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Blog header image showing a woman with binoculars for the Solver blog on how to use monthly rolling forecasts to gain insight in unpredictable times

According to the 2020 Wisdom of Crowds Enterprise Performance Management Market Study, adoption of enterprise management software increased in 2020. Nearly half of all surveyed organizations now use enterprise performance management (EPM) / corporate performance management (CPM) software, and 78% of survey respondents rated this software as “critical,” “very important,” or “important” to their organization.

Of course, enterprise and corporate performance management software is always useful for Finance and Operations planning, especially during the annual budgeting process, but in a time of economic uncertainty, the budgets that your organization created 12-18 months ago can seem stale and out of date.

Flexible monthly rolling forecasts, which are almost exclusively found in market-leading EPM / CPM software, help keep your Finance and Operations planning fresh and on track throughout unpredictable times, so you can enhance your budgeting agility and maintain your competitive edge.

View templates for forecasting and other critical planning processes.

Why Use Monthly Rolling Forecasts?

“Enterprise performance management software can help organizations manage short-term uncertainty and plan their strategies for the ‘new normal’…” – 2020 Wisdom of Crowds EPM Market Study

Rolling forecasts empower business leaders to continuously plan for the future with insight into the next 12-18 months. Using up-to-date historical data, rolling forecasts can help cultivate more agile organizational planning that helps illuminate how short-term disruptions and adjustments may affect long-term objectives.

In essence, monthly rolling forecasts help companies plan their strategy to overcome economic uncertainty by providing a continuously updating glimpse into the potential future.

Compared to the typical annual budgeting process — which relies heavily on assumptions generated in the past and marches steadily into an unknown future somewhere past the “fiscal cliff” — it is clear why rolling forecasts are critical to success in uncertain times.

Rolling Forecast Usage Is Likely to Increase Due to the Events of 2020

The Wisdom of Crowds study reports that 64% of respondents use rolling forecasts today, and 16% say they have now replaced annual budgets with rolling forecasts (an increase of ~15% YoY). Considering the ongoing disruption caused by COVID and global economic uncertainty, the adoption of monthly rolling forecasts is likely to increase more in 2020.

Would rolling forecasts be right for your organization? Here are a few reasons to consider utilizing this critical tool as a budget manager or executive:

  • Monthly rolling forecasts deliver timely insight based on the recent past.

When you planned your 2020 budget, no one had heard of a coronavirus – and you certainly did not expect a coronavirus to shrink the GDP, disrupt global supply chains, or quarantine your workforce in home offices. It is time to recalibrate your numbers.

Now that all this has happened, a monthly rolling forecast can help you strategize what to do next, whereas that annual budget will offer little to no help.

  • Rolling forecasts can report on current usage of allocated budgets.

Considering the myriad changes listed above, there is a high probability that your company expenditures have strayed significantly from expectations. For example, your company has probably spent less on conferences and travel. Can you re-allocate those budgets?

Department managers may be hesitant to initiate a conversation with you about the amounts still available in their allocated budgets, but a monthly rolling forecast can shine light onto usage (or lack thereof), so you can plan properly.

Why Not Use Rolling Forecast Tools Built into Your ERP System?

If you are running cloud ERP systems like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance, your company has a great accounting system. So, why not use the rolling forecast tools built into your ERP system? Simply put, there aren’t many available. That is why more than 90% of the organizations create their forecast models outside their ERP in manual Excel spreadsheet models.

Now, if it fills your needs, there is cash-flow forecasting and sales forecasting included with some ERP systems, including Dynamics 365 Finance implementations, but no forecasting is available on Government Community Cloud (GCC). If you are a Government agency or you want to use rolling forecasts for a wide variety of Operations and Finance areas, it is a smart idea to invest in a purpose-built, flexible and robust market-leading corporate performance management solution that can provide you with the in-depth insight you need immediately.

Next year’s annual budgeting process is here now, yet leaders across the globe still have few answers or concrete plans to address our uncertain future. The best way for you to plan your organization’s budget is to develop your own glimpse into the future… and the best way to do that is with monthly rolling forecasts.

Make Smarter Decisions Now Using Monthly Rolling Forecasts from Solver

With the current situation, you cannot wait to “see what happens.” Forecasting templates from Solver help you get started with this helpful tool quickly, so you can take a proactive role in your Finance and Operations planning processes.

Rolling forecasts from Solver are fully integrated with a number of ERP systems, including Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance (f/k/a Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations), and they provide an easy way for you to look forward into what you can expect next year, so you can plan appropriately.

 

Discover the facts on forecasting during economic uncertainty with this handy how-to from Solver.  

