Retail organization’s finance team and you’re using Microsoft Dynamics AX for your accounting processes, this article is for you, discussing your financial reporting software options.

Financial reporting is arguably the centerpiece of Business Intelligence (BI) analytics as they summarize the financial health of an organization in a hopefully easy-to-read set of financial and operational statements.  Business is moving at quite a rapid pace today, and Retail is no different.  Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, like Microsoft Dynamics AX, typically offer financial reporting functionality built right into the program.  However, with the need for more complex, robust data analytics – and now, industry-specific reporting – the native report writing usually falls short of consumer needs.  This article will discuss your third party options for modern, powerful, and business user friendly financial reporting solutions, offering Retail organizations the information they need to make stronger decisions about the future of their company.

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Matthew Felzke
Best Report Writers for Microsoft Dynamics AX

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.

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Process Oriented Business Intelligence

Today, I read one of the best BI articles I have seen in a long time. It was called “Process-Oriented BI: Navigating the Road of Continuous Improvement”. The essence of the article is about how far you should be able to take BI these days by:
1) End-to-End Business Process Knowledge
2) Continuous Improvement Mindset
3) BI Capabilities of Operations
4) Data Governance Discipline
5) Data Latency Reduction

I encourage you to read the article and think about your own organization and what BI could do for you had the right BI tools and your organization was properly prepared. There is no doubt that the impact would be powerful and lasting for the business operations as well as for the bottom line.

With BI360, we have eliminated the classical barriers between “corporate BI” and operational BI, by enabling both real time reporting and data warehouse-based reporting, consolidations and planning. And, just as important, we have strived to provide you with user-friendly interfaces that any business user can manage without the assistance of IT or BI experts.

You can read the full article here:
http://www.information-management.com/newsletters/BI_BPM_process_oriented_data_governance_latency_realtime-10020818-1.html?pg=1

Operational Reporting with BI360

While “Financial Reporting” often used to be synonymous with financial statements such as Profit & Loss reports, Balance Sheets, Cash Flow statements and consolidated reports, these days companies are using dual purpose tools like BI360 to also handle their operational reporting.

A quickly increasing number of BI360 users are developing operational reports such as:
– Reports help them manage inventories with details about standard cost, quantities and physical value.
– That shows purchase orders versus requisitions with related information about delivery dates, unit price, quantity ordered, purchase price and purchase quantity.
– Production orders with trend charts that quantities items ordered by date.
– Work-in-progress reports (WIP), quantity per order, how much of an order has been started and the WIP amount.

The above types of reports are particularly popular amongst Microsoft Dynamics AX customers because a good number of them are in manufacturing or related industries.

We also see more customers deploy the BI360 data warehouse in order to combine their ERP data with other operational data sources. Examples of these are healthcare providers that combine financial data with payroll and patient data to produce reports or dashboards that show average cost per patient day, statistical trends like Average Length of Stay (ALOS), etc.

As companies go operational with their reporting and the business users that truly understand the information needs of the business are able to design the reports, the result if often high value reports that earlier where non-existent or that had to be pieced together manually in spreadsheets.