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Does your accounting and finance department waste valuable time with manual monthly reporting tools? Do you have too many Excel spreadsheets to keep track of? Is your budget process slow and painful? With Corporate Performance Management (CPM) software you can lead a transformation of the office of finance in your business – and as a result help enable your management teams with faster and better decisions.

In this blog, we will look at the benefits of CPM software and how it can transform your business.

What Is CPM Software?

Modern Corporate Performance Management software uses cloud platforms that enable a single version of the truth with automated and self-service financial and operational reporting. It also manages the entire budget process as well as forecasting tasks that drive more accurate year-end estimates. Using CPM software enables process improvements, reduces mistakes, minimizes dependency on manual spreadsheets, and speeds up analysis. 

CPM software also enhances and extends the reporting and planning capabilities of ERP systems. While popular ERP solutions from vendors like Microsoft, Sage, SAP, and Acumatica always offer basic financial reporting and budgeting functionality, customers typically grow out of these tools. They then either end up with manual Excel spreadsheet models or they bolt a CPM solution on top of their ERP system to make sure their teams have best-of-breed solutions both for accounting needs as well as planning and reporting.

From Excel challenges to reporting hero

Spreadsheets Are Flexible, but….

Most companies, nonprofits, and government organizations are still relying on manual Excel spreadsheets in various areas of their reporting and planning processes. Chances are that you are too!

Below are some of the typical issues with spreadsheets. The resulting pain can go from overworked staff that quits to finance managers that get fired because of inaccuracies or direct negative impact on a company’s ability to drive efficiencies and to grow: 

  • Inaccurate output due to formula mistakes
  • Broken or outdated links to data sources or other files
  • Lack of efficient collaboration, multiple users cannot access and update files simultaneously
  • Insufficient controls with no approval process or workflow due to the nature of Excel files
  • No real-time reporting during budgeting and forecasting process to assess progress or catch errors
  • Inability to dynamically refresh models with the latest actuals 
  • No audit trail to track when individual changes were made
  • Lack of documentation and support due to proprietary models
  • Dependency on Excel gurus to fix issues or make changes
  • Slow monthly reporting process
  • Slow budget and forecast processes
  • And more…

Challenges with Excel reporting and budgeting

However, despite the potential issues of relying too much on spreadsheets for your financial reporting and planning, they also have many advantages, such as: 

  • Almost all financial staff are familiar with Excel
  • Spreadsheets are incredibly flexible and have great graphics and layout capabilities
  • Models can be designed quickly to solve various information needs

As a result, many organizations rely on CPM tools as their core reporting and budgeting solution and supplement with Excel models for various ad-hoc tasks that are not worthwhile to design into the CPM solution.

Where does CPM Software fit in?

So, which tasks are most suitable for Corporate Performance Management software? CPM solutions take you beyond Excel models and enable a business to build a reporting and planning platform that drives efficiency, enables faster and more reliable information, and provides a tool that can scale with the growth of an organization. With CPM software, financial professionals can:

  • Gain the organization-wide visibility needed to effectively monitor and measure performance
  • Easily combine data from the ERP system as well as other key information sources
  • Enable a collaborative, secure cloud platform for reporting and planning
  • Automate repetitive tasks in the budgeting and reporting processes
  • Quickly generate forecasts and create what-if scenarios during times of uncertainty
  • Manage cash flows to predict future needs and ensure solvency
  • Give users a self-service, on-demand platform, with tools tailored to their specific role
  • Improve data accuracy with strong controls and reconciliation tools
  • Shorten the cost and time for tasks such as annual budgeting and monthly reporting 
  • Gain better prediction through efficient driver-based models that can be quickly updated
  • Simplify multi-company consolidations, including eliminations and currency conversion
  • Enable the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning
  • Drive faster and better decisions with a single version of the truth
  • And so much more

As companies grow out of Excel spreadsheets for essential financial and planning processes, they can deploy CPM platforms to streamline budgeting, forecasting, financial reporting, and consolidations processes. It should be noted that some of the leading CPM solutions are popular among finance users exactly because they tightly integrate with Excel. This can be thought of as an architecture that takes the best of Excel and the best of a cloud platform and marries the two.

With automation also comes the opportunity to reduce the cost of manual labor and increase accuracy and the time it takes to deliver essential information to decision-makers. What used to take weeks or months with spreadsheets can be reduced to days or hours with modern cloud-based CPM solutions. 

Benefits of CPM Software

A popular notion in recent years is that data is the new gold. While homegrown spreadsheet models can burst at the seams if you try to store too much data, it also quickly turns into a security risk. 

Corporate Performance Management software significantly eliminates these problems by using scalable cloud databases to store data, including from many different data sources. Detailed, menu-driven user administration with single sign-on and multi-factor authentication ensures that reports and budgets are only accessible to the right team members and for the assigned business areas.

As the number of data sources and the actual transaction volume grow, the complexity in spreadsheet models grows exponentially. Similarly, as the number of end users entering data and sharing Excel files grows, formula errors and data entry mistakes become rampant. 

CPM platforms eliminate or significantly reduce such issues by connecting directly to the APIs of your data sources to load historical data on a scheduled basis, enabling power users to deploy (and update!) dashboards, financial reports, and budget models directly to end users in their web browsers.

As a result of the process and quality improvements to planning and reporting activities, the migration from spreadsheet models to a CPM platform will, in a clear and visible way, drive faster and more informed financial and operational decisions.

With modern, cloud-based CPM software you and your staff can focus more on managing the business and stop spending time maintaining complex spreadsheet models. A popular statement related to benefits of CPM platforms is that you will go from spending 80% of your time managing spreadsheets and data and leaving only 20% of your time for analysis, to spending 20% of your time on managing your CPM solution and 80% of your time will be available for analysis.

CPM as an Integrated Cloud Platform

Corporate Performance Management software started becoming popular in the 1990s. The software category matured and a number of CPM offerings for smaller, midsize, and enterprise organizations arrived between 2000 and 2020. Many of these solutions were originally built for on-premises deployment, and they could also be hosted as individual instances in third-party server farms, often referred to as hosting providers.

From 2020 and onward, all modern CPM vendors have built or re-written their solutions to be public cloud, multi-tenant solutions hosted and updated by the vendors themselves. 

Somewhat tedious annual upgrades or patches done by consultants or your IT department have been replaced by automated monthly cloud updates that arrive in your browser with new features and improvements next time you log in. 

In a similar fashion, what used to be a significant upfront purchase followed by annual maintenance fees now have become cloud subscriptions with a once-a-year renewal. Beyond pricing and automated, frequent updates there are other benefits with modern, cloud-based CPM software, such as pre-built connectors to your data sources and marketplaces with pre-built reports, dashboards, and budget templates. 

Combined with the complete elimination of the need to buy and maintain local hardware servers with related electricity costs and database licenses, ROI calculations (free tool here) show that cloud CPM solutions provide significantly better return on investments than the classic on-premises offerings, and they are easier for vendors to support than thousands of local installations at customers’ offices. 

Typical CPM architecture

Rapid CPM Deployment Drives Quick Time to Value

Top CPM vendors have taken the CPM experience to the next level by innovating the initial deployment experience to offer almost immediate use of their product. Two such innovation examples are Solver’s QuickStart and Template Marketplace.  

The underlying technology uses pre-built data source connectors, setup wizards and ready-to-use reports, dashboards, and budget forms to enable as quick as single-day mini-implementations that later can be expanded with custom report writing and other tailoring. That is a vastly quicker time-to-value than classic implementations where you start with an empty CPM box and it often takes 2-3 months of implementation before you get practical use of your new system. 

