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How to Quickly Get Started with Corporate Performance Management for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance

A rapidly increasing number of mid-market organizations are implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance (D365 Finance) as their new cloud ERP system. If you are considering a migration to D365 Finance, there are a few key things to do: make sure the solution fits your needs; and determine if your company should also consider any best-of-breed add-on solutions to automate certain processes key to your business.

When companies consider migrating their accounting solution from on-premise servers to the cloud, the decision usually relies on the solution’s ability to automate and streamline accounting and finance processes. To ensure this occurs, companies not only have to review core ERP functionality to make sure it meets their current and future needs but must also determine the tools to use for reporting, planning, and analyses. Some of these functions can be found natively in Dynamics 365 Finance while others, like dashboards for data visualization, are embedded or connected apps.

This blog will focus on best-of-breed budgeting and forecasting apps that are pre-integrated with D365 Finance. The information below includes some tips you may want to consider to ensure your ROI and Dynamics 365 experiences are optimized when it comes to producing:

  • Annual budgets
  • Monthly or quarterly forecasts
  • What-if analysis and scenario modeling
  • Strategic goals to drive your planning process

Why Use Planning Apps Instead of the Native Budgeting Features in Dynamics 365 Finance?

D365 Finance’s budgeting functionality enables basic budget input. However, as with almost any other cloud ERP system’s native planning tools, this inherent functionality is not the typical tool budgeting managers prefer to use to oversee a complete annual budget process or to produce a forecast. This showcase of planning input forms and report templates includes several hundred budgeting, forecasting and report examples. The sheer volume of options gives you an idea of the breadth and depth of capabilities found with professional corporate performance management (CPM) tools. Tools that can help you optimize planning processes and related decision-making in your business.

While many Microsoft Dynamics 365 customers supplement their budgeting and forecasting tasks with home-grown Excel models, it becomes obvious when manual Excel models no longer are the right tools for your planning processes. Typical signs of Excel pain include problems like:

  • Errors with formulas and links
  • No workflow
  • Lack of elegant versioning (separating budget versions)
  • Long duration (often 2+ months) of the budget process due to lack of automation
  • Lack of user security (especially for salary budgets, etc.)
  • Inability to perform web-based input so files need to be shared and collected
  • Painfully slow and inflexible budget consolidation and reporting options

 

These types of common issues leave an opening for the market’s best-of-breed budgeting and forecasting solutions to offer a purpose-built and professional planning experience that also can automate and streamline your budgeting and forecasting processes.

How to Pick the Right Planning Solution for Dynamics 365 Finance

Much can be written about evaluation and selection of budgeting and forecasting solutions. We will not go into details in this blog, but if you would like some ideas, this document highlights key areas to consider. This interactive evaluation tool also provides a simple way to compare and score planning tools. It includes an ROI calculator to analyze the cost and benefit of alternative tools versus your current solution.

In short, progressive Financial, Planning and Analysis (FP&A) departments of the 2020s want planning solutions that are flexible; closely integrated with their ERP as well as financial reporting (for variance analysis, etc.) and dashboard functionality; and that provide quick time to value.

What Is Considered a Quick Start with a New Planning Solution and How Is It Deployed?

These days, most Microsoft Dynamics customers want their connected apps, including budgeting and forecasting tools, to be cloud based and often Azure is the preferred cloud platform. Questions that quickly come up include: how complex might be an integration of a best-of-breed planning solution with D365 Finance, and how much cost and effort will it take to get key budget input forms up and running in it? Input forms such as:

  • Employee payroll (with taxes and benefits)
  • Capital expenses (with calculation of depreciation)
  • Sales budget (by salesperson and/or customer, product/service)
  • Profit & Loss (revenues and operating expenses)
  • Balance sheet with automated or semi-automated Cash Flow budgets

The typical answer: months of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in consulting services. However, some Dynamics 365 independent software vendors (ISVs), like Solver, that work very closely with Microsoft and its partner channel, have developed pre-built ERP integrations as well as out-of-the-box budget templates. For example, Solver’s QuickStart integration to Dynamics 365 Finance can have a company up and running in a single day, with pre-built and customizable input planning forms, reports and Microsoft Power BI dashboards. All these forms, reports and visualization tools are available in a continuously growing template Marketplace.

A note about tools that offer integrations to Dynamics 365 Finance:

While almost several CPM vendors can claim to offer integrations to an ERP like Dynamics 365, there can be big differences in the skills and effort involved in having these integrations complete and ready to go with your financial data loaded into the planning and reporting tool.

