The importance of training is more than just the obvious. BI360 users will often say, “I don’t know how to use BI360, so let me take a training class.” Structured training is about the best way to learn how to use and become more efficient with BI360. As Solver’s Training Manager with over 15 years of training experience (two of those with our tool), I say this to everyone – never stop learning!
The week is finally here where we gather around the table and share a delicious Thanksgiving meal with our loved ones. As much as we enjoy the good food, family time, and days off from work, organizing and hosting this special dinner can be a daunting task. Similar to the process of creating effective reports and dashboards that help your business, planning a Thanksgiving dinner requires thorough research and specific BI features that make the process easy and enjoyable for everyone.
This blog will explore the parallels between the process used to plan a Thanksgiving meal in the modern age and the latest in BI tools for Corporate Performance Management (CPM), (i.e. financial reporting, budgeting, dashboards, and data management).
Let’s start at the beginning. A few weeks ago, like many of you, I decided to start planning out my Thanksgiving dinner. Knowing that my younger brother has a sweet tooth, but my dad prefers savory entrees and side dishes, I sent out a Google spreadsheet to find out what everyone wanted to eat. Given that we live in different cities, I asked each family member to fill in his or her favorite dishes into the spreadsheet. The results were a little messy to say the least.
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.
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.
What happened to the vision of the easy, self-service, one-stop shop business intelligence (BI) capabilities that countless companies across the world have been seeking? After years of investing in new ERP systems, including cloud-based solutions, home-grown data warehouses and even sexy, new dashboard tools, the vast majority of companies are far from BI Nirvana.
The sad truth is that most organizations I talk to have 5 to 7 different reporting tools between their ERP solution, CRM, Payroll, Web site data and other systems. It does not make it better that more than 90% of them do all- or a majority of their budgeting and forecasting processes in manual Excel sheets. Oh, and then the sales team or certain other departments have sometimes implemented an analytics tool to provide them with dashboards and easy ad-hoc analysis. This will often fix short term pain, but it will not take you to BI Nirvana. In some organizations, the IT department has spent a year or more to build a so-called “enterprise data warehouse”, often with only some of their data sources included, such as General Ledger data and Sales data, and most of the time with IT-dependent report writers, OLAP cubes or pivot tables as the only means of reporting on the data.
So, what is the status of companies’ BI capabilities as of today? The bad news is that it is far from the BI Nirvana that managers have been dreaming about for years now after watching slick demos from one BI software vendor after another. But, the good news is that things are getting better. You only need to step back and compare your BI capabilities today with what they may have been in 2005, 1995 or, if you were even around in….1985. Chances are that your information workers now have more and better reporting tools available to them. Of course, today you have more data sources than ever, and market dynamics change faster than at any time in history. So, somewhere along the way, business users took matters into their own hands and the result was that…..Excel became the world’s most popular report writer and budgeting solution. But, although Excel is quite user friendly, extremely flexible and familiar to almost every business user on the planet, it was never meant to be an enterprise-wide BI tool. So, how do one get to this utopian place called BI Nirvana? You might need “a little help from my friends” as Joe Cocker sang in his popular rendition of the original Beatles song. In other words, do your homework, talk to your friends both inside and outside your company and educate yourself. Although every organization should stake out their own BI journey based on their needs, available data sources, internal talent, platform strategies (i.e. database type, cloud versus on premise, etc.) and more, a few things seem to fall into a common formula for BI success:
1) Strive for a single BI solution that covers all or most of these: Reporting (financial and operational), budgeting and forecasting, dashboards/analysis and data warehousing. If some key functionality is not covered by the BI suite you select, then make sure it integrates directly with a powerful 3rd party add-on for whatever functionality is missing in the suite. The last thing you need are more reporting tools in your company….so make sure the BI suite eliminates or reduces the need for your other tools.
2) Don’t ignore the power, flexibility and familiarity of Excel. But it should not be a manual Excel model, it should be an Excel add-in that allows you to build reports and input forms that dynamically retrieves and even saves data to a database. Oh, and it should be web-enabled or be able to convert the Excel templates to dynamic, browser-based templates for easy end-user access.
3) Repeat after me: “I promise not to implement more proprietary BI tools with unfamiliar user interfaces and that also may require all my end users to install client software or use Terminal Server or Citrix to access a remote desktop”. Using cloud, hosted or on premise architecture is not the most critical question. What you need to empower your growing number of end users that are seeking BI Nirvana is a single, self-service, web-based BI portal where each user can run reports and drill down to answer their questions without bothering IT or the accounting department, they can enter their budgets and they can discover trends and answer Who? Where? What? questions in interactive dashboards.
4) Finally, and this is a no-brainer….your BI capabilities are only as good as the data available in your BI suite. So, if you don’t have a well-functioning data warehouse yet to give you that sought-after, single version of the truth, start planning for one. You are going to need it if you want to get to BI Nirvana. It is an exciting road ahead for organizations seeking a competitive edge through BI excellence, even if you meet a few bumps along the way. Vendors like Solver with its BI360 solution as well as several other software providers with modern BI suites are continuously investing to help companies’ BI visions come true. Good luck on your journey!
In just a few weeks, from August 22 – 25, 2016, the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines in San Diego, CA will become the focal point where hundreds of BI360 Partners and Customers will gather to learn about one of the top full service business intelligence suites and corporate performance management (CPM) products on the market.
Determining which sessions and activities to attend at this year’s conference can be mind-blowing, making your head spin with all of the possibilities. To help you pinpoint key sessions and things to do at the event, check out my guide to this year’s conference.
This article discusses the significance of automated payroll budgeting. Ever wonder how your company handles payroll planning? I do. It is important to know how your organization budgets payroll because it is typically large part of your company’s master budget. Payroll can be a complicated process for employers. To get a better understanding, let’s define […]
This article focuses on the difference between Excel-based and Web-based budgeting tools.
Choosing the right budgeting tool is extremely important for a growing company. Many financial companies use homegrown Microsoft Excel models extensively in their budgeting, but there are some limitations that are inherent in the application. I admit Excel is a great tool for modeling and analysis, but it is not the best tool to use for budgeting. Software companies are developing commercial budgeting tools that are Excel-based and Web-based to stay familiar with the features and functionalities that most professionals are accustomed to. In this article, we will explore the advantages and the drawbacks of both Excel-based and Web-based budgeting tools that organizations experience. This article is the third installment of our series on budgeting: Excel-based Budgeting Tools Versus Web-based Budgeting Tools.
This article will touch on the basics of budgeting with your ERP system.
The process of investing in a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software can be a daunting task. Where do you start? Do you find reviews online and hope they are in line with your company’s needs and goals? Let me break it down for you. We’ll explore the basics of ERP from software pricing to ERP utilization with third party budgeting solutions.
This article focuses on consolidating finances from multi-entity companies. Nobody likes growing pains, but every company wants to grow. Growing pains are symptoms that an organization needs to make a transition. It is the nature of business. There is a way to alleviate these pains through automated consolidation of your company’s budget. Budget consolidation, just like […]