At the end of 2016, we sat down with CEO Nils Rasmussen, COO Corey Barak, CIO Hadrian Knotz, and CTO Mike Applegate to discuss 20 impactful years of being a leader in the Business Intelligence (BI) industry. This is the final segment in the series, where the executive team members discuss what differentiates BI360 and what they would like to be known for in 20 years.

Read more

I recently sat down with the leadership team at Solver to discuss the 20th anniversary of launching the organization.  The following is the first in a series, where they talk about how the organization came about, where they have gone and been, why they launched BI360 and more, as they move toward a cloud deployment option in 2017.  CEO Nils Rasmussen, COO Corey Barak, CIO Hadrian Knotz, and CTO Mike Applegate all chimed in about the successes and challenges that they have faced – and what they are most proud of on this anniversary.

Read more

sales-icon-blue

This article discusses next steps to take for your reporting and budgeting needs regarding Dynamics 365.

Microsoft unveiled their cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, Dynamics 365, just a little over a month ago. As a potential business intelligence (BI) customer, you’re probably curious about your reporting and budgeting processes in the context of moving towards a cloud-based ERP system. As you know, a new United States president was elected on November 8th, and as always with a new president, people are curious or worried how things will work out. If you are one of the approximately 85% of the world still using an on-premise ERP system, this same analogy can be applied to those who are planning to go onto a cloud ERP. This article focuses on the next steps to take for your reporting and budgeting in regards to Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 unveiling.

Microsoft Dynamics, a line of ERPs and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, is a power player in the business applications world so, as you can imagine, once Microsoft released Dynamics 365, people also knew that things in the BI realm were going to change with no hesitation. There has been a lot of confusion around Dynamics 365, especially due to the changing naming conventions of this system and to make things clear, Solver CEO Nils Rasmussen explains that “Dynamics 365 is really two ERP systems. One is the lower end version of Dynamics 365, based on the NAV product in its structure. The higher end version of Dynamics 365 is based on Dynamics AX and is for the higher end of the market.” Both systems are architected for and deployed in the Microsoft Azure cloud, and it’s all hosted and managed by Microsoft. If you want to learn more, you can read about Microsoft Dynamics 365 and what it all means.

If you are planning to implement or are already using Dynamics 365, NetSuite, Acumatica, or Intacct, you might find yourself shopping for a new budgeting and reporting tool to also benefit from a modern Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solution. You have several options: For instance, your company can rely on the native budgeting features and reporting options that comes natively embedded in the ERP system, but in most cases this means that you will end up exporting data to Excel to design your favorite budget model or to professionally format financial reports. Another option is that to implement a modern web-based CPM solution that integrates well to your cloud-based ERP system. The last option gets to the point: go out and shop for a new tool!

The cloud ERP market is skyrocketing. What are you going to do with your reporting and budgeting? One tip I would like to share is to make sure your budgeting and reporting tool is flexible, accessible, and is offering a cloud solution or at the minimum a web-based interface. With a cloud solution, there is no need to install or maintain upgrades. There are various reporting solutions with features and functionalities that are flexible and accessible. For example, some modern solutions offer Excel add-ins, as well as a web portal that is filled with reports and dashboards that are relevant to the user, so that the user can rapidly get to subscribed reports, commentary, discussions, and groups. A modern web-based CPM portal usually offers an intuitive, collaborative technology that also has workflow, alerts and commentary users can also execute reports on-demand, explain variances, and they can also share  specific reports with their team members. These modern functionalities are collaborative, increase transparency, and most importantly, they are user-friendly.

As reporting and budgeting solutions continue to get smarter, a number of modern, cloud-based solutions are starting to appear in the BI marketplace and many will offer easy-to-use, pre-built integrations to ERP systems like Microsoft Dynamics 365. As you research and look into more CPM tools, you will notice that some of them are on-premises, some of them are cloud-based, and others are hybrid tools. Top-notch CPM tools that are cloud or web-based platforms such as Adaptive Insights, Anaplan, Host Analytics and BI360 are great options. If you are skeptical about moving everything to the cloud, continue to choose to keep certain business applications on-premises if you’d like, but also plan for the future. You can also learn more on the pros and cons of cloud and on-premises options in the Business Intelligence: Cloud-based, One-premises, or Both? article. Studies do show that cloud helps solve problems such as lowering costs, increasing productivity, gaining flexibility, and all while providing the right information to the appropriate people at the most opportune time, so they can make wise decisions for their organization.