Here are some important functionality trends and best practices delivered by modern CPM providers:

PRE-BUILT INTEGRATIONS TO ERPS AND OTHER DATA SOURCES

Integrating your transaction data sources to a CPM solution can be a tedious task, often with technical integration consultants involved for days if not weeks. However, with many CPM vendors partnering up with ERP firms, it is increasingly normal that CPM vendors create specific integrations to each popular ERP system, sometimes even with the fields in each system coming pre-mapped. 

 MARKETPLACES WITH OUT-OF-THE BOX TEMPLATES

In the old days, CPM solutions were sold as empty boxes and implementations started from scratch with no budget forms, reports, or dashboards. Nowadays, CPM vendors have realized that customers want quick time to value, and as a result the trend is toward in-app marketplaces where users with a few clicks can select and download templates for immediate use. These templates are typically modifiable so users can change colors, add columns, etc. to tailor them to corporate standards.

SELF-PACED ONLINE TRAINING ACADEMIES

Pre-COVID it was still relatively normal to have physical in-class training to learn a new enterprise software. However, with modern training portals, most vendors now offer self-paced academies where users can learn the CPM software through videos and tutorials and earn certifications from the comfort of their own home.

CRAWL-WALK-RUN

Lengthy big-bang implementations were the standard of CPM projects in the past. It led to higher-risk projects as numerous architectural decisions had to be made, often with required input from users who still did not fully understand how the system would work with their own data. 

With modern rapid deployment options, users can almost immediately start using standard reports, dashboards, and budget forms, which significantly enhances their ability to make smart and informed decisions for later tailoring and expansion of the system. This approach is often described with popular terms such as crawl-walk-run, quick win, MVP (minimum viable product), or rapid deployment.

MAKE BETTER DECISIONS

While a primary goal for CPM software is to automate financial reporting and planning processes, even more important is how it will support faster and better decisions. Timely information available in the right format and to the right manager can have a direct impact on the company’s top and bottom line, whether it drives revenue maximization or cost control. 

Furthermore, and especially during uncertain times, the planning capabilities often become the core value of a corporate performance platform, allowing users to quickly modify drivers and create new budget and forecast scenarios that managers can use for their human capital planning and other essential strategies and tactics. 

The key is to use the CPM solution to free up time for analysis and decisions by automating otherwise tedious data collection, consolidation, reconciliation, and presentation preparation. 

Is Now the Time for Integrated Financial Planning and Reporting With CPM?

One of the key benefits of modern Corporate Performance Management solutions is to streamline planning and reporting processes and at the same time enable your business with a secure cloud platform that consistently produces one version of the truth compared to what you can do with homegrown spreadsheet models, multiple report writers, etc. So, if you have arrived at this conclusion, what are the typical next steps?

  1. Document What Constitutes Success

Meet with executive sponsors and key users to document the desired business outcomes of the CPM project from their point of view. These should be presented to the CPM vendors you are going to evaluate to ensure that they feel comfortable that their solution can deliver these outcomes. The outcomes should also be brought up during and at the end of the project to ensure alignment. 

  • Create a list of open-ended questions
  • Interview executives and key users
  • Reconcile answers and document them in a clear bullet point format  
  1. Define Your Needs

By creating a clearly defined list of your planning and reporting needs and pains, you will be able to communicate relevant requirements to the CPM vendor when the evaluation process starts.

  • Document current as well as desired planning and reporting processes
  • Document the data sources that will be feeding the CPM system  
  • Quantify time currently spent on such processes
  • Describe critical and required functionality 
  • Estimate cost of inefficiencies and inaccurate data
  1. Select the CPM Solution With the Best Fit

The good news is that a number of good Corporate Performance Management solutions are on the market. Usually these are optimized for smaller, medium, and large organizations, and pricing and complexity are closely related to your company size and user count. Here are suggested steps to help find the best CPM solution for your needs:

  • Make final selection with input from users and any third-party experts

You can use this CPM software vendor comparison and ROI tool to assist you in finding the best CPM solution for your needs.

  1. Implementation and Go Live

Even the best software can be implemented poorly, resulting in a subpar outcome. For this reason, you want to carefully verify that consultants and your own team that will be helping with the implementations have the right experience and track record. 

  • Define the joint consultant/employee implementation team.
  • Create a good project plan with clearly defined phases, timelines, and responsible person(s).
  • Be willing to think new based on functionality in the chosen CPM platform (i.e., “square peg in a square hole”) as well as suggestions to make improvements over your old planning and reporting models.
  • Identify areas that can deliver quick wins that enable part of the solution to be used right away. This can often be achieved with pre-built connectors and out-of-the-box or sample templates from the vendor.
  • Communicate well and often and encourage the team to drive innovation and improvements.

With proper planning and execution, you have a high likelihood that your new CPM solution will help take your organization to the next level. Your finance and accounting team will spend less time maintaining old models and have more time for analysis and decision-making.

 

If this is the right time for you to look at a CPM solution, take a look at the Solver tour and contact our team at any time to tell us about your needs. With Solver’s QuickStart integrations and pre-built templates, you could be on your way in as little as one day!

 

There is a reason Microsoft Excel, among its many merits, is generally recognized as the world’s most popular reporting tool. Three of the top reasons are:

  • It is easy
  • It is familiar to most business users
  • It is “free” (if you already own an Excel license)

However, Excel also has many downsides, especially when it comes to reporting on financial data…

  • Poor user security
  • No database to manage large amounts of data
  • Not truly a multi-user cloud tool built for reporting
  • Models get complex and hard to maintain

This love/hate relationship with Excel and the typical one (to several) days of training that most professional financial report writers require are two of the key reasons that companies increasingly ask ERP and reporting software vendors this question: “How easy is it to learn how to write reports?”

Of course, complex, formatted reports like Cash Flow Statements and certain other financial report layouts will likely always take a certain training and skill level to produce in most reporting tools. In other words, there does not seem to be one solution that offers the best of all worlds when it comes to reporting.

The Difference Between Financial Report Writers and Ad Hoc Reporting Tools

If all power users and end users of reports had time to learn a new reporting technology and there was enough time to design reports whenever they needed to answer various business questions, then the world would be fine with classic report writers. These have a lot of flexibility, financial functions, and strong formatting to deliver presentation-quality reports. However, most of the time, a user just needs to check some data or quickly answer a question. Examples of such questions are:

  • How can I see an account-by-account report with all key GL fields and a balance check?
  • What is the balance on account 4510 for each month so far this year?
  • How much did Lisa sell in May?

With full-fledged report writers, any of the above would typically require knowledge of the source fields, training on the reporting tool, and possibly several hours of report design work. With modern ad hoc reporting tools like Solver’s Ad Hoc Reporting, any user that has been provided access to the data can build reports in a few minutes and with minimal skills. They can also save their reports for reuse next time they or their peers have a similar business question. In other words, ad hoc reporting tools are perfectly complementary to full-blown report writers, with each one serving different needs.

Ad hoc vs formatted report writers

 

How do I give my end users both advanced formatted reports and let them build their own?

Certain corporate performance management (CPM) vendors like Solver handle this by giving the user three options for their reporting needs:

  • Any user: Use Ad Hoc Reporting to design reports and answer questions on the fly
  • Any user (no training): Pre-built report, budget and dashboard templates downloaded from a Marketplace
  • Power user: Excel-based report designer with multi-tenant cloud architecture

In other words, professional, presentation-quality reports built by power users go hand-in-hand with ad hoc reports that any end users can design whenever they have questions they need answered.

