by Saeward Schillaci, The Resource Group
If you have Microsoft Dynamics GP, then Management Reporter is automatically bundled with the license. This is Microsoft's offering as a primary financial report writer for Dynamics GP. However, Microsoft recently announced there will be no major enhancements of Management Reporter for Dynamics GP.
In addition, for many businesses this included functionality falls short of their business intelligence (BI) needs. Can your company get the best out of Management Reporter, or would it be worthwhile to invest in a third-party offering such as BI360 from Solver?
There is a plethora of blogs, videos, and other detailed information about each solution. However, for many organizations the decision boils down to a few key factors. Let's summarize these three major aspects of financial reporting software as inputs, interface, and outputs.
1. How much data does your company want to incorporate into its financial reports?
In other words: what are the possible inputs for the system?
Management Reporter comes fully integrated with Dynamics GP and allows users to build custom financial reports and schedule those reports to generate on a regular basis. These reports will automatically populate with data from the general ledger and can be exported to Excel to allow for further changes and inputs. However, one significant downfall of Management Reporter is that it only draws data from the general ledger.
BI360, on the other hand, is fully integrated with Dynamics GP and can populate reports with data from subledgers and other modules. In addition, BI360 offers a data warehouse that allows organizations to add information from sources outside Dynamics GP. This feature is built on Microsoft’s SQL Server platform and allows the user to incorporate information from payroll, CRM, point-of-sale systems, HR data, and almost any other data set you might need. The data warehouse also includes many useful features to ensure that data gathering is quick and easy. For example, custom creation of new modules and new dimensions can be done through simple, user-friendly workflows. Each item can include imported data, manually entered data, or a combination of the two. As another example, BI360 also offers a currency converter to allow the user to quickly view data in the currency of their choosing from multiple subsidiaries using different currencies. These are just a few of the functions offered by the data warehouse.
In summary, Management Reporter only draws data from the general ledger. BI360 allows you to easily make reports using a far greater set of data than that which is available only on the general ledger.
2. How much flexibility does your company want when creating financial and budgeting reports?
Essentially, this question boils down to: how user-friendly and customizable is the interface?
An interface that is less intuitive, involves more steps, and does not incorporate real-time data can still serve the basic needs of some organizations. However, if you are trying to compete in an industry where quick financial decision-making is paramount, then a simple, customizable interface that shows real-time data is extremely helpful.
Management Reporter allows users to view reports in an interface that is very similar to that of its predecessor, FRx. However, the reports do not allow inputs from users for tasks such as budgeting. This means that in order to collect data such as budgeting information, a report needs to be exported to Excel to allow data inputs. In addition, Management Reporter does not allow users to view what a report might look like until after it has been created. The result is that in order to use the report creation tool properly, a certain amount of expertise is necessary. Even with such skills, users might find it difficult and time-consuming to customize a report to effectively display the desired information.
BI360 improves these basic functionalities in two significant ways. First, BI360 is an Excel-based solution which functions as an add-on. This means that reports can be created and edited within one application rather than needing to be exported or imported in order to move data between Excel and Management Reporter. It also means that most accountants, due to their familiarity with Excel, will catch on very quickly when learning the BI360 interface. All of Excel's normal functions can be used, but BI360 also offers more features to better automate the reporting process. With budgeting, for example, there is an easy-to-use workflow that dramatically reduces the time that must be spent if users are manually creating budgeting worksheets within Excel, which is necessary with Management Reporter.
BI360 also has a more comprehensive and intuitive web application as well as a free app for mobiles and tablets. Users can easily view updates to reports just a few seconds after they’ve been changed, regardless of where they happen to be working at the time. BI360 also offers the option of using dashboards. The dashboards are customizable and can show up-to-date KPIs to help your business quickly make good financial decisions.
Overall, Management Reporter has a more limited, less streamlined interface. If your business has relatively simple financial reporting needs and users who are already familiar with MR's report creation wizard, this might be a viable option. If you are looking for a more robust, intuitive, and versatile interface, BI360 may be the best choice.
3. Who will be viewing the financial reports, and what types of reports will best facilitate their decision-making?
In other words, once data has been manipulated into reports, what are the possible outputs?
As previously mentioned, Management Reporter can be automated to send reports to Excel on a daily, weekly, monthly, or other recurring basis. The software also includes a simple web viewer interface, which allows users to access reports remotely and does not require installing any software on the laptop or other device. You can also publish reports to Microsoft SharePoint or a network location, as well as send emails that include links to financial reports.
BI360 includes all of those output options and a few more. Reports can be viewed on the web interface, in Excel, sent to SharePoint or a network location, emailed, or automatically sent to a printer. Reports can also be bundled to include attachments such as additional spreadsheets, slideshows, Word documents, or any other file that might be helpful. As discussed above, BI360 offers customizable dashboards, which are a decision-making tool that more and more businesses desire as a streamlined way to view important data. Lastly, BI360 has the ability to automatically create a written narrative using the raw facts of a report, which can be especially useful for business executives who want to quickly glean the basic information from an extensive data set.
Although both Management Reporter and BI360 have many other features that are relevant to your organization’s needs, the three key factors of inputs, interface, and outputs help illustrate some of the most significant differences between the reporting solutions. Overall, Management Reporter is a very basic financial reporting solution that may still suffice for some businesses. BI360 offers greater functionality and a more intuitive design, which is crucial for many businesses that desire more information in their decision-making processes.