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Example of a Sales Manager Dashboard for a Distribution Company

What is a Sales Manager Dashboard ?

Sales manager dashboards are considered revenue analysis tools and are used by sales executives to monitor sales performance metrics. Some of the main functionality in this type of dashboard is that it provides six visualizations for KPI analysis: 1) Sales by sales manager, 2) Gross margin by product, 3) Actual versus budgeted product sales, 4) Monthly revenue trend, 5) Accounts receivable (AR) by customer, and 6) Top 5 customer sales. You find an example of this type of dashboard below.

Purpose of Sales Manager Dashboards

Distribution businesses use Sales Manager Dashboards to give sales executives an easy, self-service monitoring tool. When used as part of good business practices in an sales department, a company can improve its decision-making and grow related revenues, and it can reduce the chances that managers are missing the big picture when it comes to sales performance.

Sales Manager Dashboard Example

Here is an example of a Sales Manager Dashboard for a distribution business.

Example of a Sales Manager Dashboard for a Distribution Company

Example of a Sales Manager Dashboard for a Distribution Company

You can find hundreds of additional examples here

Who Uses This Type of Dashboard?

The typical users of this type of dashboard are: Chief Revenue Officers and sales managers.

Other Dashboards Often Used in Conjunction with Sales Manager Dashboards

Progressive sales department sometimes use several different Sales Manager Dashboards, along with  customer sales dashboards, sales transaction reports, accounts receivables (AR) reports, profit & loss reports, inventory dashboards and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data for competitors typically comes from management systems or 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 Product Sales Dashboard for a Distribution Company

What is a Product Sales Dashboard for a Distribution Company?

Product sales dashboards are considered sales analysis and monitoring tools and are used by sales and product managers to keep track of product performance metrics. Some of the main functionality in this type of dashboard is that it provides graphical analysis of product-focused sales metrics. These include: Sales by product, gross margin by product, sales versus gross margin by product, monthly revenue trend, monthly gross margin trend, and top 5 customer sales. You find an example of this type of dashboard below.

Purpose of Product Sales Dashboards

Distribution businesses use Product Sales Dashboards to provide managers with a self-service, web-based tool to monitor sales and margins for products. When used as part of good business practices in an sales department, a company can improve its product strategies and it can reduce the chances that decisions are slow or never happen due to lack of sales metric visibility.

Product Sales Dashboard Example

Here is an example of a Product Sales Dashboard for a distribution business.

Example of a Product Sales Dashboard for a Distribution Company

Example of a Product Sales Dashboard for a Distribution Company

 

You can find hundreds of additional examples here

Who Uses This Type of Dashboard?

The typical users of this type of dashboard are: Sales managers, product managers, executives.

Other Dashboards Often Used in Conjunction with Product Sales Dashboards

Progressive sales department sometimes use several different Product Sales Dashboards, along with general customer sales dashboards, sales transaction reports, profit & loss reports, inventory dashboards and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data for competitors typically comes from management systems or 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 an Executive Dashboard for a Distribution Company

What is an Executive Dashboard for a Distribution Company?

Executive dashboards are considered important analysis tools and are used by upper management to review overall performance as it relates to sales and inventory key performance indicators (KPIs). Some of the main functionality in this type of dashboard is that it combines four KPI charts with a report section. The charts covers: 1) Inventory turnover by distribution center, 2) Inventory turnover trend by month, 3) Top 10 customers based on sales, and 4) Top 10 best-selling products. The report section at the bottom of the charts contains the related metrics in a table format. You find an example of this type of dashboard below.

Purpose of Executive Dashboards for Distributors

Distribution businesses use Executive Dashboards to provide self-service analysis that enables quick and easy monitoring of sales and inventory metrics. When used as part of good business practices in an executive department, a company can improve the speed and agility of decisions and it can reduce the chances that executives lack important insight between formal corporate meetings.

Executive Dashboards Example

Here is an example of an Executive Dashboard with sales and inventory KPIs.

Example of an Executive Dashboard for a Distribution Company

Example of an Executive Dashboard for a Distribution Company

 

You can find hundreds of additional examples here

Who Uses This Type of Dashboard?

The typical users of this type of dashboard are: CEOs, COOs, CFOs.