This article explores the popular Dynamics 365 Business Central cloud ERP system and how you can achieve advanced reporting and budgeting.
After Microsoft’s highly anticipated release of Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365 BC) a few years ago companies evaluating the solution has, as expected, quickly zoomed in on reporting, budgeting and business intelligence (BI) capabilities.

But, let’s zoom out for a moment…after 25 years in the software industry, I have yet to see an ERP system with fantastic reporting, budgeting and BI capabilities built into the ERP. Alas, the world’s most used tool in this area remains the ever popular Microsoft Excel spreadsheet! There is actually a good reason for ERPs failing in this area with their native functionality, and that is that the demands for advanced calculations and formatting, currency conversion, consolidations, budget workflow, custom budget input forms, and charts simply are too much for the otherwise controlled and accounting-focused ERP applications. That is also a main reason why there is a flourishing corporate performance management (CPM) and BI industry out there that plugs these and other planning and decision-making related holes in ERP systems. It has become a symbiotic relationship in many ways with a sometimes elegant dance, especially when there are solid integrations that exist between ERPs, CPM solutions, and BI tools.

So, where does Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365 BC) land in terms of advanced reporting and budgeting? Well, as expected, it has native reporting and budgeting at the typical level where most modern ERPs have it. So…if ERP history is any indication, that means that 90-95% of all D365 BC customers will at least partially be using their beloved Excel spreadsheets for some of their reporting and a lot of their budgeting and forecasting. That is, unless they are ready to step up the CPM game and look at CPM tools like Solver for full blown cloud budgeting, reporting and consolidations that are pre-integrated and also running on Microsoft Azure as a multi-tenant solution.

But wait a minute, that was CPM, but what about BI? Actually, here Microsoft seems to have achieved a home-run in the past few years with Power BI. Not only did Power BI recently become the leader in the Gartner BI Quadrant, but Microsoft has done an excellent job integrating it to D365 BC and many other transaction systems.

So, if you work for an organization that plans to evaluate Dynamics 365 Business Central, between Power BI from Microsoft and advanced CPM solutions like Solver, you should be in good shape to turbo-charge your organization’s decision-making abilities in the years ahead.

Good luck and enjoy your ERP, BI, and CPM journey!

Solver enables world-class decisions with the Solver cloud 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 user-friendly solution. Solver empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of cloud-connected Excel in the report and budget form design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.

hybrid cloud

There are more than 200,000 companies running on-premise ERP systems from Microsoft, Sage, SAP and Acumatica world-wide and many are not planning to move to the cloud yet. However, if you are one of them, this does not mean that your company can’t start taking advantage of modern cloud-based reporting solutions today to drive better and faster decisions for yourself and your management team!

Hasn’t Cloud-based reporting for on-premise ERPs been available for a long time?

Yes, vendors like Prophix, Solver, Vena, Adaptive Insights, and Planful (formerly Host Analytics) have offered both cloud-based financial reporting and budgeting for years. However, all of these vendors have typical corporate performance management (CPM) architectures that require data to be loaded from the on-premise ERP and into the cloud CPM tool before the user can run reports. 

The process requires a “refresh” of data from the ERP database into the CPM database which means that the data users see in reports is not real-time. This also mean that the drill-down on any number is only as detailed as the lowest level data that was loaded into the cloud CPM database. 

Your executives are often ok with this because they want to wait on their report analysis until the accounting team has closed the books. However, the accounting team that is posting transactions in the ERP system almost always prefers live ERP reporting because they want to immediately see the impact of journal entries in their reports. They don’t want to refresh data into a CPM reporting database first, and then wait one minute, ten minutes or significantly longer to run reports after the data has been transferred to the CPM tool.

How do I get true live reporting for my on-premise ERP GP data?  

The obvious answer is that you use the report writer that natively comes with your ERP system such as  Management Reporter, GP Report Writer, Smartlist or SQL Reporting Services (SSRS). However, at best, it would be safe to say that these tools have aged “gracefully,” and they are just not comparable to many modern cloud reporting tools.

Key weaknesses of on-premise report tools include:

  • Not particularly user-friendly for accounting staff to design reports.
  • Lack of easy and professional formatting.
  • Typically requires VPN or Terminal Server to connect to the ERP in order to run reports from outside the office network.
  • Maintaining multiple report writers for different data (e.g. for formatted financial statements versus sub-ledger transaction reports).

In order to overcome these weaknesses and help on-premise ERP customers maximize the value of their data a modern, cloud-based reporting platform, Solver has now launched what they refer to as “Hybrid Cloud Reporting.” You can see it live in this video. This is a unique integration technology that enables you to:

  • Use your web-browser to run beautifully formatted reports (looks like Excel formatting).
  • Benefit from true real-time reports on your ERP data without any data transfer to a separate reporting database.
  • Drill-down from any number in the report directly into your underlying GP transactional data. 
  • Easy internet and browser-based access with no need for VPN, or software like Terminal Server.
  • Enter budgets from user-friendly forms (looks like Excel) in the cloud and have the transactions stored directly into the GL budget table in the ERP database.
  • Be better prepared to move to a cloud ERP later because the reporting and budgeting solution is already in the cloud. 

