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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

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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.