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This article is going to tackle OLAP cubes as a solution concept for Business Intelligence processes, within the context of other BI data store options.

Let’s do it – let’s talk about OLAP cubes.  With the amount of data only growing, exponentially for some, Business Intelligence (BI) data stores are becoming more and more prevalent – and are sensible ways for modern organizations, companies, and corporations to access, store, and organize company data for financial reports, budgets, and dashboards, as well as financial consolidations.  Whether you’re relying on a data mart, data warehouse, or an OLAP cube, your data queries won’t slow down the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, and you can grab multiple types of data to enrich and broaden your analyses.  But this article will specifically zoom in on OLAP cubes.  Who manages them?  What are they? When do OLAP cubes come into play?  Where are they staged? Why would you choose an OLAP cube over another BI data store?
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In this article, I’ll explore what-if analytics and modeling functionality built into some of today’s budgeting software for planning that accounts for variables with Microsoft Dynamics.

Budgeting is a task that requires actual data, research, goal setting, and teamwork, and depending on your planning process, a lot can happen to change the course of your budget.  Thus, I would argue that besides historical actuals, there are enough variables in the context of financial planning for your company that makes budgeting a challenging task at times.

If you like to see some options and dynamically approach planning by being adaptable and exploratory with different outcomes, what-if analyses and modeling will allow you to do just that.  In this article, we’ll explore what-if planning and modeling functionality that comes with some modern budgeting tools for Microsoft Dynamics customers.

What is What-If Analysis? 

Basically, a what-if analysis boils down to the business end user altering the values in the cells of your budget spreadsheet to illustrate how certain changes can impact the results of your formulas.  Because a lot of companies are using Excel for budgeting, including Excel add-in planning software, we’ll talk in Excel terminology.  

For example, one term we will use is “scenario,” which is a set of values for your multiple what if analysis in excel. Users can design and save multiple sets of values on a worksheet and then substitute these scenarios into the financial plan to see the difference in outcomes. 

Another example would be if you would like to budget for your most ambitious goal setting, something in the middle, and the worst case scenario.  You can put together these three scenarios on the same spreadsheet and then, easily switch between them to see what thresholds you would need to cross to reach the results you established in your scenarios.

As we all know, budgeting is rarely a one-person responsibility, so people across the organization have to bring together actual figures and projections for the next period to set a financial plan.  If you have multiple people offering particular data in disparate spreadsheets that you’d like to utilize for scenarios, you can gather these workbooks and integrate their scenarios.  Some of the more modern solutions allow you to distribute password protected access rights, so that can smooth out collaboration and privacy concerns.  

Once you have configured and assembled all of the scenarios that you want, you can produce a summary statement that includes data from these scenarios.  This report showcases all of the scenario data in one table on a new spreadsheet.

Another Excel term that has to do with what-if analysis dashboards is a data table.  Data tables only work with one or two variables, but can include many different values for these variables. 

If you are employing a formula that has one or two variables – or even several formulas that all utilize the same variable, you can employ a data table to view all of the results in one space. 

In terms of business user friendliness, data tables are easy to understand and share because you are zooming in on only one or two variables.  While data tables are limited to just two variables, a data table can use as many different variable values as you need whereas scenarios cap out at 32 different values.  Additionally, if automated recalculation is set up for the workbook, the information in your data table recalculates automatically for fresh, real-time data.

How to Prepare for the Worst Case Scenario with What-If Analyses

What-if scenarios do have their potential drawbacks.  Because their purpose is to determine the risk and probability associated with the marketplace, evaluating past performance and projections for the future, there is a chance that the worst case scenario can happen because of the way the variables roll out in the business world.  

The worst case scenario can more or less occur even though a what-if analysis establishes that outcome as an outlier – and can you tolerate that result?  One way to be more prepared and aware of the variety of results is to do a random factor analysis, running thousands of independent trials with your software to randomly assign values to your factors. You may be wondering how to do a factor analysis in excel? The most prevalent kind of random factor analysis is called a Monte Carlo analysis, which randomly assigns factor values from a data set configured for the variable’s specific probability distribution.

Historical actuals help decision-makers understand past performance with straightforward simplicity, but revenue and expenses from last year have no influence on future performance, risk or return.  Therefore, what-if analyses can model multiple ways that your future can play out, so you can prepare to meet your own informed goals, objectives, and plans for the year.  Luckily, Microsoft Dynamics customers have a lot of options in terms of planning software.

What-if analyses and modeling are just pieces of the pie in regard to budgeting – and now couldn’t be a better time to start considering a modern, powerful budgeting tool.  While most companies are relying on homegrown processes in Excel or Microsoft’s mature budgeting offering, Forecaster, independent software vendor (ISV) products are becoming more prevalent in finance departments around the world.  Simply, this is due to the consumer-driven features and functionalities in third party offerings that provide an easy-to-use, secure, and collaborative planning for business end users.   You should consider several things, so you can pick the right solution for your planning needs.

When looking at third party software for what-if analysis dashboards, you’ll want to choose the best platform for your team. To make the best decision first evaluate the following: 

  • How secure the program is for powerful collaboration
  • Ability to fully integrate the software 
  • Comprehensive suite of BI tools
  • User friendliness of the product for your colleagues to utilize

You will also want to make sure that the tool comes with important functionality, like what-if analytics, modeling, multiple year budgets and rolling forecasts, etc.  You have a lot to consider, but budgeting as a corporate task is worth your time, money, and energy to find the premier software that can take your planning processes to the next level.  

Contact Solver for What-If Analysis Resources 

Solver offers an Excel- and Web-based budgeting module stand-alone and as part of the comprehensive suite of BI modules and would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Planning solution for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities, like what-if analyses and modeling, with Microsoft Dynamics.

