Articles

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.

powerbiandsolver

If you have ever tried to build and maintain financial reports inside a visualization tool, the answer should be simple. Power BI works well for dashboards, but modern cloud-based corporate performance management (CPM) solutions are the best option for your financial reports.

BI vs. CPM

Let’s elaborate. Power BI belongs to a category typically referred to as Business Intelligence (BI) tools. While purpose-built, financial reporting and consolidation tools belong to a category referred to as Corporate Performance Management (CPM) Software.

Business Intelligence:

In the business intelligence category, you also find other well-known solutions such as Tableau and Domo. For the most part, BI tools are purpose-built for dashboards with rich visualizations. Also, BI tools are increasingly infused with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

Corporate Performance Management Software:

On the other hand, CPM solutions are specifically designed for accounting teams to consolidate financial data. CPMs often produce professionally formatted financial reports such as: 

  • Profit & Loss
  • Balance Sheet
  • Cash flow statements

Most CPM reporting tools offer budgeting modules. And in recent years, the ability to do sophisticated planning such as sales forecasting and modeling.

If the difference between BI and CPM is so clear, why is “Financial Reporting in Power BI or in a Corporate Performance Management Solution” even a topic worth covering in a blog? 

Well, with the rapid rise in popularity of Power BI for financial reporting and its key competitors, an army of “hungry” consultants have emerged.  And, given a strong and flexible tool like Power BI, a sales person with the right technical skills can make almost anything, including formatted financial reports, look good.  Many companies have fallen into this trap lately of using Power BI for financial reporting. And, when you ask a skilled, revenue motivated consultant: Can you do that? Chances are that you will get a “Yes!”  And after a few weeks…or a few months, and a sizable consulting bill, you may actually have good looking Power BI financial reports.  But, as excited as your executives may be to have a single cloud-based portal for both dashboards and financial reports, for most financial executives this has a tendency to turn into a small nightmare.  Why?

Because neither Power BI nor its BI competitors were designed to manage a financial reporting process.

A lot of hard coding and hacking is needed behind the scenes in Power BI’s modeling language. Of course, if you are ready to hire a technical expert or keep your Power BI consultant permanently retained to handle model changes as your chart of accounts grows, your roll-ups change or you need to write a new report, you could survive for a while. Eventually, we can say with certainty, you will be back in Excel to do your financial reporting where your accounting team is comfortable with formulas and formatting.

Alternatively, you can deploy a CPM solution that is built to streamline the financial process. Also, you can deploy a CPM tool to deliver professionally formatted financial statements.

With a CPM solution, you can also move your budgeting process into the CPM tool and run it all in the cloud.  Now, it does not have to be an either or.

The Best Way: Use BI Tools and CPMs Reporting Tools Together

An increasing number of CPM vendors offer pre-built integrations to leading BI tools like Power BI.

Two such vendors are Solver and Prophix. As an example, Solver is similar to Power BI in that it is an Azure cloud-based platform, and it comes with a pre-built connector to Power BI.  Below is an example of a comparison between Power BI and Solver. It clearly shows that companies looking for both dashboards and financial reporting should use a BI tool for their dashboards and a CPM tool for their financial reporting. Neither tool replaces the other.

power bi and solver

As organizations gear up for what can be the “Roaring Twenties,” having the right tools for the job might be one of the smartest strategic moves a management team can make. On the other hand, trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, could lead to frustration. The frustration is delayed reporting and wasted money. It is increasingly accepted that “data is the new gold.” When Power BI is integrated with a best-in-class CPM solution and both are running in the cloud, organizations are likely a step closer to success and industry leadership in the years ahead.

blog image for corporate performance management during COVID-19

As we all struggle to adjust to our new reality of social distancing and general economic uncertainty, it seems as if our expectations for the future are changing day-by-day, if not hour-by-hour.

It is hard to tell what next week will be like for businesses across the world, much less what next month will look like – or six months from now. However, with a good Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solution, your company can gain insight into a range of possible future scenarios, so you can start executing meaningful action items right now.

With the right CPM in your toolbox, you can get fast answers to pressing COVID-related questions, such as:

  • How will it impact my business if I let some employees go? 
  • What can I expect for cash flow, as things stand now? 
  • Which expenses should I cut – now and later?
  • Who are the customers that are slow to pay? 
  • What is the best case scenario of COVID on my business… and the worst?

If you are not sure how to find those answers with your CPM, or if you are not sure whether your current system provides this critical information, this article will help.

What Are the Two Essential Capabilities of Corporate Performance Management During COVID-19?

If you already have and use a world-class Corporate Performance Management system such as Solver, Adaptive Insights, or Prophix, you can breathe easy. You already have access to the tools you will need to answer your COVID-related questions.