Other Dashboards Often Used in Conjunction with Executive Dashboards for Distributors

Progressive executive department sometimes use several different Executive Dashboards, along with general sales dashboards, inventory reports, profit & loss reports, cash flow statements, balance sheets and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data for competitors typically comes from management systems or 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 an Automated Forecast for New Retail Store Opening

What is a Forecast for New Retail Store Opening?

New retail store forecasts and budgets are considered essential planning tools in retail corporations and are used by financial managers and analysts to forecast revenues and expenses for a planned store opening. Some of the main functionality in this type of forecast model is that it allows the user to select data from a similar existing store that automatically will be pulled into the model. The user also selects the start (store opening) month, which will zero out prior months that year. At this point the forecast can be saved and it is done, or you can adjust any of the figures and then save.. An example of this type of forecast model can be found below.

Purpose of Automated Forecasts for New Store Openings

Retail businesses use Automated Forecast Models to provide a very quick and easy way to create a forecast for a new store location based on actual or budget data from a similar size, existing store. It also makes it easy to perform what-if analysis and simulations related to potential store openings. When used as part of good business practices in Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) department, a company can improve its decisions, timing and success with business expansions as well as reduce the chances that poor financial planning results in bigger, operational issues.

Automated Forecasts for New Store Opening – Example

Here is an example of an Automated Financial Forecast Model for a new store based on data from an existing store location.

Example of an Automated Forecast for New Retail Store Opening

Example of an Automated Forecast for New Retail Store Opening

You can find hundreds of additional examples here

Who Uses This Type of Forecast model?

The typical users of this type of forecast model are: Store planners, CFOs and analysts.

Other Forecast models Often Used in Conjunction with Automated Forecasts for New Store Openings

Progressive Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) departments sometimes use several different Automated Profit & Loss forecasts, along with general sales forecasts and budgets, sales dashboards, KPI dashboards, consolidation reports, balance sheets and cash flow statements and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data for competitors typically comes from management systems or 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 Sales Trend by Product Class Report for a Retail Company

What is a Sales Trend by Product Class Report?

Sales trend reports are considered critical management tools and are used by sales and product category managers to better understand year-over-year variances and monthly trends. Some of the main functionality in this type of dashboard report is that it combines detailed monthly metrics with powerful analytical charts. The top section of the report shows two years of monthly sales in addition to variances in amounts and percent. The traffic lights helps focus the user’s attention to significant variances. The rows display products by category. The bottom portion of the report provides trend and variance charts. You find an example of this type of dashboard report below.

Purpose of Sales Trend by Product Class Reports

Retail businesses use Sales by Product Class reports to give managers a multi-year overview of sales for each of its product categories. When used as part of good business practices in retail operations, a company can improve its product decisions related to sales performance as well as reduce the chances that important product sales trends go undetected.

Sales Trend by Product Class Report Example

Here is an example of a Sales Trend by Product Class report with detailed monthly figures for current and prior year as well as a section for graphical analysis.

Example of a Sales Trend by Product Class Report for a Retail Company

Example of a Sales Trend by Product Class Report for a Retail Company

You can find hundreds of additional examples here

Who Uses This Type of Dashboard report?

The typical users of this type of dashboard report are: Executives, store and regional managers, category managers.

Other Dashboard and Reports Often Used in Conjunction with Sales by Product Class Reports

Progressive retail operations departments sometimes use several different Sales by Product Class Reports, along with general sales forecasts and budgets, sales dashboards, KPI dashboards and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data for competitors typically comes from management systems or 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 Sales Report by Product and Store for a Retail Company

What is a Sales Report by Product and Store?

Product and store sales reports are considered essential operational analysis tools and are used by sales and product category managers to compare performance by store and region. Some of the main functionality in this type of dashboard report is that it combines variance analysis with store benchmarking. The columns display major product categories and within each of these the user finds current month, same period last year and variances. The rows dynamically list the chosen regions and the store locations within each region. You find an example of this type of dashboard report below.

Purpose of Product and Store Sales Reports

Retail businesses use Product and Store Sales Reports to benchmark sales performance across stores and regions. When used as part of good business practices in retail operations, a company can improve its store and territory decisions as well as reduce the chances that to underperformers go undetected for longer periods of time.