Generally, there are three categories of integrations, each with its own effort level required to get going:

  • Usually gets you there: Generic integration tools that require a lot of skills and time to configure.
  • Works but often with limitations: Connectors specifically built for Dynamics 365 Finance, but do not include an app that configures dimensions and views in Dynamics nor pre-maps to popular fields to “light them up” for its API.
  • Quickest and easiest: Connectors specifically built for Dynamics 365 Finance and that include an app or script(s) that properly and automatically configure dimensions and views in Dynamics. Then it exposes them to its API, including pre-mapped popular dimensions and data. You can see an example of this type of integration here.

What Is a Template Marketplace and Why Is It Important to Your Business?

By now, most best-of-breed planning solutions have followed D365 Finance and other popular ERPs to the cloud. They offer modern and flexible functionality to collect the budget and forecast data that your executives need. However, they still have at least one big deficiency: Somebody must design those input forms and adapt them to your Dynamics chart of accounts and other key dimensions. This can be very painful when you include the time and cost involved, especially if you still remember the effort it took to get all required templates and reports up and running in your old legacy on-premise ERP system.

These days, there is a growing trend for cloud business solutions to offer pre-built apps such as reports, input forms, connectors, and more in their own Marketplaces. Typically, app installations only involve a few clicks to install from a marketplace. This is not that different from apps you are used to downloading to your iPhone or Samsung phone. For example, in Solver’s Marketplace (see screenshot below), users can download planning input templates, financial reports and more than 50 pre-built financial dashboards that plug right into your Power BI web service.

Rapid deployment of Budgeting and Forecasting Tools for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance

Rapid deployment of Budgeting and Forecasting Tools for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance

In other words, with true marketplace templates you should be able to provide your managers with at least a set of General Ledger account-level budgeting and forecasting templates the same day you install the planning tool! Now that’s a quick deployment!

Summary

For new or existing Dynamics 365 Finance customers, the 2020s hold a lot of promise. Microsoft is continuously improving and updating their ERP system, and there is a rapidly growing ecosystem of third-party apps that further enhance the benefits of D365 Finance. Picking the right solutions, for planning as an example, can significantly improve your processes, save you time, and help drive faster and better decisions by putting the right information in front of your managers and executives when and where they need it.

Subscription Revenue by Customer Report Example

What is a Subscription Revenue by Customer Report?

Subscription revenue reports with customer detail are considered customer reports and are often used by sales managers to analyze monthly sales and revenue per customer. Key functionality in this type of report shows monthly subscription revenue per customer. It also calculates average revenue per customer as well each customer’s % of the average. The figures and the column chart are ranked from high performer to low performer. You will find an example of this type of report below.

Purpose of Customer-Focused Subscription Revenue Reports

Companies and organizations use Customer-Focused Subscription Revenue Reports to track each customer’s contribution to the current month’s revenue. When used as part of good business practices in a sales department, a company can improve its ability to quickly spot top and bottom performers, as well as, reduce the chances that sales issues at the customer level go undetected.

Customer-Focused Subscription Revenue Report Example

Here is an example of a Subscription Revenue by Customer.

Subscription Revenue by Customer Report Example

Subscription Revenue by Customer Report Example

You can find hundreds of additional examples here.

Who Uses This Type of Report?

The typical users of this type of report are: Sales Managers.

Other Reports Often Used in Conjunction with Customer-Focused Subscription Revenue Reports

Progressive Sales Departments sometimes use several different Customer-Focused Subscription Revenue Reports, along with subscription dashboards, detailed customer sales reports and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data typically comes from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems like: Binary Stream, Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365) Finance, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365 BC), Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics SL, Sage Intacct, Sage 100, Sage 300, Sage 500, Sage X3, SAP Business One, SAP ByDesign, Acumatica, Netsuite and others.

In analyses where budgets or forecasts are used, the planning data most often originates from in-house Excel spreadsheet models or from professional corporate performance management (CPM/EPM) solutions.

What Tools are Typically used for Reporting, Planning and Dashboards?

Examples of business software used with the data and ERPs mentioned above are:

  • Native ERP report writers and query tools
  • Spreadsheets (for example Microsoft Excel)
  • Corporate Performance Management (CPM) tools (for example Solver)
  • Dashboards (for example Microsoft Power BI and Tableau)

Corporate Performance Management (CPM) Cloud Solutions and More Examples

Subscription Revenue by Product Report Example

What is a Subscription Revenue by Product Report?

