Sub-Ledger, Transactional Reports for Microsoft Dynamics and Other ERPs

    What sub-ledger, transactional reports are you missing out on using native ERP reporting tools? What is the impact on your company’s future?  This article will discuss the different sub-ledger reports that empower your company’s leaders to make better decisions about the growth and development of the organization.

    In the world of business, specifically when it comes to financial reporting, there is an abundance of Business Intelligence (BI) report writing tools that focus on the General Ledger (GL).  But what about all the sub ledger reports that different employees and departments rely on to make better business decisions?  What does the native Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) report writer offer you?  What are the pros and cons of this built-in offering?  And what are your other options for transactional reporting?  So many questions, and this might just be the tip of the iceberg regarding your search for better financial reporting solutions. All accounting systems come equipped with a built-in report writer.  The CFO might want to go the route of the report writer that is already included in the price of the ERP system to save money.  There are pros and cons to going this route, but a lot of people are going with third party products these days, so the general opinion is that the cons outweigh the pros.  Since the module is within the ERP, live reporting provides users real-time data analysis.  However, they are rarely user friendly. More specifically, they are often too technical with requirements to know database tables, and they tend to lack graphs and indicators to make reading and analyzing easier at a glance.  Native report writers usually require the user to be fully licensed to operate the ERP, which can be thousands of dollars, to just get in there and run a report.  Furthermore, they sometimes differ from the reporting tool used for financial statements from the GL, which is problematic given the amount of detailed intel in sub-ledger data that can drive business decisions. In most good-sized companies, there are 5 to 50 accountants working in these ERP modules – and important decisions are made utilizing analysis of data in produced reports.  Beyond the GL, there are several sub-ledgers that different user roles use for their corporate jurisdictional duties.     The most prominent sub-ledgers include Accounts Payable (AP), Accounts Receivable (AR), Sales Order Processing (SOP), Fixed Assets (FA), Project Accounting (PA), and Inventory.  AP refers to the money that your company owes to vendors for a product or service received on credit.  AR can be defined as money owed to your company by a customer or client for the product or service you provided, purchased on credit.  SOP refers to the sales orders processing and the costs associating with the transaction.  FA is any long-term owned entity, like real estate or a patent.  PA tracks the financial status and development of projects.  Inventory refers to the goods and/or materials your company has in stock for the purpose of sales.  These ledgers mean different things to different positions, but they all can be a driving force in the success of a company, depending on the structure and purpose of the organization. Sub-ledger reports vary in their relevance from department to department, but certain roles have to ask questions as part of their job that are only answered by certain sub-ledger data analysis.  Someone is involved in knowing at what level that your company should be purchasing additional inventory – and how much of what at a given time.  Another person has the responsibility of tracking outstanding AR payments, paying close attention to a quality aging report and following up when necessary with customers who still owe your company money.  It is hard for me to imagine a company relying on just their native report writers in the face of today’s multi-faceted business demands – and most do not. Here’s why: third party tools are answering to the modern needs much better than the ERP native reporter.  I have written about why Independent Software Vendor products are needed when your ERP is so robust (and a substantial investment) in its own right, but the reality is that one product, like Microsoft Dynamics, SAP Business One, or other ERPs, cannot be the best product to every individual company that relies on the software.  It cannot be a best-of-breed solution to every customer because we all have our unique business demands, processes, and goals related to our specific space on the market.  So, now that we have established the importance of sub-ledger, transactional reporting and the ISVs that are manufacturing solutions, what is it that you should be seeking in a solution? There are plenty of good questions to arm yourself with when shopping for a BI reporting tool, but overall, you will want to know what good data analysis solutions can offer you.  Besides reporting beyond the GL, make sure that sub-ledger modules include what your employees need to make strong decisions to help grow your business.  When doing a feature and functionality test, you should focus on the ease of use for business users, the accessibility and flexibility of the product, and the power that the product provides you and your colleagues to produce clear, useful sub-ledger reports.  Some of the features to evaluate are: ranking and sorting transactions, charts to compare data or to show trends, traffic lights or exception colors to highlight figures or variances that are too low or too high, ability to reconcile sub-ledger to GL by pulling data from two ERP modules into the same row of a report, ease of listing and grouping transactions, etc. When evaluating which transactional reports are right for certain managers, there are also several product infrastructure factors to investigate.  Consider if you want the capability to produce real-time reports – or rely on a data storage source like an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube, which requires someone with OLAP experience and skills to manage the cube, or a fully built, configurable data warehouse.  Do you want to build your reports using the familiar formulas and formatting of Excel – or in a proprietary interface?  In terms of flexibility, does your team need web-based reporting instead of (or in addition to) an Excel add-in?  What other BI needs do you have that could be met by a reporting tool positioned within a comprehensive suite of tools?  Reporting is an important function, and therefore, the barrage of questions that might flood the process are going to be helpful for making the right investment. Just remember that different sub-ledger reports are more valuable for different companies because of organizational structure, specific goals, and workflow procedures.  You should assess the culture of your company and think about what particular reporting and BI needs are not being met before embarking on a search for a replacement for the native ERP report writer.  Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Excel, web, and mobile BI tools with both real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis, comprehensive reporting and collaboration as a way to accelerate company performance management.
    June 26, 2014