How Can Ad Hoc Reporting Also Help When You Migrate to a New ERP?

As large numbers of companies plan to migrate, or have migrated, their legacy accounting solutions from on-premises servers to the cloud, they not only have to review core ERP functionality to make sure it meets their current and future needs, they also have to review the tools they will use for reporting, planning, and analysis. Usually, native ERP report writers are not great at either ad hoc reports or professional formatted reports, and customers therefore do one of two things:

  • Export data to Excel and take care of any needed reporting in manual spreadsheets. This has both the benefits and the limitations discussed at the beginning of this blog.
  • Purchase a best-of-breed reporting and/or CPM solution. This category includes cloud vendors like Solver with scalable platforms that offer both ad hoc reporting and formatted reporting, plus consolidations, budgeting, forecasting, and integrated Power BI dashboards.

A side benefit of good ad hoc reporting tools is that they can be a strong help for ERP implementation users to create reports on the fly as a check for the data they are loading into the new ERP system. This will also give them a flying start to get basic reports up and running while power users design fully formatted financial and operational reports.

How Much Training Will It Take to Learn Ad Hoc Reporting?

If it takes more than 10-15 minutes of video-based training to learn an ad hoc reporting tool, it should probably not be called ad hoc reporting. One of the key value-adds of this kind of user experience is that pretty much any user with any background should be able to quickly learn the tool, so they can benefit from almost-immediate answers to their data questions.

Because it should be a low training threshold and quick time to value for each user, any of these three types of training categories should do the trick:

  • Learn from trial and error
  • Learn from videos
  • Learn from a peer

Either way, a good ad hoc reporting tool should have a high return on investment for a company because it will require minimal training, and users can get their questions answered near real time and without having to ask for help from their accounting staff or report writer super users.

Summary

As reporting technologies evolve, we will likely see most modern cloud vendors offer both professional formatted reporting as well as ad hoc reporting, and therefore limit the need for users to export data to manual Excel files to get their business questions answered. In the 2020s and post-COVID work-from-home era, companies that enable their users to make faster and better decisions will be at a strong competitive advantage.

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

Cloud-based ERP systems and Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solutions are two directly related business applications experiencing rapid growth in the 2020s. In part because companies and organizations seek to automate the Office of Finance and help their managers make faster and better decisions.

Replacing legacy ERPs and old, home-grown Excel reporting and budgeting models, however, takes both time and money. Especially for smaller and mid-sized businesses, this investment can delay their migration to the Dynamics 365 Finance (D365 Finance) cloud ERP for several years.

To aid a customer’s move to the cloud, companies like Microsoft and their key ERP implementation partners have developed various cloud migration tools and processes to ease the pain. At the same time, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), or ERP add-ons as they are often called, have been busy at work over the past few years creating cloud-based bolt-on or add-in solutions that help automate specific areas that compliment D365 Finance and maximize the return on investment (ROI) for its customers. Solver is an example of such an ISV with a best-of-breed corporate performance management (CPM) solution that comes pre-integrated to Dynamics 365 Finance.

The rest of this blog will focus on how new cloud technologies enable Dynamics 365 customers to automate their planning, reporting and analyses using modern CPM functionality at a lower cost and with much quicker time to value than what has been available in previous years.

Why Use Best-of-Breed CPM to Compliment the Native Planning and Reporting Tools in Dynamics 365 Finance?

Like most ERPs, D365 Finance includes basic reporting, budgeting and dashboard functionality. Much like other leading ERPs, such as Sage Intacct, Netsuite and Acumatica, packing these three core feature sets into an ERP application and its corresponding database tables means that a lot of compromises have been made. Some of these shortcomings include lack of modeling, minimal workflow for approvals, inflexible input form design, weak formula capabilities, and lack of tables for detailed sub-ledger budgeting. In short, that is why the best-of-breed CPM software segment exists and the reason it is growing at a healthy clip.

From a user perspective, many of the smaller Dynamics 365 customers don’t have or don’t want to spend funds on additional business software applications that provide the advanced report formatting, consolidations, budgeting and forecasting they need for business oversight. As a result, Excel is typically used as a “do it yourself” band aid and it remains the world’s most popular reporting and planning tool. What normally happens is that customers will export data to Excel to build much-needed custom models specific to their businesses.

However, innovations in affordable, rapid deployment and out-of-the box templates from leading CPM cloud vendors have put top notch CPM functionality well within reach for most organizations to use. In fact, here is a showcase that displays more than 500 examples of budgeting, forecasting, reporting and dashboard layouts. This gives you an idea of the breadth and depth of features professional CPM tools like Solver offer to deliver world-class planning and analysis processes that drive better, faster business decisions. You can also find ideas for data visualization from the powerful dashboard functionality available when you connect Microsoft’s Power BI tool to a best-of-breed CPM solution that combines your Dynamics 365 Finance data with planning data and other important information sources. Learn more by checking out these interactive dashboards.

When it comes to supporting a user’s graphical analysis needs, many Dynamics 365 Finance customers also rely on Excel. Why? Because they already own it and know how to use the product. Not to mention that the spreadsheet interface is easy and flexible for building and maintaining the underlying calculations and charts. There is, however, a rapidly growing demand for cloud-based, best-of-breed CPM tools that integrate deeply with both Dynamics 365 and Power BI for a dynamic and secure user experience that delivers rich, interactive charting and drill-down for real-time, self-service reporting and analysis process.

How to Pick the Right CPM Solution for Dynamics 365 Finance

Traditionally, the top CPM solutions–found on user feedback websites like G2 and in analyst reports from firms like Dresner Advisory Services–can handle most organizations’ reporting and planning needs. However, when it comes to integration capabilities, data modeling and template design, there can be a big difference in time to value, amount of effort required to implement and cost.

While popular CPM tools may look similar in capabilities, some go much further than others in simplifying the ERP integration and in delivering rapid return on investment (ROI) with template-driven implementations. These other components include:

  • Pre-built and pre-mapped integration to Dynamics 365 Finance that works out-of-the box with a few clicks and without the need to manually set up endpoints in the D365 API nor manually map dimension and transaction fields to the CPM solution.
  • Financial reporting templates like profit & loss reports and balance sheets that can be downloaded from the vendor’s marketplace and that immediately work without having to edit accounts and other formulas.
  • Budgeting and forecasting templates with pre-defined versions and top-down and bottom-up input options.
  • Dashboards templates with trends, variances and other analyses. As with the reporting and planning templates, these should work out-of-the-box without the need to manipulate Power BI’s DAX formulas (i.e., underlying formula language).

We will not go into details in this blog but, if you want some ideas, this document highlights key areas to look at, while this interactive tool provides a simple way to compare and score vendors, and includes an ROI calculator to analyze the cost and benefit of alternative tools versus your current solution.

In short, progressive executive and finance teams of the 2020s want flexible financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting functionality closely integrated with Dynamics 365 Finance that provides quick time to value.

What Is Considered a Quick Start with a CPM Solution?

Most Microsoft Dynamics customers want their connected apps, including CPM tools and dashboards, to be Azure cloud based. Key questions that quickly come up include: How hard is it to integrate to the ERP? How much cost and effort does it take to get up and running?

