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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.

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.

Cloud Reporting for IntacctThis article explores the cloud reporting options you have for replacing FRx and Management Reporter.
Sometimes, it’s hard for me to believe that some companies might still be using FRx, as the product was retired by Microsoft – and replaced with Management Reporter (MR) – years ago. But MSDynamicsWorld.com recently hosted a webinar about replacing either, and hundreds of registrants attended. When I zoom out and think about process overhauls or technology replacements that I have been a part of, for the most part, they generally haven’t happened rapidly. Also, we’re all regularly in the trenches of our jobs, in this case producing reports or consolidating company financials for an understanding of company health, so taking the time to research, watch demos, have calls with sales folks, and test the power and viability of a new product can be tough. But as companies look to replace FRx and MR and at the same time prepare for a future move to a cloud ERP system, we’re seeing a lot of finance departments take the first leap by implementing a modern cloud reporting and budgeting solution, proving that a true business improvement momentum is building in the enterprise technology sector. This article will discuss the power of cloud reporting options not only to replace FRx and MR, but also as a strategic catalyst for a bigger picture cloud technology migration.
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Have you ever started a new job in an industry you have no experience in? Learning the industry jargon can be overwhelming. I can personally attest to this because prior to working in the

Business Intelligence (BI) and Corporate Performance Management (CPM) worlds, I was in the food, public relations, and entertainment industries, and did not have much experience in BI or CPM. If you have recently been exposed to BI tools, such as report writers, budgeting and planning solutions, dashboards, data warehouses (DWs) and you feel like a deer in headlights, there is no need to panic. In this article, we will discuss ten acronyms in the BI/CPM realm that will help you understand and enhance your experience with BI and CPM processes.

Here are the top 8 business intelligence acronyms that may be resourceful when dealing with BI & CPM solutions

1. Extraction, Transformation, and Loading (ETL)

ETL represents three database functions that are combined into one tool to extract data from one data source. The ETL process is the practice of extracting data from data sources and transferring it into the DW. ETL isn’t necessarily three defined steps, but rather a broad process.

2. Data Warehouse (DW)

Informatica defines a DW as an acronym for data warehouse meaning, “technology that aggregates structured data from one or more sources so that it can be compared and analyzed for greater business intelligence.” The term “Data Warehouse” was coined by William H. Inmon, an American computer scientist. This is an analyst’s dream because all the metrics about the organization’s activities are gathered in one place. You can find out more about the details of a successful data warehouse here.

3. Relational Database Management System (RDBMS)

A RDBMS is a program that enables users to administer, create and update a relational database. Commercial RDBMS typically use the Structured Query Language (SQL) to access the database. A relational database is described as “a set of tables containing data fitted into predefined categories” by TechTarget.

4. Online Analytical Processing (OLAP)

OLAP, also known as “OLAP cube,” performs multidimensional analysis of data and offers the ability for complex calculations, advanced data modeling, and trend analysis.

5. Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

A KPI is a lot like a GPS navigation system as it allows the driver to be in complete control when making decisions about where to steer next. KPIs are navigational tools that your company will utilize to understand whether the business is on a successful route or whether it’s veering off. According to Klipfolio, a KPI is “a measureable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives.” You can learn more about KPIs and KPI strategies in detail in the following articles: 10 Steps to Successful KPI and Metric Design Using Dynamics GP, Part 1 and 10 Steps to Successful KPI and Metric Design Using Dynamics GP, Part 2. Keep in mind that there are vertical specific KPIs; therefore, do some research.

6. User Interface (UI)

In the IT world, UI is designed into a device within which a user can interact. This includes keyboards, display screens, a mouse, and a desktop. It can also include how a user interacts with the application or the website. Companies’ dependence on applications has led organizations to prioritize improving the user’s overall experience, also known as UX.

7. SQL Server

Microsoft SQL Server is a relational database management system that was developed by Microsoft.

  • SQL Management Studio (SSMS) – SSMS is an integrated environment used to administer a SQL Server Infrastructure. If you’re not familiar with a SQL Server, it is a relational database management software developed by Microsoft.
  • SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) – SSIS is used to execute a wide range of data migration tasks.
  • SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) – SSRS is also part of the SQL Server services. It is a server-based report generating system that stores metadata and object definitions. You can learn more about the SQL Server on the Microsoft site.

8. Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS is a subsidiary of Amazon, and offers cloud computing platforms. AWS is also the competing platform against Microsoft Azure, formerly known as Windows Azure. Companies will be more exposed to AWS and Microsoft Azure as the cloud gets bigger. Cloud Computing platforms provide an easy way to access storage, servers, databases, and applications. It also provides quick access to flexible and low-cost resources.

If you are in the BI/CPM space, you may have seen the terms above used widely. For those who are new to the industry, I hope defining and laying out these terms give you a better understanding of the BI/CPM industry as well as the industry jargon. We’re happy to answer questions and generally review Solver’s web-powered, easy-to-use Excel and mobile BI tools with both real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis, budgeting and collaboration as a way to accelerate your company performance management experience.

Solver enables world-class decisions with 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 discuss the process of preparing for a successful financial reporting implementation.

Image taken from Shutterstock.

Image taken from Shutterstock.


In the modern business realm, you cannot avoid financial reporting. Whether it is a homegrown Excel process, a legacy software program, an independent software vendor (ISV), or a native enterprise resource planning (ERP) report writer, every company is doing it. Investing in your first modern reporting tool typically means automated financial statements, accessible collaboration, modern security, and self-service analytics. Don’t worry if it sounds like gibberish to you. In this article, we will discuss preparing for your first reporting implementation so you are able to select the best reporting tool to navigate your organization in managing and analyzing data.
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