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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

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.

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This article discusses next steps to take for your reporting and budgeting needs regarding Dynamics 365.

Microsoft unveiled their cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, Dynamics 365, just a little over a month ago. As a potential business intelligence (BI) customer, you’re probably curious about your reporting and budgeting processes in the context of moving towards a cloud-based ERP system. As you know, a new United States president was elected on November 8th, and as always with a new president, people are curious or worried how things will work out. If you are one of the approximately 85% of the world still using an on-premise ERP system, this same analogy can be applied to those who are planning to go onto a cloud ERP. This article focuses on the next steps to take for your reporting and budgeting in regards to Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 unveiling.

Microsoft Dynamics, a line of ERPs and customer relationship management (CRM) systems, is a power player in the business applications world so, as you can imagine, once Microsoft released Dynamics 365, people also knew that things in the BI realm were going to change with no hesitation. There has been a lot of confusion around Dynamics 365, especially due to the changing naming conventions of this system and to make things clear, Solver CEO Nils Rasmussen explains that “Dynamics 365 is really two ERP systems. One is the lower end version of Dynamics 365, based on the NAV product in its structure. The higher end version of Dynamics 365 is based on Dynamics AX and is for the higher end of the market.” Both systems are architected for and deployed in the Microsoft Azure cloud, and it’s all hosted and managed by Microsoft. If you want to learn more, you can read about Microsoft Dynamics 365 and what it all means.

If you are planning to implement or are already using Dynamics 365, NetSuite, Acumatica, or Intacct, you might find yourself shopping for a new budgeting and reporting tool to also benefit from a modern Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solution. You have several options: For instance, your company can rely on the native budgeting features and reporting options that comes natively embedded in the ERP system, but in most cases this means that you will end up exporting data to Excel to design your favorite budget model or to professionally format financial reports. Another option is that to implement a modern web-based CPM solution that integrates well to your cloud-based ERP system. The last option gets to the point: go out and shop for a new tool!

The cloud ERP market is skyrocketing. What are you going to do with your reporting and budgeting? One tip I would like to share is to make sure your budgeting and reporting tool is flexible, accessible, and is offering a cloud solution or at the minimum a web-based interface. With a cloud solution, there is no need to install or maintain upgrades. There are various reporting solutions with features and functionalities that are flexible and accessible. For example, some modern solutions offer Excel add-ins, as well as a web portal that is filled with reports and dashboards that are relevant to the user, so that the user can rapidly get to subscribed reports, commentary, discussions, and groups. A modern web-based CPM portal usually offers an intuitive, collaborative technology that also has workflow, alerts and commentary users can also execute reports on-demand, explain variances, and they can also share  specific reports with their team members. These modern functionalities are collaborative, increase transparency, and most importantly, they are user-friendly.

As reporting and budgeting solutions continue to get smarter, a number of modern, cloud-based solutions are starting to appear in the BI marketplace and many will offer easy-to-use, pre-built integrations to ERP systems like Microsoft Dynamics 365. As you research and look into more CPM tools, you will notice that some of them are on-premises, some of them are cloud-based, and others are hybrid tools. Top-notch CPM tools that are cloud or web-based platforms such as Adaptive Insights, Anaplan, Host Analytics and BI360 are great options. If you are skeptical about moving everything to the cloud, continue to choose to keep certain business applications on-premises if you’d like, but also plan for the future. You can also learn more on the pros and cons of cloud and on-premises options in the Business Intelligence: Cloud-based, One-premises, or Both? article. Studies do show that cloud helps solve problems such as lowering costs, increasing productivity, gaining flexibility, and all while providing the right information to the appropriate people at the most opportune time, so they can make wise decisions for their organization.

The BI realm for Microsoft customers is about to change as Dynamics 365 has been released and vendors are encouraged to integrate their CPM offerings. As you know, the cloud is constantly changing, and as it evolves, cloud reporting and budgeting solutions continue to get smarter as well. If your current software is limiting your organization from making smart business choices, that is all the reason to invest in a new reporting and budgeting solution. Modern BI solutions are providing business end users choices so they have access to specific data they need when they need it without having to wait for your assistance, but I still suggest you maintain a good relationship with your information technology team as they are the “technology geniuses” of the company and will help make sure that your different systems can talk to each other to maximize productivity and data quality.

Solver enables world-class decisions with BI360, a leading web-based CPM suite made up of budgeting, reporting, dashboards, and data warehousing, delivered through a web portal. Solver is reinventing CPM with its next generation solution. BI360 empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of Excel in the model design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.