Product and Store Sales Report Example

Here is an example of a Sales Report comparing stores and product categories.

Example of a Sales Report by Product and Store for a Retail Company

Example of a Sales Report by Product and Store for a Retail Company

You can find hundreds of additional examples here

Who Uses This Type of Dashboard report?

The typical users of this type of dashboard report are: Executives, store and regional managers, category managers.

Other Dashboard reports Often Used in Conjunction with Product and Store Sales Reports

Progressive retail operations departments sometimes use several different Product and Store Sales Reports, along with general sales forecasts and budgets, sales dashboards, KPI dashboards, consolidation reports and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data for competitors typically comes from management systems or 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 Product Dashboard for a Retail Company

What is a Product Dashboard for a Retail Company?

Product dashboards are considered operational reports and are used by product managers and store managers to analyze trends and budget variances. Some of the main functionality in this type of dashboard is that it has seven different KPI charts. These include: Sales and gross margin by product class, monthly sales and gross margin trend, top and bottom products, and product inventory. You find an example of this type of dashboard below.

Purpose of Product Dashboards

Retail businesses use Product Dashboards to provide managers with an easy, self-service solution to monitor product performance. When used as part of good business practices in retail operations, a company can improve its inventory, marketing and sales decisions as well as reduce the chances that to product performance goes under the radar for managers.

Product Dashboard Example

Here is an example of a Product Dashboard with budget variances and trend analysis.

Example of a Product Dashboard for a Retail Company

Example of a Product Dashboard for a Retail Company

You can find hundreds of additional examples here

Who Uses This Type of Dashboard?

The typical users of this type of dashboard are: Product managers, store and regional managers.

Other Dashboards Often Used in Conjunction with Product Dashboards

Progressive retail operations departments sometimes use several different Product Dashboards, along with general sales forecasts and budgets, sales dashboards, inventory reports, profit & loss reports and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data for competitors typically comes from management systems or 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 Store Performance Dashboard for a Retail Company

What is a Store Performance Dashboard for a Retail Company?

Store performance reports are considered operational dashboards and are used by corporate offices and regional managers to analyze store sales and to benchmark performance. Some of the main functionality in this type of dashboard is that it it compares actual and budget revenues and profit across stores. It also shows the monthly trend for these two metrics. The two pie charts displays the top 5 and bottom 5 store locations. The dashboard also shows square foot per store and revenue per square foot per store. You find an example of this type of dashboard below.

Purpose of Store Performance Dashboards

Retailers use Store Performance Dashboards to make it easy for managers to analyze and benchmark KPIs across a chosen group of store locations. When used as part of good business practices in a retail operations department, a company can improve its decision-making related to store management, products and other performance variables as well as reduce the chances that executives don’t have good visibility to the large variations in store performance as soon as numbers are available.

Store Performance Dashboard Example

Here is an example of a Store Performance Dashboard with budget variance analysis and benchmarking.

Example of a Store Performance Dashboard for a Retail Company

Example of a Store Performance Dashboard for a Retail Company

You can find hundreds of additional examples here

Who Uses This Type of Dashboard?

The typical users of this type of dashboard are: Retail executives, CFOs, regional managers, store managers.

Other Dashboards Often Used in Conjunction with Store Performance Dashboards

Progressive retail operations departments sometimes use several different Store Performance Dashboards, along with general sales forecasts and budgets, sales dashboards, profit & loss reports and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data for competitors typically comes from management systems or 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 an Executive Dashboard for a Retail Company

What is an Executive Dashboard for a Retail Company?

Executive dashboards are considered essential management tools and are used by senior managers to analyze and monitor the key performance drivers of the company. Some of the main functionality in this type of dashboard is that it can be viewed for any period and retail entity. It contains eight charts that provides analysis of revenue, profit and headcount. These include Revenue by region, by month, by full time employee equivalent (FTE), as well as for the top products and top stores. Other charts display profit by region and monthly profit trend. You find an example of this type of dashboard below.

Purpose of Executive Dashboards for Retailers

Retailers use Executive Dashboards to make it easy for top management to analyze key performance indicators (KPIs) for the retail business. When used as part of good business practices in a Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) and Executive Department, a company can improve its speed and agility of decision-making as well as reduce the chances that executives operate in the dark because of lack of real-time, self-service analysis.