Subscription revenue reports with product detail are considered analysis tools and are often used by product managers and sales executives to review product performance. Key functionality in this type of report shows monthly subscription revenue per item. It also calculates average revenue per item as well as each product’s % of the average. The figures and the column chart are ranked from high to low performer. You will find an example of this type of report below.

Purpose of Subscription Revenue by Product Reports

Companies and organizations use Subscription Revenue by Product reports to track each item’s revenue for the current month. When used as part of good business practices in a sales department, a company can improve its ability to quickly spot top and bottom performers as well as reduce the chances that sales issues at the item level go undetected.

Subscription Revenue by Product Example

Here is an example of a Subscription Revenue by Product.

Subscription Revenue by Product Report Example

Subscription Revenue by Product Report Example

You can find hundreds of additional examples here.

Who Uses This Type of Report?

The typical users of this type of report are: Product Managers, Sales Managers.

Other Reports Often Used in Conjunction with Subscription Revenue by Product

Progressive Sales Departments sometimes use several different Subscription Revenue by Product, along with subscription dashboards, detailed product sales reports and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data typically comes from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems like: Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365) Finance, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365 BC), Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics SL, Sage Intacct, Sage 100, Sage 300, Sage 500, Sage X3, SAP Business One, SAP ByDesign, Acumatica, Netsuite and others.

In analyses where budgets or forecasts are used, the planning data most often originates from in-house Excel spreadsheet models or from professional corporate performance management (CPM/EPM) solutions.

What Tools are Typically used for Reporting, Planning and Dashboards?

Examples of business software used with the data and ERPs mentioned above are:

  • Native ERP report writers and query tools
  • Spreadsheets (for example Microsoft Excel)
  • Corporate Performance Management (CPM) tools (for example Solver)
  • Dashboards (for example Microsoft Power BI and Tableau)

Corporate Performance Management (CPM) Cloud Solutions and More Examples

Recurring Revenue and Churn Analysis Report Example

What is a Recurring Revenue and Churn Analysis Report?

Recurring revenue and churn analysis reports are considered subscription management tools and are often used by sales managers and accountants to track important customer and contract metrics. Key functionality in this type of report tracks trends and variances for Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR), new sales, upgrades, downgrades and churn. It also shows customer count at the beginning and end of the current period. Charts and traffic lights simplifies the analysis. You will find an example of this type of report below.

Purpose of Recurring Revenue and Churn Reports

Companies and organizations use Recurring Revenue and Churn Reports to keep a keen eye on how their MRR and the underlying drivers are trending. When used as part of good business practices in a sales and customer service department, a company can improve its managers’ ability to quickly track the performance of their subscription business, as well as, reduce the chances of losing valuable time if any opportunities or issues are discovered late.

Recurring Revenue and Churn Report Example

Here is an example of a Subscription Revenue Trend Report with MRR and churn analysis.

Recurring Revenue and Churn Analysis Report Example

Recurring Revenue and Churn Analysis Report Example

You can find hundreds of additional examples here.

Who Uses This Type of Report?

The typical users of this type of report are: Boards, Executive Teams, CFOs, Sales Managers, Customer Success Managers.

Other Reports Often Used in Conjunction with Recurring Revenue and Churn Reports

Progressive Sales and Customer Service Departments sometimes use several different Recurring Revenue and Churn Reports, along with subscription dashboards, detailed customer billing reports, deferred revenue reports and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data typically comes from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems like: Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365) Finance, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365 BC), Binary Stream, Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics SL, Sage Intacct, Sage 100, Sage 300, Sage 500, Sage X3, SAP Business One, SAP ByDesign, Acumatica, Netsuite and others.

In analyses where budgets or forecasts are used, the planning data most often originates from in-house Excel spreadsheet models or from professional corporate performance management (CPM/EPM) solutions.

What Tools are Typically used for Reporting, Planning and Dashboards?

Examples of business software used with the data and ERPs mentioned above are:

  • Native ERP report writers and query tools
  • Spreadsheets (for example Microsoft Excel)
  • Corporate Performance Management (CPM) tools (for example Solver)
  • Dashboards (for example Microsoft Power BI and Tableau)

Corporate Performance Management (CPM) Cloud Solutions and More Examples

Quarterly Trend Report for Subscription Revenue Example

What is a Quarterly Trend Report for Subscription Revenue?