The BI realm for Microsoft customers is about to change as Dynamics 365 has been released and vendors are encouraged to integrate their CPM offerings. As you know, the cloud is constantly changing, and as it evolves, cloud reporting and budgeting solutions continue to get smarter as well. If your current software is limiting your organization from making smart business choices, that is all the reason to invest in a new reporting and budgeting solution. Modern BI solutions are providing business end users choices so they have access to specific data they need when they need it without having to wait for your assistance, but I still suggest you maintain a good relationship with your information technology team as they are the “technology geniuses” of the company and will help make sure that your different systems can talk to each other to maximize productivity and data quality.

Solver enables world-class decisions with BI360, a leading web-based CPM suite made up of budgeting, reporting, dashboards, and data warehousing, delivered through a web portal. Solver is reinventing CPM with its next generation solution. BI360 empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of Excel in the model design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.

After the Thanksgiving holiday, I sat down with Solver’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Corey Barak to talk about the importance of business intelligence (BI) for organizations. Corey is our “Chandler” from the television sitcom, Friends. Everybody admires him for his sarcastic humor, intellect, and his sound judgment. Corey manages the day-to-day operations and focuses on maximizing the service quality to our customers and partners.  He has been in the BI industry for 20 years, and started his career at Solver in 1999 as a Senior Business Intelligence Consultant. Outside of Solver, he is a father of two children and a husband. As 2016 is coming to a close, I was pondering on the New Year, and the kind of impact BI may have on companies. As an author of leading BI books, including “Process Improvement for Effective Budgeting and Financial Reporting” and “BI360 Book – The Ultimate How-To Guide,” I thought Corey would be the appropriate person to pick his brain about the importance of BI for any company.
Watch the interview below or read on for the transcript of our conversation.

Kim: “Why is BI important for companies and does the beginning of the year have an impact?”
Barak: “BI is the framework for setting strategy and managing the success and failure of the strategy.  Companies should create a closed-loop process where they set strategy, set the goals for the strategy, put together the budget or the forecast, and constantly review and analyze the actual vs. the budget/forecast of the goals.  If changes need to be made, then the strategy or the goals may need to be modified, which starts the loop over again.  It has an impact on the beginning of the year as the majority of companies are going through their budget process.  If they have a fiscal year that isn’t based on a calendar year, then this would be a chance to do forecasting. They could reforecast based on the strategy. If the strategy has not been set and finalized, then it makes it impossible for managers to put together a budget that should be dependent on the strategy.”

Kim: “What are steps to start adding BI for your organization?”
Barak: “The first step is to determine what impacts your business – the revenue growth and profitability -and determine how to measure that. Some manufacturing companies may have areas around manufacturing speeds or getting things out to the market quicker. Find those Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that drive your revenue growth. If you company doesn’t know what they are, the company needs to find out what they are. If they don’t have the data to determine their KPIs, then it is time to look into a BI tool that can bring in data from disparate systems and display them in structured reports and dashboards that are quick and easy to view. Make sure you’re making progress and improving. If you’re not improving and you’re actually declining, this is where you can start reviewing your strategy as things aren’t going the way you planned. Once it is finalized, then determine if this data is easy to access or it takes time to put this together.  Bring that data in, calculate the KPIs, and compare it to your budget or your forecast every month.

Kim: “What are some tips that you can share with organizations that are looking into investing in BI?”
Barak: “Find a tool that can bring your financial data and operational data together. Generally, a KPI is not going to be based on just financial data or just operational data, but a combination of the two. Determine the company’s KPIs and then determine the departmental KPIs, and create dashboards for them as well. Concentrate on the company’s KPIs, what really impacts the entire business and then start moving to each department. Find out how to get the data and what the calculation would be for the KPIs. Next step is try to build those, practice them before you put it into the dashboards. Go manually calculate them, make sure it’s trending properly. The next step is building a dashboard. Start early in the process of implementing a BI Tool and if you have a BI Tool, then start the process of strategy and planning early. There should be regular forecasts based on potential changes to the strategy and initiatives.”
*Side note – A KPI stands for a key performance indicator, which is a business metric used to evaluate factors that are important to the success of a company. For example a KPI can be gross margin, turnover, net income, sales by salesperson, and more. There are thousands of KPIs you can use. The key is to find what is important to your company and industry.