Executive Dashboards for a Retailer – Example

Here is an example of a Dashboard for Retail Executives with comparative and trend analysis.

Example of an Executive Dashboard for a Retail Company

Example of an Executive Dashboard for a Retail Company

You can find hundreds of additional examples here

Who Uses This Type of Dashboard?

The typical users of this type of dashboard are: Retail executives, board members, regional managers.

Other Dashboards Often Used in Conjunction with Executive Dashboards for Retailers

Progressive Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) and Executive departments sometimes use several different Executive Dashboards for Retailers, along with general sales forecasts and budgets, balance sheets, cash flow statements and other management and control tools.

Where Does the Data for Analysis Originate From?

The Actual (historical transactions) data for competitors typically comes from management systems or 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

This article is part 3 of an 8-part series on evaluating the best CPM tools for your business. Part 3 focuses on Excel functionalities that strengthen the best planning and financial reporting software applications.

 

Almost every financial professional both loves and hates Microsoft Excel. It seems like we can’t live with it and we can’t live without it!

So, when you are looking to acquire a new financial reporting or planning solution and you are comparing your vendor finalists, how well each solution interacts with Excel tends to be part of the top user requirements.

It should be noted that while an increasing number of cloud solutions emerged between 2010 and 2015, the popular sentiment from the browser-based vendors was that their tools would completely get rid of Excel. But, in short order, their customers started to miss the formatting and calculation power of Excel (as well as its familiarity) when they were creating reports and budget models. As a result, the early cloud vendors added Excel add-ins to provide an alternative design experience for Excel fans, and several newer vendors such as Vena and Solver made Excel an integral part of their cloud solutions.

For most companies, Excel functionality is THE key to success when using the best planning and financial reporting software.

Here are some of the top features to look for in reporting and budgeting Excel add-ins

Most finance, accounting, and budgeting users would consider strong Excel integration to be one of the top 5 or top 10 features when evaluating and comparing planning and reporting vendors. Below, we will discuss some important features to consider in this regard.

  1. The difference between Excel export/import and Excel add-ins

While pretty much every reporting, planning, and corporate performance management (CPM) solution can import data from and export reports to Excel, these processes should not be confused with Excel add-ins, which are plugins to Microsoft Excel that appear on its ribbon.

With an Excel add-in design tool, users build dynamic, parameter-driven reports that pull data from the ERP or CPM database. Data can be refreshed and written back (budgeting and forecasting) without any type of export and import process, which provides self-service for end users.

On this page you can find hundreds of examples of reports and budgeting forms built with an Excel add-in and made to run in a browser. Reviewing vendor examples of the types of templates you want to build with your new solution can be a very good assurance that the design and layout capability in your chosen solution is going to take care of your organization’s needs.

  1. Examples of pure Excel tools versus web portals with Excel add-ins

In the past, Excel add-ins were stand-alone reporting tools that needed to be installed on every user’s desktop (or virtual machine). So, if you had 50 users your IT department would be maintaining and upgrading 50 Excel add-ins. Luckily, this has changed. Since cloud architectures emerged in the CPM market, almost all vendors have built multi-tenant web portals that are managed and automatically upgraded by the vendor.

Today, there are still a few of the classic Excel add-ins left and most have the ability to connect to cloud ERPs and “trickle” the data to Excel when reports are processed. All major vendors, however, have web portals where reports are stored and, in some cases, also executed in the user’s browser without requiring Excel to run them. This architecture is particularly useful for planning processes where a significant number of end users can simply open their browsers and enter budgets and forecasts that are stored directly in the CPM solution’s cloud database.

  1. The importance of dynamic Excel rows and columns versus static ones

Most organizations add accounts, departments, and other dimension members to their ERP during the year. For older Excel add-ins, this usually requires manual maintenance of reports and budget templates in order to insert new rows or columns, or to maintain the content of dropdowns for parameters (e.g., a list of departments). This is because these add-ins can only put formula references at the cell-level in the spreadsheet.

With modern Excel add-ins, you can have dynamic listing of rows or columns and global report parameters.