In other words, now your accountants and reporting end-users get the best of two worlds by only needing a web browser to run live ERP reports and drill-down.

Below is a simple architecture diagram to explain how it works:

hybriddiagram

What about budgeting and forecasting?

Like many other cloud-based CPM solutions, Solver also offers budgeting and forecasting. With the new Hybrid Cloud technology and Solver’s cloud-based Planning Module, users can store budget data directly back from Solver’s budget forms in the cloud, into the General Ledger budget table in the ERP database. 

So, if you struggle with manual Excel-based spreadsheets for your budgets, you can save a lot of time by eliminating emailing files between users, linking between spreadsheets, and put better controls in place for the entire budget process with workflow and approvals. 

As an example, users can access budget forms like the example below with their browser and instantly, until you close the budget process, update their department’s budget in the ERP system. Since Solver’s Hybrid Cloud updates are real-time, reports can immediately be run to see the impact of these changes on the budget.

Enjoy Faster and Better Decisions in the 2020s

Companies like Solver, Prophix, Vena, Adaptive Insights, and Planful are driving the next generation cloud-based reporting and planning technology. However, with the lack of live reporting and live budget write-back to on-premise ERP systems, accountants and very active ERP users have been left with their legacy tools for their real-time reporting needs.  

With the release of Solver Hybrid Cloud, these users now get the best of both worlds and can start ushering in the 2020’s by enabling themselves and other users with faster and better decisions.  Learn more about the benefits of choosing Solver CPM solutions by contacting us today or requesting a demo. 

Supported ERP systems are: Microsoft Dynamics GP, SL, and NAV, Sage 100 (SQL)*, 300* and 500*, SAP Business One (SQL)*, and Acumatica*.

*) Direct budget writeback not offered for these ERPs.

 

Consolidation_01

For many years it seems like every mid-market and enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendor has aspired to offer native financial consolidation software. However, they all seem to fall short, often to the disappointment of customers that were promised that their new ERP system easily could produce the consolidated financials from their individual subsidiary ledgers. 

So why is it so hard for an ERP vendor to deliver the necessary financial consolidation functionality inside the ERP system itself? There can be any number of reasons.

Limitations in Current Financial Consolidation ERPs

  • Lack of ability to handle different chart of accounts
  • Lack of ability of consolidating across subsidiaries with different fiscal calendars
  • Poor currency conversion functionality 
  • Weak auto-elimination functionality
  • Tedious to post manual consolidation adjustments
  • Weak financial report writer to produce the consolidated reports
  • Clunky consolidation process with too many steps 
  • Problematic to consolidate across subsidiaries with different ERPs
  • Lack of dynamic pro-forma consolidations

 

It would be a controller’s dream if all of these areas were elegantly handled within their ERP system. And, while most mid-market and enterprise ERPs typically can check all or most of the boxes for consolidation features, almost always, consolidating in the ERP it is simply too clunky with too many steps. Because of this, the finance team ends up doing it in Excel where they at least are comfortable with formulas and they can produce professional report layout. 

 

overloaded manager

Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP

But what about Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations (D365 FO) ERP system? 

While it clearly can be considered one of the top cloud solutions on the market today- alongside SAP, Oracle and Workday– customers with significant consolidations and related financial reporting needs, often end up in Excel in the final steps of the process. 

While there are plenty of ERP consolidation features in D365 FO, and its native Management Reporter is an above-the-average report writer, it is increasingly normal that customers add on a “best-of-breed” corporate performance management (CPM) solution to streamline their financial consolidation and reporting software.  

Modern cloud-based CPM solutions

Solver is an example of a CPM solution that comes with several added advantages for Microsoft customers.

Advantages of Solver CPM for Financial Consolidation

  • Solution is cloud-based Azure like D365 FO
  • Its configurable to D365’s general ledger as well as sub-ledgers
  • It has a pre-built connector to Power BI for visualization

PowerBI_Dashboard_01

 

Some cloud-based CPM vendors now also offer an Excel add-in to give power users more flexible and familiar report design. 

End users can still run the same reports in the cloud using their web browsers. They could do the same using their local Excel on the desktop connected to the CPM database in the cloud.

Consolidation_01

 

An added advantage of modern cloud-based CPM solutions is that they typically also house advanced budgeting and workflow capabilities. This allow for a single solution and a single report/form designer for both financial reporting, consolidations and budgeting. 