The typical answer: Weeks or months of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in services. However, Microsoft Dynamics ISV software partners, like Solver, that work very closely with the Dynamics 365 Finance ERP solution and Microsoft’s partner channel, have developed pre-built integrations as well as out-of-the-box financial reports, planning input templates and Power BI dashboards. For example, Solver’s QuickStart integration to Dynamics 365 Finance can have a company up and running in a single day with more than 50 pre-built Power BI financial dashboards, in addition to financial reports and budget input templates. All these ready-to-use forms and templates can be selected and downloaded at no additional cost from a continuously growing Template Marketplace.

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

While a number of CPM vendors can claim to offer integration to an ERP like Dynamics 365 Finance, there can be big differences in the skill and effort involved to make such integrations ready with your financial data loaded into the reporting and planning tool.

Generally, there are three categories of integrations, each with its own effort level for implementation:

  • 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 D365 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 D365 Finance that include an app or script(s) that properly and automatically configure dimensions and views in Dynamics and expose them to its API. You can see an example of this type of integration here.

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

While you receive a set of basic, embedded Power BI dashboards with Dynamics 365 Finance and it is likely you can survive with its native reporting tool and homegrown Excel budget models, the leading cloud CPM tools of the 2020s offer many advantages to drive faster and better decisions.

As an illustration, many vendors are catching on to the popularity of app marketplaces after years of watching companies like Apple and Microsoft deliver easy-to-access solutions in this fashion. CPM companies like Anaplan and Solver are now offering Template and Data Connector Marketplaces specifically built for planning and reporting needs. The main benefit for the customer: it typically only involves a few clicks to install and to incorporate your own data, compared with weeks or months of setup in legacy applications that don’t offer out-of-the-box templates.

In Solver’s Marketplace (see screenshot below), for example, users can download more than 50 pre-built financial dashboards that plug right into your Power BI web service, in addition to Profit & Loss Reports, Balance Sheets and other financial statements and planning input templates.

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

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

With true marketplace templates you should be able to provide your managers with professional dashboards, financial reports and budget templates the same day you install the CPM tool, and with no upfront data modeling or formula design!

Summary

The 2020s is already shaping up to be a decade with a lot of exciting automations and insights companies can gain by implementing modern ERPs like Dynamics 365 Finance with CPM solutions like Solver that have embraced deep Dynamics 365 and Power BI integrations. Benefits include “quick start” implementation wizards, and ready-to-use, downloadable templates from a marketplace. Picking the right solution, with planning and financial reporting considerations, 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.

Solver QuickStart - Power BI Dashboard Templates for Dynamics 365 Finance

Dynamics 365 Finance (D365 Finance) and Power BI are both rapidly growing cloud software applications from Microsoft. Although these technologies can be used independently, customers are increasingly using them together as an integrated platform.

As executives drive their accounting teams to migrate to a modern cloud ERP system like D365 Finance, senior leaders are at the same time expecting to gain the ability to perform world-class analyses with their new ERP. For that reason, evaluation teams not only have to review core ERP functionality to make sure current and future needs are met, but they also must determine the tools to use for dashboards, reporting, and planning.

Power BI has become the world’s most popular business intelligence (BI) solution and it is the natural data visualization dashboard choice for financial data from Dynamics 365. It is typically deployed as a stand-alone web service from Microsoft with companies often including other kinds of non-financial data as well. As with any flexible dashboard software, however, developing Power BI models can be complex, time-consuming, and costly, especially when building numerous dashboards and tailoring them to your D365 Finance business dimensions and data. What’s more, if the Power BI models are not wisely built it can be a daunting task to maintain them when your chart of accounts grows or when you make other changes or additions in Dynamics 365.

Most people that have implemented dashboard models for financial data know that it can take hundreds of hours of integration and design time before managers can enjoy their “shiny” dashboard gadgets.

This blog will focus on rapid deployment of Power BI dashboards for Dynamics 365 Finance, as well as several factors you may want to think about to ensure your executives’ expectations are met or exceeded when it comes to providing them with:

  • Revenue Dashboards
  • Expense Dashboards
  • Variance Dashboards
  • Exception Dashboards
  • Trend Dashboards
  • Balance Sheet Dashboards
  • KPI Dashboards
  • Benchmarking Dashboards

Why Use Stand-alone Power BI Dashboards to Compliment the Native Tools in Dynamics 365?

D365 Finance provides a limited version of Power BI that has been embedded with the ERP user interface. This format offers “native” dashboards and comes with a few simple, pre-built financial templates, but much like almost any other cloud ERP system’s native or embedded dashboard options, it lacks the complete flexibility that a management team usually requires when producing highly professional, automated graphical dashboards that can combine their ERP data with other important data sources.

Here is a link to a showcase that features more than a hundred dashboard examples. It provides a general idea of the capabilities in both breadth and depth that many professional reporting and analysis tools offer. It can also help you improve and democratize analyses for better, faster decisions in your business. Additional ideas can be found by trying these interactive Power BI dashboards.

Solver QuickStart - Power BI Dashboard Templates for Dynamics 365 Finance

Solver QuickStart – Power BI Dashboard Templates for Dynamics 365 Finance

Many Dynamics 365 customers support their graphical analysis needs through Excel because the software is already owned, users already know how to use it, and the interface is easy and flexible to build while maintaining the underlying formulas. However, there is a rapidly growing demand for cloud-based, best-of-breed dashboard tools like Power BI that offer a dynamic and secure user experience with rich, interactive charting and drill-down and that provides real-time, self-service reporting and analysis processes.

How to Pick the Right Dashboard Solution for Dynamics 365 Finance

Much can be written about the best and most affordable way to deploy Power BI. Most organizations find that delivering a rich and sustainable dashboard experience to their business and Office of Finance users does require more than just a Power BI license. These other components include:

  • Pre-built financial dashboard templates that work out-of-the box, and that can be changed or copied to support special custom needs.
  • Financial reporting and planning that complement Power BI graphical dashboards. Here is more information about things to look for in professional reporting and planning
  • A data warehouse or staging database to organize key Dynamics 365 data and dimensions, with the added capability to include non-ERP data in order to deliver a comprehensive, clean data model to Power BI. Read more about pre-built financial data warehouses here.

We will not go into details about dashboard software evaluation in this blog but, if you want some ideas, this other blog highlights key areas many people want in a dashboard, while this interactive tool provides a simple way to compare and score vendors. It also includes an ROI calculator to analyze the cost and benefit of alternative tools versus your current solution.

In short, progressive executive and finance teams of the 2020s want dashboard solutions that are flexible; that are closely integrated with financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting functionality; and that provide quick time to value through template-based deployment.

What Is Considered a Quick Start with a Power BI Dashboard Solution for Dynamics 365 Finance?

Most Dynamics 365 customers want their connected apps, including dashboards, to be cloud based. The questions that quickly come up include: How hard is it to go beyond the native visualization tools that already come with D365 Finance, and to integrate a best-of-breed tool like Power BI with their ERP? How much cost and effort does it take to get key financial dashboards up and running?

The typical answer: Weeks or months of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in services. Sometimes, the completed integration is static and the ability to maintain data models is complicated and hard. This often results in disappointing outcomes. However, Microsoft software partners like Solver, that work very closely with the Dynamics 365 Finance solution and its partner channel, have developed pre-built integrations, a data warehouse and out-of-the-box dashboards to solve these challenges. For example, Solver’s QuickStart integration to Dynamics 365 Finance helps a company get up and running in a single day, providing access to more than 50 pre-built Power BI financial dashboards, as well as, additional financial reports and budget input templates. All these turn-key options are available from a marketplace that continuously expands with new templates.