Here are some quick examples:

  • Dynamic rows

If you have, for example, 20 Operating Expense accounts, you can create a range formula on a single row in Excel that automatically expands out to 20 rows. If someone adds 1 new account number in that range, you automatically get 21 rows in the report (or budget form). In older Excel add-ins, you have to manually create each row and, since they are static, new accounts will not become new rows automatically.

  • Dynamic columns

Let’s say you want actual data from January up to the current month and a forecast from next month through December. In a modern Excel add-in this report can be done dynamically, regardless of which month you run it for. With static, legacy Excel add-ins, you will need to manually change the formulas each month, make 11 versions of the report, or do major “tricks” in the report to make it more dynamic.

Template design with dynamic rows and dynamic columns

Template design with dynamic rows and dynamic columns

  • Dynamic global parameters

Typical examples of these are report filters for company, department, period, or budget version. In legacy Excel add-ins, these are designed as regular Excel dropdown boxes that populate based on data (e.g., a list of months or departments) hidden somewhere in the workbook. In modern Excel add-ins, these parameter selectors are dropdowns on a side menu or in the Excel sheet that pulls their content directly from the database.

In other words, they are always fresh and don’t need hidden dimension lists in each report or budget template.

In summary, modern Excel add-ins with dynamic rows, columns, and global parameters provide quicker report design and less maintenance work. They are also less likely to produce wrong reports because they can automatically include new accounts and other ERP dimension members that tend to change.

  1. Is Excel the primary design tool or an additional solution to learn?

Finance and accounting people tend to be very busy and few like to spend more time than necessary to build or maintain reports. As we discussed earlier, this is a major reason that Excel add-ins are so popular and have returned as part of cloud CPM solutions. However, when you compare vendors with Excel-based report designers, it is important to research whether their Excel tool is their second (“optional”) report writer or THE report writer.

Cloud solutions where there is a proprietary web designer, plus an optional Excel designer, result in users having to not only learn two tools but also having to constantly deal with decisions regarding whether a new report should be built in Excel or in the proprietary browser tool. Making a monthly package of reports from both tools, if possible, can be messy and lead to too much manual effort.

Solutions with a single, purpose-built Excel designer have the advantage of delivering one single tool to learn for users, and packaging and distributing reports can all be done in one place.

  1. Built for cloud

While some legacy Excel add-ins are still pure on-premises tools, most can now connect to cloud ERPs. The latest generation of Excel add-ins can not only be managed (installation, user security, etc.) from cloud portals, but some, like Solver, can even “convert” templates automatically from Excel to web reports and input forms. In these tools, users can choose to run the same report as a web report without requiring an Excel add-in. Alternatively, they can use the Excel add-in to open the report in Excel and execute there.

In other words, part of the research and comparison of the vendors’ reporting and budgeting solutions should be to find out if their planning and financial software relies on legacy tools or purpose-built cloud architectures.

How much does a CPM solution with Excel-based reporting and planning cost?

While it is important to do your homework to ensure that the vendor you choose has the key features needed for a successful deployment, your total cost and savings in time and effort matter – as does your improved capacity for better, faster decision-making at your company.

Here are some factors to consider when you get prices from your vendor finalists:

  • Does the annual subscription from each vendor contain the same user count and modules?
  • If you are receiving a discount, how long until it resets to the list price?
  • Does the vendor have a written policy for annual price increases?
  • Are the implementation estimates from each vendor for exactly the same work?

A good rule of thumb is to ask each vendor for the total subscription cost for the first 5 years. Make sure this includes any potential price increases. Also, if the vendor is owned by a private equity firm, chances are that they will be sold while you are still a customer, so you will want to ensure that you receive a document that states their policy for price increases in the future (including if they are sold to another company).

Here is a free vendor comparison and return on investment (ROI) tool to help you compare vendors across a number of different features. This tool also includes a simple return on investment (ROI) calculator that is part of the total vendor score.

Conclusion

In summary, choosing one of the best financial reporting software solutions to automate monthly reporting, as well as to cover other management reporting needs, will ultimately drive better and faster decision making at your company. This is why the task of finding the best planning and financial reporting tools is increasingly becoming a strategic priority for organizations across all industries.

As we discussed earlier, certain features are more important than others in the evaluation process and can act as key drivers of success – in addition to a well-executed implementation process, of course.

Links to useful software research and evaluation assets