Recurring revenue trend reports are considered key analysis tools and are often used by sales managers and executives to review multi-year growth trends for their subscription business. Key functionality in this type of report displays the past 8 quarters of recurring revenue by customer. Each quarterly column can be expanded to reveal the monthly detail behind it. The chart on top of the report shows the revenue trend by quarter.

Purpose of Multi-year Subscription Revenue Trend Reports

Companies and organizations use Multi-year Subscription Revenue Trend Reports to quickly get a big picture analysis of their recurring revenue by customer. When used as part of good business practices in a sales and customer service department, a company can improve its cash flow and related customer account planning, as well as, reduce the chances that managers low visibility to tracking individual customer contribution to revenue over time.

Multi-year Subscription Revenue Trend Report Example

Here is an example of an Eight Quarter Rolling Subscription Revenue trend report.

Quarterly Trend Report for Subscription Revenue Example

Quarterly Trend Report for Subscription Revenue Example

You can find hundreds of additional examples here.

Who Uses This Type of Report?

The typical users of this type of report are: Sales and Customer Service Managers, Account Managers.

Other Reports Often Used in Conjunction with Multi-year Subscription Revenue Trend Reports

Progressive sales and customer service Departments sometimes use several different Multi-year Subscription Revenue Trend Reports, along with subscription dashboards, detailed customer billing reports, deferred revenue reports and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data typically comes from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems like: Binary Stream, Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365) Finance, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365 BC), Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics SL, Sage Intacct, Sage 100, Sage 300, Sage 500, Sage X3, SAP Business One, SAP ByDesign, Acumatica, Netsuite and others.

In analyses where budgets or forecasts are used, the planning data most often originates from in-house Excel spreadsheet models or from professional corporate performance management (CPM/EPM) solutions.

What Tools are Typically used for Reporting, Planning and Dashboards?

Examples of business software used with the data and ERPs mentioned above are:

  • Native ERP report writers and query tools
  • Spreadsheets (for example Microsoft Excel)
  • Corporate Performance Management (CPM) tools (for example Solver)
  • Dashboards (for example Microsoft Power BI and Tableau)

Corporate Performance Management (CPM) Cloud Solutions and More Examples

Subscription Revenue Trend by Customer Report Example

What is a Subscription Revenue Trend by Customer Report?

Subscription revenue trend reports are considered essential for recurring revenue analysis and are often used by sales managers and accountants to review past or future monthly recurring revenue (MRR). Key functionality in this type of report shows selected customers in the rows and the MRR in the columns. In the example seen below, the Total column expands to display the past 48 individual months of MRR. The report can be run for any future or past month and will automatically present the prior 48 periods.

Purpose of Subscription Revenue Trend Reports

Companies and organizations use Subscription Revenue Trend Reports to easily see the month-by-month trend in MRR with customer detail. When used as part of good business practices in a sales and customer service department, a company can improve its cash flow planning, as well as, reduce the chances that managers have low visibility to individual customer contributions to MRR.

Subscription Revenue Trend Report Example

Here is an example of a Subscription Revenue Trend Report with a Total column that expands to see the 48 months of MRR by customer.

Subscription Revenue Trend by Customer Report Example

Subscription Revenue Trend by Customer Report Example

You can find hundreds of additional examples here.

Who Uses This Type of Report?

The typical users of this type of report are: Sales and Customer Service Managers, Account Managers.

Other Reports Often Used in Conjunction with Subscription Revenue Trend Reports

Progressive Sales and Customer Service Departments sometimes use several different Subscription Revenue Trend Reports, along with subscription dashboards, detailed customer billing reports, deferred revenue reports and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data typically comes from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems like: Binary Stream, Microsoft Dynamics 365 (D365) Finance, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365 BC), Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Microsoft Dynamics SL, Sage Intacct, Sage 100, Sage 300, Sage 500, Sage X3, SAP Business One, SAP ByDesign, Acumatica, Netsuite and others.

In analyses where budgets or forecasts are used, the planning data most often originates from in-house Excel spreadsheet models or from professional corporate performance management (CPM/EPM) solutions.

What Tools are Typically used for Reporting, Planning and Dashboards?

Examples of business software used with the data and ERPs mentioned above are:

  • Native ERP report writers and query tools
  • Spreadsheets (for example Microsoft Excel)
  • Corporate Performance Management (CPM) tools (for example Solver)
  • Dashboards (for example Microsoft Power BI and Tableau)

Corporate Performance Management (CPM) Cloud Solutions and More Examples

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.