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

While almost all dashboard vendors can claim to offer integrations to popular ERPs like D365 Finance, there can be big differences in the skill and effort involved to get such integrations ready and your financial data loaded into the visualization tool.

Generally, there are three categories of integrations, each with its own level of effort during implementation:

  • 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 D365 Finance, but do not include an app that configures dimensions and views in D365 Finance nor pre-maps to popular fields to “light them up” for its API.
  • Quickest and easiest: Connectors specifically built for D365 Finance that include an app or script(s) that properly and automatically configure dimensions and views in D365 and expose them to its API. This results in a “clean” data model that Power BI can easily consume. You can see an example of this type of integration here.

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

While you are given a set of basic, embedded Power BI dashboards with Dynamics 365 Finance, most companies end up designing their own graphical reports using the stand-alone Power BI license. However, offering modern and flexible functionality that quickly delivers the dashboards your managers and executives need is often a pipe dream. There is at least one challenge that must be overcome: Somebody must design all those dashboards and learn the underlying formula language referred to as “DAX”. This can be painful, especially when you consider the time and cost involved. More so if your leaders are eager and want their dashboards sooner rather than later and without a big consulting bill attached.

These days there is a growing trend for cloud business solutions to offer pre-built financial dashboards that are downloadable and ready-to-use from each vendor’s marketplace. Typically, this involves a few clicks to install and refresh the report with your own data. The process is not that different from apps you download to your iPhone or Samsung phone. For example, in Solver’s Marketplace, users can download more than 50 pre-built financial dashboards that plug right into your Power BI web service in addition to Profit & Loss Reports, Balance Sheets and other financial statements and planning input templates.

Solver QuickStart - Power BI Financial Dashboard Categories for Dynamics 365 Finance

In other words, with true marketplace templates, you should be able to provide your managers with professional dashboards and reports the same day you install the reporting tool–and with no upfront formula design or Power BI model building! 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, while a rapidly growing Appsource marketplace of third-party apps further enhances the benefits of D365 Finance. Picking the right solutions, like data visualization tools for dashboards 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.

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

Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance (D365 Finance) was born from the widely known on-premise product known as Dynamics AX. In recent years D365 Finance has become a significant player in the cloud-based ERP market segment, quickly gaining popularity worldwide as Offices of Finance within organizations began to migrate to cloud applications. If you are considering a move to D365 Finance, the first thing to do is make sure the solution fits your needs.

As large numbers of companies plan to migrate their legacy accounting solutions from on-premise servers to the cloud, they not only have to review core ERP functionality to make sure it meets their current and future needs, but they have to also review the tools they will use for reporting, planning, and analyses. Some reporting, planning and analysis tools are native to Dynamics 365. While some others, like the Solver financial reporting and consolidations application, are approved and preferred Microsoft apps because they are considered a best-of-breed complimentary solution in a particular area.

This blog will focus on financial reporting for Dynamics 365 Finance and will look at some of the things you may want to think about to ensure you optimize your experience with Dynamics when it comes to producing:

  • Profit & Loss Reports
  • Balance Sheets
  • Cash Flow Statements
  • Operational Reports

Why Use Third-Party Reporting Apps Instead of the Native Tools in Dynamics 365 Finance?

D365 Finance’s native report writer for financial statements and other GL summary data was previously called Management Reporter. Now it is typically just referred to as “Financial Reporting”. It is an upgraded, web-based version of FRx, which was a popular legacy reporting tool that launched in the 1990s. However, much like almost any other cloud ERP system’s built-in reporting options, the native Financial Reporting tool is not usually the preferred application finance teams use to produce highly professional reports with custom formulas and advanced layout or when they want to consolidate financials across companies. This showcase of forms, templates and reports provides several hundred report examples that show the breadth and depth of capabilities a best-of-breed reporting tool can offer to improve reporting processes and analyses in your business.

While many Dynamics customers supplement their reporting tasks with manual Excel files, SQL Reporting Services (SSRS) and dashboard tools like Power BI, there is still a spot for best-of-breed financial reporting tools to offer a single, purpose-built and professional reporting experience that also helps to automate the month-end reporting process.

How to Pick the Right Reporting Solution for Dynamics 365 Finance

Much can be written about evaluation and selection of financial reporting tools. We will not go into details in this blog, but if you want some ideas, this blog highlights key areas to look at. This interactive tool will also provide a simple way to compare and score vendors. It includes an ROI calculator to analyze the cost and benefit of alternative tools versus your current solution.

In short, progressive finance and accounting teams of the 2020s want financial reporting solutions that are flexible, closely integrated with budgeting and forecasting functionality, and that provide quick time to value during implementation.

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

Most Dynamics 365 Finance customers want their connected apps, including reporting tools, to be cloud based. Questions that quickly come up include: how hard is it to integrate a best-of-breed reporting solution with Dynamics, and how much cost and effort does it take to get key financials up and running, such as Trial Balances, Profit & Loss Reports, and Balance Sheets?

The typical answer: Weeks or months of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in services. However, some best-of-breed software companies like Solver, that work very closely with Microsoft and its Dynamics partner channel, have developed pre-built GL and sub-ledger integrations as well as out-of-the-box reports. For example, Solver’s QuickStart integration to D365 Finance can set a company up and running in a single day with ready-to-go, pre-built financial reports and Power BI dashboards, as well as, optional budget and forecast templates. All of these can be selected from a Marketplace that grows continuously with new templates.

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

While several financial reporting vendors can claim to offer integrations to an ERP system like D365 Finance, there can be big differences in the skill and effort involved to get such integrations ready with your financial data loaded into the reporting tool.

Generally, there are three categories of integrations. Each integration requires its own effort level 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 Cloud Reporting Marketplace and Why Is It Important to Your Business?

Most best-of-breed financial reporting tools have by now followed Dynamics 365 Finance and other popular ERPs to the cloud. Many also offer modern and flexible functionality to deliver reports your managers and executives need, however they still have [at least] one problem: Somebody has to write those reports. This can feel very painful, especially when you factor in the time and cost involved. Just remember the effort it took to get all required reports up and running in your old legacy on-premises ERP system.

Nowadays there is a growing trend for cloud business solutions to offer pre-built apps (e.g., reports, connectors, etc.) in their own Marketplaces. Typically, this involves a few clicks to install, not that different from apps you download to your iPhone or Samsung phone. For example, in Solver’s Marketplace (see screenshot below), users can download Profit & Loss Reports and other financial statements, planning input templates, and more than 50 pre-built financial dashboards that plug right into your Power BI web service.

Rapid implementation of financial reports and CPM for Dynamics 365 Finance with pre-built templates from Solver Marketplace

Rapid implementation of financial reports and CPM for Dynamics 365 Finance with pre-built templates from Solver Marketplace

In other words, with true Marketplace templates you should be able to provide your managers with professional reports and dashboards the same day you install the reporting tool! Now that’s a quick deployment!

Summary

For new or existing Microsoft Dynamics 365 customers, the 2020s hold a lot of promise as Dynamics 365 Finance continuously improves and expands their ERP system. Customers are also able to tap into its flourishing ecosystem of third-party apps that further enhance the benefits of a Dynamics ERP system. Picking the right solutions, including one for reporting, can significantly improve your processes, save you time, and drive faster and better decisions by putting the right information in front of your managers and executives when and where they need it.