Those tools are:

1. Forecasting

Due to the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every company across the planet is having to throw out and replace their 2020 budgets right now. Forecasting on the fly can be difficult if you are working from spreadsheets but, with a highly effective CPM solution, you will have the freedom to run new forecasts for every twist and turn as the coronavirus situation unfolds.

Some of the best forecasts to run include:

  • Payroll modelling / forecasting

As a business leader, you already understand that it is possible you may have to let a few employees go or do a temporary salary cut before we all return to “business as usual.” This forecast helps you clearly identify the effect of your staffing strategy, so you can be more confident that you are making the right choice.

  • Sales modelling / forecasting

Perhaps you are not looking at staff reductions. Essential industries such as healthcare or food and health manufacturing are experiencing a steep rise in sales as a result of the coronavirus. However, whether your sales are on the rise or your company is facing a temporary slowdown, it is critical that you have accurate, timely insight into what you can expect for sales and revenues in 2020.

  • P&L, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow forecasting

It is always a good business practice to keep a close watch on your P&Ls and Balance Sheets to make sure your financials are in order. With the abrupt market shifts we are all seeing right now, it is more important than ever to closely oversee changes in your operating, investing, and financing cash flows as you update your strategy.

2. Reporting

In an emergency, it can be difficult to sort through the sea of reports available to you from a Corporate Performance Management solution, so here is your quick guide to the essential reports you will need right now.

  • Multiple forecast versions compared

Gain insight into your organization’s best-case scenarios, worst-case scenarios, and everything in between using this easy-to-understand comparison report that maximizes your forecasting vision.

Actuals vs. Budgets are handy when your budget fits a predicted scenario, but we think it is safe to guess that your budgets do not quite match up with your reality right now. This report replaces your budgets with forecasts, so you can perform a more accurate actual vs. “budget” comparison that is based on the most up-to-date data.

  • Reports focused on vendor and payroll expenses

It may be time to cut expenses soon, so knowing which of your expenses are “expendable” may be critical information for your company. This report gives you the numbers you need, so you are prepared to cut back if and when that is required.

  • Customer aging receivables

Right now, every company across the world is anxious about the future and rethinking their expenditures – including your clients. By using reports focused on customer aging receivables, you will get quick and accurate insight into which of your customers or clients are late to pay, so you can check in instantly.

Not Using a CPM Solution Yet? There Is Still Time.  

If you are relying on unwieldy spreadsheets or the limited reporting options included with your ERP, you are probably frustrated at the lack of insight you have.

In truth, lack of insight can be a big problem for companies right now, considering how quickly the economic landscape situation is changing. If you are ready to get accurate, up-to-date financial and operational data at your fingertips, including easy-to-read KPI dashboards, planning tools, and a secure data warehouse to house all your data, now is the right time to get your Corporate Performance Management solution set up.

Setting up a modern CPM solution is easier than ever, but you will still need to make sure you choose the right solution for your needs. Though you have a wide range of strong CPM solutions available to your company, your ideal solution will depend on your unique business setup, size, industry, integration needs, and objectives.

However, to make sure your CPM system meets your precise needs during the coronavirus situation and beyond, you will want to ensure you choose a CPM that fits these requirements:

  • Cloud-based solution

If your workforce is largely working from home (WFH) for the duration, now will not be the right time to deploy or support an on-premises / in-office server solution. A cloud-based CPM is more convenient to implement and support during a disruption, and it is also more convenient to access for consultants working from home.

  • Rapid deployment

A CPM that takes months to deploy will not help you solve the situation right here and now. Cloud-based solutions are faster and easier to deploy than on-premises solutions, and CPMs that include pre-built vendor report and forecast templates will get you analyzing your evolving numbers the same day your solution goes live, so you can answer your critical questions instantly.

Learn More About Your Options for Corporate Performance Management

If chosen carefully, effective, cloud-based CPMs can help you maintain your agility with quick decision-making during the coronavirus or any other unexpected setback.

Ready for some advice that will help you determine which CPM is right for you? We can help.

Since 1996, the global team of CPM experts at Solver have helped companies like yours successfully navigate the rapidly changing business landscapes that define our modern, global commerce world. We are happy to share our expertise with you, so you can find your path through this unexpected and unprecedented worldwide situation.

Truly, you can ask us anything about CPM. We promise you a careful, well-reasoned answer that makes sense for your exact needs. (We do not like one-size-fits-all answers, and we suspect you do not like them either.)

 

We guarantee that when you contact Solver, you will get the guidance and help you need to understand all your CPM options, so you can confidently move your business forward in all situations, including right now.

Ask Solver a Question.