This article will focus on the benefits of Business Intelligence (BI) for the sales, marketing, human resources, and information technology departments using Dynamics GP.

Photo taken from Shutterstock.

Photo taken from Shutterstock.

Each department has an important role in a company. As a department leader, you may know what your team needs to achieve department-specific goals. BI solutions that cover budgeting, forecasting, reporting, and analyses can help you meet those goals in an efficient and quicker way. For example, at my own company, the current team of department heads includes Nils Rasmussen for Sales, Gina Louie for Human Resources, IT Manager Allan Bacero, and Marketing Director Vanessa Sierra. I will cover four general departments that you would typically find in an organization and explore how a BI tool would help each department.
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Photo taken from Shutterstock

In this article, we will explore the perspectives of some key leaders in regard to BI software that reports on, plans with, showcases, or manages Microsoft Dynamics GP data.

Oftentimes, the executive team tasks an employee, usually in the finance and/or IT department(s), with finding financial reporting, budgeting, dashboards, or data management solutions for the organization.  You might clearly understand what your team needs to achieve department-specific goals, especially with the muscle memory of processes as they heretofore have gone.  But you might not exactly understand what is important to your team of decision makers, whether that is strictly the executive team or a larger group of stakeholders.  In this article, we will explore the perspectives of some key leaders in regard to BI software that reports on, plans with, showcases, or manages Microsoft Dynamics GP data.
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This article will discuss your financial reporting options for your Dynamics GP.

reportingdynamicsgpYour organization needs a powerful and dynamic financial reporting tool to help you stay competitive in your industry by managing and analyzing your data without any disruptions. Navigating through Business Intelligence (BI) is much like maneuvering through the streets of a foreign country without a map or any directions. In this article, I will explore Excel-based and web-based financial reporting options, so you are able to select the best reporting tool to navigate your organization in managing and analyzing your data using Microsoft Dynamics GP. Read more

In this article, data warehouses for Professional Services organizations will take center stage, with a focus on expanding Microsoft Dynamics AX analytical processes.

Data is increasingly more important in today’s business world, perhaps especially for Professional Services organizations.  As data informs decision-making at all levels, Professional Services organizations are striving to stay on budget and on track with projects, vendors, clients, and so forth, a data warehouse can be positively impactful in supporting Business Intelligence (BI) analyses.  If you’re new to data warehousing as a solution, you might have some questions.  This article will go about answering your questions about data warehousing as a Professional Services organization using Microsoft Dynamics AX.
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This article will discuss the Management Reporter (MR), as it relates to modern, dynamic financial reporting output for Microsoft Dynamics users.

At the beginning of 2016, it appeared that, all of a sudden, Management Reporter (MR) was trending as a topic of conversation – both in the blogosphere and in person, amongst Microsoft Dynamics users.  It all seems to have started when Mark Polino, Director of Client Services at Fastpath and perhaps more importantly, a 9-time Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) Award winner, wrote about MR at the beginning of the year – and he expressed his frustration and disappointment.  The article he wrote for MSDynamicsWorld.com has apparently struck a chord with Dynamics users as it has been brought to my attention several times.  Joining this discussion, I’d like to write about a pretty simple question: does MR for Microsoft Dynamics support your Business Intelligence (BI) strategy?
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This article will outline today’s modern options for Business Intelligence tools to improve your Microsoft Dynamics NAV experience.

Today, the business world is about flexibility and now, mobile platforms to deal with our on-the-go culture, including data management and analysis for Microsoft Dynamics NAV customers.  You can and should have BI solutions that allow you the flexibility you need to access your operational and transactional information for stronger, quicker decision-making, in or out of the office.  Third party software manufacturers have been responding to this business cultural shift by producing truly flexible BI products.
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When it comes to financial reporting for Microsoft Dynamics NAV, the most practical element to look for to meet company needs, besides ease of use, is flexibility.  This article will explore and discuss the most important features to look for in a modern financial reporting solution for your Dynamics NAV experience.

As the marketplace settles into a new normal as both increasingly more global and consumer-driven, flexibility becomes extremely valuable.  When I say flexibility, I’m referring to accessibility and mobility of your company data that you use to make informed decisions about developing your business for future success and brand growth.  In addition to Microsoft’s own efforts, independent software vendors (ISVs) are striving to provide NAV customers with superior reporting capabilities, therefore also understanding the need to access the information that moves a company forward.  This direct experience and understanding has driven some third party software manufacturers to produce financial reporting tools with a focus on flexible accessibility for Dynamics NAV users.
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