Level Up Your Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations With Solver

In the next decade, enabling faster and better decisions will be one of the key competitive advantages. This advantage differentiates successful, growing companies from others. 

Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, a leading ERP solution, is a great cloud-based transaction platform because it drives better data and accounting processes. A modern CPM solution with a snug fit on top of D365 FO and that compliments visualization in Power BI checks the boxes that a finance team needs to take their ERP financial consolidations and reporting processes to the next level.

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Group-of-joyful-excited-business-people-throwing-papers-and-having-fun-in-office

This article focuses on the process of preparing for a software implementation. 

 

corporate performance management software implementation

Image taken from Shutterstock.

Read more

This article discusses how you can combine the strengths of leading business intelligence and corporate performance management solutions to create easy-to-use, business dashboards and operational reports.  

 

Read more

This article focuses on the importance of budgeting with a corporate performance management solution.
budgeting
Budgeting is a topic that is not very popular in many organizations. It can be an extremely time-consuming project for many employees. This is why it is important to communicate the significance of a budget to all employees so they take pride and ownership of it. Don’t make complex templates as the goal in estimating for the coming year. If employees can’t have small variances, then they will make decisions that only impact their results against the budget and not what is in the best long-term interest of the organization.
Your budget should should be an approximate estimate of how the company will do in the coming year. Provide information on how investment money can be spent. This is based on the strategies and initiatives of the company. The goal should not be to budget down to each dollar.
For example, one company budgeted down to an employee cost of $6.52 per month per employee. The company was asked whether the cost could be estimated as a total for each department, but they claimed they needed it down to the dollar. However, budgeting at the department level and allowing a five percent variance would have had no impact on the decisions that the company made. Another important item to ask yourself is “what is an acceptable variance for an organization?” For instance, if there is a five percent variance in the revenue, then would this impact the decisions that the company will make in the coming year?
 

Personnel Budgeting Template

 
Personnel budgeting has an immense impact for organizations due to the high proportion of costs of an organization. A personnel budgeting template has similarities across all companies. There are many variables to consider, such as the type of raise, how many raises, overtime, bonuses, commissions, taxes, benefits, and IT costs to name a few. It is also important to know whether to budget by employee or by position.
Budgeting by position enables an organization to ignore employee names, terminations, and having to hire employees to replace a terminated employee. It also allows budgeting by multiple employees. As an example, a template can allow a manager to input how many accountants should be employed, what the average salary is, and what the average raise would be. If a company is budgeting by employees then each accountant should be listed. The employee’s exact salary, his/her expected raise, and all other information specific to each employee should be included as well. Budgeting by employee will be more accurate if there is little employee turnover, but it also requires more work.
Other items to keep in mind with personnel is how to allocate monthly salary, which impacts tax and benefit calculations. Allocate salary evenly by work days, by calendar days, and by pay periods. There are other ways as well. Another item to consider is separating out full-time and part-time employees, as there may be differences in the benefits that are allocated to part-time employees, such as overtime and 401k. These are all calculations that must be built into the payroll form.
 

Assumptions Template

 
A great first step is creating an assumptions template, which allows an administrator to enter data. This will impact the calculations of many templates, and it does not have to be hard-coded into the templates themselves. This data will flow from the form into all other templates. An assumptions template should include payroll tax rates, a worker’s compensation rate, and a benefit rate. The number of days in each month also matter.
The data from the assumption form will then flow into the payroll form.
There may also be a need to allocate an employee across multiple departments. In this case, there are two options: 1) Budget every employee to a “dummy” department and then allocate the salaries, taxes, and benefits in new template. 2) Upload the employee information into each department and enter the number of hours allocated to each department. This ensures there is an administrator report that checks to verify that an employee does not exceed 2,080 hours a year.
Many companies use another template called the capital expenditures template. This particular template allows users to enter capital expenditures that are projected into the coming year. This also calculates depreciation, typically on a straight-line basis. The asset type is typically chosen because each asset type has a specific life. A capital expenditures template should include asset type, department, purchase description, purchase month, purchase price, and quantity. The capital expenditures and the monthly depreciation are summarized at the bottom of the template.

More information

If you would like to get a better understanding of the budgeting templates above, you can download the free ebook here. Beyond using the right templates, it is important to have the right team and infrastructure in place to implement a successful budgeting strategy. Take the time on the front end to set budgeting goals that line up with your overarching organizational goals.
We also recommend to ask for help! By asking for help within the right channels, you can ensure the right sounding board that can guide you through the process with minimal time wasted and designed for maximum efficiency. At Solver, we have a team of experience professionals that have taken on countless projects like this one. Between the power of BI360 and their expertise, you have all you need to set yourself up for success.
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.