This article will discuss the details of the Business Intelligence technology event of the summer, #BI360Focus15, hosted August 25th-27th, 2015 by Solver, Inc. in Marina del Rey, California.

Man, times flies, doesn’t it?  Microsoft Convergence, Intacct and Acumatica events were only a short while ago, yet seem like so far back, especially because of the work the conferences set in motion, the new collaborations, and other Business Intelligence (BI) events that have taken place in the meantime.  User conferences for Sage and SAP Business One are also coming up very soon.  Just like that, it is officially summer, and our calendars begin to fill up with meetings, events, family vacations, planning sessions for the second half of 2015, etc.  As we all start to solidify our itineraries for the summer, this article will discuss the premier BI event of the season, BI360 Focus 2015, Solver’s annual partner and user conference.  As a second time attendee of BI360 Focus, I will share the insights I gained from last year – and the inside scoop on what to expect this year.
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In this article, project budgeting, forecasting, and modelling will be at the center of the discussion, specifically third party planning tools to improve your Microsoft Dynamics SL experience.

I’m sure you can agree that financial planning is such a necessary aspect of performance management in today’s business world.  The quality of your budgeting and forecasting tasks can sometimes be the difference between life and death for businesses, especially when you think about the 2008 recession.  Organization-wide planning responsibilities are typically regular and almost always entail a number of pieces bringing together actual transactional numbers and projected figures for the planning period.  However, sometimes a company or a project manager has to budget and/or forecast for a project or specific task.  If you are a consultant tracking and billing your hours to a client, a project manager managing multiple projects, or a freelance professional putting together a bid for a gig, project budgeting is undoubtedly a term you’re quite familiar with in your position.
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In this article, cash flow budgeting and forecasting will take center stage, with a spotlight on why this particular planning process is helpful to CFOs and companies in today’s business culture.

This blog has covered different aspects of financial planning for different enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and different industries.  Cash flow budgeting and forecasting are a couple of processes that zoom in on your actual cash money, specifically in terms of payments going out for payroll and debtors and the cash coming in from customers.  In other words, a cash flow budget showcases a company’s monthly capital requirement.  And unlike the more traditional operational and transactional budgeting, cash flow budgets are a little bit more complex because there are more unknown figures to calculate and analyze.  This article will zoom in on the process, so you can understand more about the ins and outs, as well as the benefits for your company.
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This article will discuss the topic of security in the Cloud and web-based technology world, specifically for modern, powerful Business Intelligence software.

It seems like a truly endless list of elements to consider when shopping for the best Business Intelligence (BI) software to help you achieve dynamic analytics.  However, as technology in general moves to the Cloud and/or web-based platforms, with BI tools following suit, one aspect has always stood out as a leading concern for consumer.  This concern has relaxed over time, but security seems like a sensible question mark because we have traditionally worked with platforms that we can manage on-premises.  And while security is still an issue with on-premises solutions, perhaps the tangibility and possession of the solution makes us feel more comfortable – or maybe it’s just the newness of Cloud computing and web-based technology.  This article will approach the topic of security head on, specifically with a focus on Cloud and web-based BI solutions.
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This article will take a look at Management Reporter as a financial report writing tool, in terms of the investment you will make implementing and managing the product, in comparison to other solutions.

As with pretty much all Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, Microsoft Dynamics has a number of reporting options for their ERP customers from native report writers in Dynamics AX, NAV, GP, and SL to SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) to Management Reporter.  This blog article will zoom in on Management Reporter as a Microsoft offering designed to solve financial reporting “problems” – and knowing how to evaluate your specific needs and to know if Management Reporter will help you to achieve your Business Intelligence (BI) goals.
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This article will discuss the intricacies of deploying financial reporting and budgeting solutions in the Cloud for more modern and flexible data management and analysis with Microsoft Dynamics.

Web-based reporting and budgeting, with Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, are becoming more and more important for Microsoft Dynamics users, but for some, the whole concept might still seem a little bit confusing in regard to deployment, security, and functionality.  I understand this uncertainty.  Even though it seems pretty straightforward and is picking up momentum, we’re used to hosting our technology on premises, so we don’t have the hands-on experience of Cloud computing.  You probably have questions of access, cost, management, and security, which can be overwhelming.  Regardless, as Microsoft Dynamics customers, you have some powerful Business Intelligence (BI) options, and it will only give you a head start to know about the available solutions.  In this article, I will explore Cloud-based financial reporting and budgeting and some of the solutions for Microsoft Dynamics.
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This article will discuss accelerated, streamlined ways to organize your data in modern multi-tab reports with powerful third party financial reporting tools, like BI360.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Senior Consultant at Solver, Stephanie Gamber, after her popular session at the Annual BI360 User Conference, Focus 2014.  Gamber presented on the topic of multi-tab Excel reports, an extremely relevant activity to accountants and CFOs as corporations grow in locations, divisions, or departments.  The traditional way of building multi-tab Excel reports can be nearly unmanageable or inaccessible based on the vast size, depending on the number and/or type of tabs that you might employ to break down your data for different analytics.  This article will zoom in on the limitations of traditional multi-tab reporting and the powerful options you have for more streamlined financial statement generation.
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This article will explore your options for budgeting and forecasting solutions to accelerate your Microsoft Dynamics AX, NAV, SL and GP experience with heightened planning capabilities.

Budgeting and/or forecasting within any company involves multiple players contributing research and actual financials to put together an informed plan for how the company expects to manage their money in the next (or the rest of the) fiscal year.  For Microsoft Dynamics users, there are plenty of solutions to boost your organizational budgeting, whether you go with a process you build yourself, a native functionality within Dynamics, or a third party product.  This article will discuss modern budgeting and forecasting functionalities in the context of your options for Microsoft Dynamics.
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