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

Cloud-based ERP systems and Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solutions are two directly related business applications experiencing rapid growth in the 2020s as companies and organizations seek to automate the office of finance and help their managers make faster and better decisions.

Replacing legacy ERPs and old, home-grown Excel reporting and budgeting models, however, takes both time and money. Especially for smaller and mid-sized businesses, this investment can delay their migration to Acumatica’s cloud ERP for several years.

To aid a customer’s move to the cloud, companies like Acumatica and their key ERP implementation partners have developed various cloud migration tools and processes to ease the pain. At the same time, Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), or ERP add-ons as they are often called, have been busy at work over the past few years creating bolt-on or add-in solutions that help automate specific areas that compliment Acumatica and maximize the return on investment (ROI) for its customers. Solver is an example of such an ISV with a best-of-breed corporate performance management (CPM) solution that comes pre-integrated to Acumatica.

The rest of this blog will focus on how new cloud technologies enable Acumatica customers to automate their planning, reporting and analyses using modern CPM functionality at a lower cost and with much quicker time to value than what has been available in previous years.

Why Use Best-of-Breed CPM to Compliment the Native Planning and Reporting Tools in Acumatica?

Like most ERPs, Acumatica includes reporting, budgeting and dashboard functionality. Much like other leading ERPs, such as Sage Intacct, Netsuite and Dynamics 365, packing these three core feature sets into an ERP application and its corresponding database tables means that a lot of compromises have been made. Some of these shortcomings include lack of modeling, minimal workflow for approvals, inflexible input form design, weak formula capabilities, and lack of tables for detailed sub-ledger budgeting. In short, that is why the best-of-breed CPM software segment exists and the reason it is growing at a healthy clip.

From a user perspective, many of the smaller Acumatica customers don’t have or don’t want to spend funds on additional business software applications that provide the advanced report formatting, consolidations, budgeting and forecasting they need for business oversight. As a result, Excel is typically used as a “do it yourself” band aid and it remains the world’s most popular reporting and planning tool. What normally happens is that customers will export data to Excel to build much-needed custom models specific to their businesses.

However, innovations in affordable, rapid deployment and out-of-the box templates from leading CPM cloud vendors have put top notch CPM functionality well within reach for most organizations to use. In fact, here is a showcase that displays more than 500 examples of budgeting, forecasting, reporting and dashboard layouts. This gives you an idea of the breadth and depth of features professional CPM tools like Solver offer to deliver world-class planning and analysis processes that drive better, faster business decisions. You can also find ideas for data visualization from the powerful dashboard functionality available when you connect Microsoft’s Power BI tool to a best-of-breed CPM solution that combines your Acumatica data with planning data and other important information sources. Learn more by checking out these interactive dashboards.

When it comes to supporting a user’s graphical analysis needs, many Acumatica customers also rely on Excel. Why? Because they already own it and know how to use the product. Not to mention that the spreadsheet interface is easy and flexible for building and maintaining the underlying calculations and charts. There is, however, a rapidly growing demand for cloud-based, best-of-breed CPM tools that integrate deeply with both Acumatica and Power BI for a dynamic and secure user experience that delivers rich, interactive charting and drill-down for real-time, self-service reporting and analysis process.

How to Pick the Right CPM Solution for Acumatica

Traditionally, the top CPM solutions–found on user feedback websites like G2 and in analyst reports from firms like Dresner Advisory Services–can handle most organizations’ reporting and planning needs. However, when it comes to integration capabilities, data modeling and template design, there can be a big difference in time to value, effort and cost.

While popular CPM tools may look similar in capabilities, some are going much further than others in simplifying the ERP integration and in delivering rapid return on investment with template-driven implementations. These other components include:

  • Pre-built and pre-mapped integration to Acumatica that works out-of-the box with a few clicks and without the need to manually set up end-points in the Acumatica API nor manually map dimension and transaction fields to the CPM solution.
  • Financial reporting templates like profit & loss reports and balance sheets that can be downloaded from the vendor’s marketplace and that immediately work without having to edit accounts and other formulas.
  • Budgeting and forecasting templates with pre-defined versions and top-down and bottom-up input options.
  • Dashboards templates with trends, variances and other analyses. As with the reporting and planning templates, these should work out-of-the-box without the need to manipulate Power BI’s DAX formulas (i.e., underlying formula language).

We will not go into details in this blog but, if you want some ideas, this document highlights key areas to look at, while this interactive tool provides a simple way to compare and score vendors, and includes an ROI calculator to analyze the cost and benefit of alternative tools versus your current solution.

In short, progressive executive and finance teams of the 2020s want flexible financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting functionality closely integrated with Acumatica that provides quick time to value.

What Is Considered a Quick Start with a CPM Solution?

Most Acumatica customers want their connected apps, including CPM tools and dashboards, to be cloud based. Key questions that quickly come up are: How hard is it to integrate to the ERP? How much cost and effort does it take to get up and running?

The typical answer: Weeks or months of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in services. However, Acumatica ISV software partners, like Solver, that work very closely with the Acumatica ERP solution and Acumatica’s partner channel, have developed pre-built integrations as well as out-of-the-box financial reports, planning input templates and Power BI dashboards. For example, Solver’s QuickStart integration to Acumatica can get a company up and running in a single day with more than 50 pre-built Power BI financial dashboards, in addition to financial reports and budget input templates. All these ready-to-use forms and templates can be selected and downloaded at no additional cost from a continuously growing Template Marketplace.

A note about tools that offer integrations to Acumatica:

While almost all CPM vendors can claim to offer integration to an ERP like Acumatica, there can be big differences in the skill and effort involved to make such integrations ready and your financial data loaded into the reporting and planning tool.

Generally, there are three categories of integrations, each with its own effort level for implementation:

  • 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 Acumatica, but do not include an app that configures dimensions and views in Acumatica nor pre-maps to popular fields to “light them up” for its API.
  • Quickest and easiest: Connectors specifically built for Acumatica that include an app or script(s) that properly and automatically configure dimensions and views in Acumatica and expose them to its API. You can see an example of this type of integration here.

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

While you receive a set of embedded “native” dashboards with Acumatica and you can survive with its native reporting tool and homegrown Excel budget models, the leading cloud CPM tools of the 2020s offer many advantages to drive faster and better decisions.

In particular, some vendors are catching on to the popularity of app marketplaces after years of watching companies like Apple and Microsoft deliver easy-to-access solutions in this way. CPM companies like Anaplan and Solver are now offering Template and Data Connector Marketplaces specifically built for planning and reporting needs. The main benefit for the customer is that this typically only involves a few clicks to install and to incorporate your own data, compared with weeks or months of setup in legacy applications that don’t offer out-of-the-box templates.

For example, in Solver’s Marketplace (see screenshot below), users can download more than 50 pre-built financial dashboards that plug right into your Power BI web service, in addition to Profit & Loss Reports, Balance Sheets and other financial statements and planning input templates.

Rapid implementation of corporate performance management (CPM) for Acumatica with pre-built templates from Solver Marketplace

Rapid implementation of corporate performance management (CPM) for Acumatica with pre-built templates from Solver Marketplace

With true marketplace templates you should be able to provide your managers with professional dashboards, financial reports and budget templates the same day you install the CPM tool, and with no upfront data modeling or formula design!

Summary

The 2020s is already shaping up to be a decade with a lot of exciting automations and insights companies can gain by implementing modern ERPs like Acumatica with CPM solutions like Solver that have embraced deep Acumatica and Power BI integrations. Benefits include “quick start” implementation wizards, and ready-to-use, downloadable templates from a marketplace. Picking the right solution, with planning and financial reporting considerations, 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.