Kim: “How does Solver use dashboards that other companies may not?”
Barak: “Solver has completely revamped our financial process.  End of 2015, we decided to change the way we report our financials. In 2015 and prior, we would literally get an email with our financials and everyone looked at different values, but there was no determination of what the most important KPIs are to the executives and to managers that will grow the business to drive profitability.  We rebuilt our allocation model in January 2016, so that it would take into account what was truly important and impacts our decision making.  We brought in more data sources.  We finally built KPI’s and dashboards for executives and then we built them for department managers.  This is how we start meetings rather than looking at a financial statement.  Our financial statements are backups now and used mainly if we have a question or need to drill down.  Our KPI’s show comparisons to the budget/forecast and to prior years.  We show 24 and 36-month trends so we know if we are trending up or trending down. We now are able to make decisions immediately because we have the data and analysis at our fingertips.”
Hopefully, this conversation is helpful for your BI needs and for your organization, no matter the size.
Solver enables world-class decisions with BI360, a leading web-based CPM suite made up of budgeting, reporting, dashboards, and data warehousing, delivered through a web portal. Solver is reinventing CPM with its next generation solution. BI360 empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of Excel in the model design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.

In this article, we discuss how business Intelligence (BI) tools have helped not-for-profit organizations focus more on their mission and less on budgeting and reporting.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and we thought it would be appropriate to dedicate this article to not-for-profit organizations – organizations with the purpose of something other than making a profit and often focused on furthering a particular social cause – and focus on how business intelligence (BI) tools have made the jobs in their industry easier. In this article, we are going to zoom in on the tools that not-for-profit organizations have expressed they are thankful for, and hopefully, this will give you an idea of what modern BI tools can do for your not-for-profit organization.
Read more

mike_applegate
 
The other day, I met with Solver’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Mike Applegate to talk about the next generation cloud-based tools. I made my way to his office, which is located right next to the kitchen – how convenient, right? His office has multiple brainstorming sessions of project ideas and notes on the white wall to your right when you walk in and simple black photo frames of his two beautiful children propped behind his desk.
Read more

This article will discuss the benefits of consolidating your many reporting tools.

reporting
How many of us use five or more report writers across our business systems? I know it sounds absurd, but most organizations do use that many reporting tools across their ERP system and other databases. When looking to invest in a reporting tool, how you integrate and present your data is very important. It is the backbone when it comes to making wise business decisions. In this article, I will focus on various options for consolidating multiple reporting tools to navigate your organization-specific issues in managing and analyzing your data.
Read more

solver_awards_2016-045Solver Global came together at one location last week to host its annual Focus customer and partner conference at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines hotel in sunny San Diego, California. Solver kicked off the conference with two-day intensive training classes designed for beginning and advanced users. There were valuable information-sharing sessions that attendees came to expect with additional learning and networking opportunities, including a dynamic keynote speaker.   Read more

This article will focus on the process of preparing for a successful software implementation.

Congratulations! You’ve finally made the first step in investing in a budgeting software. This is huge. Budgeting solutions will make a world of difference in streamlining painful, manual processes and will also often improve decision-making capabilities. Whether you are about to buy a tool or you just purchased one, you are on the verge of a software implementation. Many software implementations can be challenging, and only a few companies today achieve successful software implementations on the first try. In this article, we will explore the sixth installment of our budgeting series: how to prepare for your first budget software implementation.
Read more

This year, Focus 2016, August 22-25, 2016, Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, San Diego, CA gives customers more ways to share their own BI360 stories with the community. Attendees can ask questions and gain valuable tips and insights from the people who have lived through the challenges and successes of a BI360 implementation during extended Customer Showcases and Panel Discussions. Then, attendees can enjoy the amenities of the resort with their colleagues while having candid dialogs during various networking activities.

Extended Customer Showcases
In prior Focus events, Solver created 20-minute Customer Showcase presentations, giving attendees a taste of real-world experiences. This year, we’ve extended that time to 45 minutes to give presenting customers and session attendees a chance to drill down further into the details of the customer’s story, thus allowing attendees more opportunities to ask questions and gather ideas they can try in their own organizations. This year’s featured customers and their scheduled sessions are below:
Read more