Solver QuickStart - Power BI Financial Dashboard Categories for Dynamics 365 Finance

Acumatica and Power BI are both rapidly growing cloud software applications. Although these technologies can be used independently, customers are increasingly using them together as an integrated platform.

As executives drive their accounting teams to migrate to a modern cloud ERP system like Acumatica, senior leaders are at the same time expecting to gain the ability to perform world-class analyses with their new ERP. For that reason, evaluation teams not only have to review core ERP functionality to make sure current and future needs are met, but they also must determine the tools to use for dashboards, reporting, and planning.

Power BI has become the world’s top business intelligence (BI) solution and is the natural data visualization dashboard choice for Acumatica. It is typically deployed as a stand-alone web service from Microsoft and often includes all kinds of non-financial data as well. As with any flexible dashboard software, however, developing Power BI models can be complex, time-consuming and costly, especially when building numerous dashboards and then tailoring them to your Acumatica business dimensions. And, if the Power BI models are not built wisely it can be a daunting task to maintain them when your chart of accounts grows and when you make other changes and additions in Acumatica.

Most people that have implemented dashboard models for financial data know that it can take hundreds of hours of integration and design time before managers can enjoy their “shiny” dashboard gadgets.

This blog will focus on rapid deployment of Power BI dashboards for Acumatica, as well as several factors you may want to think about to ensure your executives’ expectations are met or exceeded when it comes to providing them with:

  • Revenue Dashboards
  • Expense Dashboards
  • Variance Dashboards
  • Exception Dashboards
  • Trend Dashboards
  • Balance Sheet Dashboards
  • KPI Dashboards
  • Benchmarking Dashboards

Why Use Stand-alone Power BI Dashboards to Compliment the Native Tools in Acumatica?

Acumatica’s native dashboards offer simple, pre-built templates, but similarly to almost any other cloud ERP system’s native or embedded dashboard options, it lacks the full flexibility that a management team usually requires when it comes to producing highly professional, automated graphical dashboards that can combine their ERP data with other important data sources.

Here is a link to a showcase that features more than a hundred dashboard examples. It provides a general idea of the capabilities in both breadth and depth that many professional reporting tools offer. It can also help you improve and democratize analyses for better, faster decisions in your business. Additional ideas can be found by trying these interactive Power BI dashboards.

Solver QuickStart Dashboard Example

Solver QuickStart Dashboard Example

Many Acumatica customers support graphical analysis needs through Excel because the software is already owned, users already know how to use it, and the interface is easy and flexible to build while maintaining the underlying formulas. However, there is a rapidly growing demand for cloud-based, best-of-breed dashboard tools like Power BI that offer a dynamic and secure user experience with rich, interactive charting and drill-down that provides real-time, self-service reporting and analysis processes.

How to Pick the Right Dashboard Solution for Acumatica

Much can be written about the best and most affordable way to deploy Power BI. Most organizations find that delivering a rich and sustainable dashboard experience to their business and office of finance users does require more than just a Power BI license. These other components include:

  • Pre-built financial dashboard templates that work out-of-the box, and that can be changed or copied to support special custom needs.
  • Financial reporting and planning that complement Power BI graphical dashboards. Here is more information about things to look for in professional reporting and planning
  • A data warehouse or staging database to organize key Acumatica data and dimensions, with the added capability to include non-ERP data in order to deliver a comprehensive, clean data model to Power BI. Read more about pre-built financial data warehouses here.

We will not go into details about dashboard software evaluation in this blog but, if you want some ideas, this other blog highlights key areas many people want in a dashboard, while this interactive tool provides a simple way to compare and score vendors. It also includes an ROI calculator to analyze the cost and benefit of alternative tools versus your current solution.

In short, progressive executive and finance teams of the 2020s want dashboard solutions that are flexible; that are closely integrated with financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting functionality; and that provide quick time to value through template-based deployment.

What Is Considered a Quick Start with a Power BI Dashboard Solution for Acumatica?

Most Acumatica customers want their connected apps, including dashboards, to be cloud based. The questions that quickly come up include: How hard is it to go beyond the native visualization tools that already come with Acumatica, and to integrate a best-of-breed tool like Power BI with the ERP? How much cost and effort does it take to get key financial dashboards up and running?

The typical answer: Weeks or months of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in services. Sometimes, the end result is static and the ability to maintain data models is complicated and hard. This often results in disappointing outcomes. However, Microsoft software partners like Solver, that work very closely with the Acumatica solution and its partner channel, have developed pre-built integrations, a data warehouse and out-of-the-box dashboards to solve these challenges. For example, Solver’s QuickStart integration to Acumatica helps a company get up and running in a single day, providing access to more than 50 pre-built Power BI financial dashboards, as well as, additional financial reports and budget input templates. All these turn-key options are available from a marketplace that continuously expands with new templates.

A note about tools that offer integrations to Acumatica:

While almost all dashboard vendors can claim to offer integration to popular ERPs like Acumatica, there can be big differences in the skill and effort involved to get such integrations ready and your financial data loaded into the reporting tool.

Generally, there are three categories of integrations, each with its own level of effort during implementation:

  • 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 Acumatica, but do not include an app that configures dimensions and views in Acumatica nor pre-maps to popular fields to “light them up” for its API.
  • Quickest and easiest: Connectors specifically built for Acumatica that include an app or script(s) that properly and automatically configure dimensions and views in Acumatica and expose them to its API. This results in a “clean” data model that Power BI can easily consume. You can see an example of this type of integration here.

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

While you are given a set of native dashboards with Acumatica, many companies end up designing their own graphical reports using a Power BI license. However, offering modern and flexible functionality that quickly delivers the dashboards your managers and executives need is often a pipe dream. There is at least one problem: Somebody must design all those dashboards and learn the underlying Power BI formula language referred to as “DAX”. This can be painful, especially when you consider the time and cost involved. More so if your leaders are eager and want their dashboards sooner rather than later and without a big consulting bill attached.

However, there is a growing trend for cloud business solutions to offer pre-built financial dashboards that are downloadable and ready-to-use from each vendor’s marketplace. Typically, this involves a few clicks to install and refresh the report with your own data. The process is not that different from apps you download to your iPhone or Samsung phone. For example, in Solver’s Marketplace, users can download more than 50 pre-built financial dashboards that plug right into your Power BI web service in addition to Profit & Loss Reports, Balance Sheets and other financial statements and planning input templates.

Solver QuickStart Financial Dashboard Categories for Acumatica

Solver QuickStart Financial Dashboard Categories for Acumatica

In other words, with true marketplace templates, you should be able to provide your managers with professional dashboards and reports the same day you install the reporting tool–and with no upfront formula design or Power BI model building! Now that’s a quick deployment!

Summary

For new or existing Acumatica customers, the 2020s hold a lot of promise. Acumatica is continuously improving and updating their ERP system, while a rapidly growing Marketplace of third-party apps further enhances the benefits of Acumatica. Picking the right solutions, like data visualization tools for dashboards 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.

Rapid report implementation for Acumatica with pre-built financial templates from Solver Marketplace

Acumatica has become a significant player in the cloud-based ERP market segment, quickly gaining popularity worldwide. If you are considering a migration to Acumatica, the first thing to do is make sure the solution fits your needs.

With a significant number of companies planning to migrate their accounting solution from on-premise servers to the cloud, it is necessary to review core ERP functionality to make sure it meets the company’s current and future needs, as well as review the tools to be used for reporting, planning, and analysis. Some of these elements are native to Acumatica while some, like the Solver financial reporting and consolidations application, are approved by Acumatica because it’s a best-of-breed complimentary solution in a particular area.

This blog will focus on financial reporting for Acumatica and some of the things you may want to think about to ensure you optimize your experience when producing:

  • Profit & Loss Reports
  • Balance Sheets
  • Cash Flow Statements
  • Operational Reports

Why Use Third-Party Reporting Apps Instead of the Native Tools in Acumatica?

Acumatica’s native report writer is called Analytical Report Manager and it enables basic report design. But, similarly to almost any other cloud ERP system’s built-in reporting options, it is typically not the tool finance teams prefer to use when required to produce highly professional reports with custom formulas and an advanced layout or when they need to consolidate financials across companies. This showcase of forms and templates includes several hundred report examples. It will give you an idea of the breadth and depth of capabilities found with many professional reporting tools that will help you improve reporting processes and analyses in your business.

While many Acumatica customers supplement their reporting tasks with manual Excel files and dashboard tools like Power BI and Tableau, this still leaves a gap for best-of-breed financial reporting tools on the market to offer a purpose-built and professional reporting experience that also helps to automate the month-end reporting process.

How to Pick the Right Reporting Solution for Acumatica

Much can be written about evaluation and selection of financial reporting tools. We will not go into details in this blog, but if you want some ideas, this other blog highlights key areas to consider. Additionally, this interactive tool provides a simple way to compare and score vendors and includes an ROI calculator to analyze the cost and benefit of alternative tools versus your current solution.

In short, progressive finance and accounting teams of the 2020s want financial reporting solutions that are flexible, closely integrated with budgeting and forecasting functionality, and that provide quick time to value.

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

Most Acumatica customers want their connected apps, including reporting tools, to be cloud based. Questions that quickly come up include: how hard is it to integrate a best-of-breed reporting solution with Acumatica and how much cost and effort does it take to get key financials up and running, such as Trial Balances, Profit & Loss Reports, and Balance Sheets?

The most common answer: Weeks or months of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in services. However, some best-of-breed software companies like Solver that work very closely with Acumatica and its partner channel, have developed pre-built GL and sub-ledger integrations as well as out-of-the-box reports. For example, Solver’s QuickStart integration to Acumatica can have a company up and running in a single day with ready-to-go, pre-built financial reports and Power BI dashboards, in addition to optional budget and forecast templates. All of these are selected from a Marketplace that continuously expands with new templates.

A note about tools that offer integrations to Acumatica:

While almost all reporting vendors can claim to offer integrations to an ERP system like Acumatica, there can be big differences in the skill and effort involved to get such integrations ready with your financial data loaded into the reporting tool.

Generally, there are three categories of integrations, each with its own effort level 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 Acumatica, but do not include an app that configures dimensions and views in Acumatica nor pre-maps to popular fields to “light them up” for its API.
  • Quickest and easiest: Connectors specifically built for Acumatica that include an app or script(s) that properly and automatically configure dimensions and views in Acumatica and expose them to its API. You can see an example of this type of pre-built integration here.

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

While most best-of-breed financial reporting tools have followed Acumatica and other popular ERPs to the cloud, and they are offering modern and flexible functionality to get you the reports your managers and executives need, they still have, at least, one problem: Somebody has to write those reports. This can be painful, especially when you consider the time and cost involved, and the effort it took to get all required reports up and running in your old legacy on-premise ERP system.

However, there is a growing trend for cloud business solutions to offer pre-built apps (e.g., reports, connectors, etc.) in their own Marketplaces. Typically, this involves a few clicks to install. It’s not that different from apps you download to your iPhone or Samsung phone. For example, in Solver’s Marketplace (see screenshot below), users can download Profit & Loss Reports and other financial statements, planning input templates, and more than 50 pre-built financial dashboards that plug right into your Power BI web service.

Rapid report implementation for Acumatica with pre-built financial templates from Solver Marketplace

Rapid report implementation for Acumatica with pre-built financial templates from Solver Marketplace

In other words, with true Marketplace templates you should be able to provide your managers with professional reports and dashboards the same day you installed the reporting tool! Now that’s a quick deployment!

Summary

For new or existing Acumatica customers, the 2020s hold a lot of promise. Acumatica is continuously improving and updating their ERP system and has a rapidly growing marketplace with third-party apps that further enhance the benefits of Acumatica. Picking the right solutions, for reporting 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.

Example of a Consolidated Statement of Income Call Report

What is a Consolidated Statement of Income Call Report?

The Consolidated Statement of Income is considered a Call Report and is used by accountants and compliance managers to submit quarterly data as per Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) requirements. Some of the main functionality in this type of regulatory report is that it can both be used as an input form and as a formatted report ready to submit to OCC. Any data that can be imported from the ERP system or other database will automatically be pulled into the form without having to be re-entered. Only the top portion of the form is visible in the screenshot. You find an example of this type of regulatory report below.

Purpose of Consolidated Statement of Income Call Report Templates

Banks use Call Report Templates to automate the input and and submission process to OCC. Because this type of template is in a cloud-based reporting system, users can log-in and work on the report from anywhere. When used as part of good business practices in Accounting- and Compliance departments, a bank can improve its processes and save labor costs, and it can reduce the chances that data entry mistakes occur.

Example of a Consolidated Statement of Income Call Report Template

Here is an example of a OCC Call Report with quarterly Consolidated Statement of Income data.

Example of a Consolidated Statement of Income Call Report

Example of a Consolidated Statement of Income Call Report

You can find hundreds of additional examples here

Who Uses This Type of Regulatory Report?

The typical users of this type of regulatory report are: Accountants, compliance managers, CFOs.

Other Reports Often Used in Conjunction with Form 5300 Call Report Templates

Progressive Accounting- and Compliance departments sometimes use OCC call reports supported by internal income statements, balance sheets, cash flow reports, trial balances, transaction detail reports and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data typically comes from bank systems and 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

Example of a Top Ten Customers by Profitability Report for banks

What is a Top Ten Customers by Profitability Report for Banks?

Top Customer by Profitability Reports are considered customer ranking reports and are used by managers and account executives to get a snapshot of the top most profitable customer by branch. Some of the main functionality in this type of report is that it groups and ranks the top 10 customers by branch location. The columns include: Average account balance, Total revenue, Total expense, and Net profit. The color indicators help the user quickly see important metrics. You find an example of this type of report below.

Purpose of Top Customers by Profitability Reports

Banks use Top Customers by Profitability Reports to at any time be able to identify their most important customers at the branch level and overall. When used as part of good business practices in Executive- and Account Management departments, a bank can improve its customer retention strategies, and it can reduce the chances that top customers are not getting the optimal nurturing.

Example of a Top Customers by Profitability Report

Here is an example of a Top Ten Customer Report that ranks each customer based on profitability and groups them by branch.

Example of a Top Ten Customers by Profitability Report for banks

Example of a Top Ten Customers by Profitability Report for banks

You can find hundreds of additional examples here

Who Uses This Type of Report?

The typical users of this type of report are: Account executives, production managers, branch managers, analysts.

Other Reports Often Used in Conjunction with Top Customers by Profitability Reports

Progressive Executive- and Account Management departments sometimes use several different Top Customers Reports, along with detailed customer transaction reports, financial statements, annual budgets, KPI dashboards, customer dashboards and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data typically comes from bank systems and 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