How to Quickly Deploy the Best Budgeting and Forecasting Tools for Dynamics 365 Business Central

    A rapidly increasing number of mid-market organizations are implementing Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (D365 BC). If you are considering a migration to D365 BC, the first thing to do is make sure the solution fits your needs and if you should consider any third party connected apps to automate certain processes that are key to your business. When companies consider migrating their accounting solution from on-premise servers to the cloud, a key factor in the decision is the ability to automate and streamline accounting and finance processes. To ensure this occurs, companies not only have to review core ERP functionality to make sure it meets their current and future needs, but they must also review which tools to use for reporting, planning, and analysis. Some of these solutions are native to D365 BC while others, like Power BI dashboards data visualization tools, are embedded or connected apps from the Microsoft cloud stack. Still other apps are third-party best-of-breed solutions covering specific business processes. This blog will focus on budgeting and forecasting integrated with Dynamic 365 Business Central and includes some elements you may want to think about to help ensure that your experience with D365 BC is maximized when it comes to producing:
    • Annual budgets
    • Monthly or quarterly forecasts
    • What-if analysis and scenario modelling
    • Strategic goals to drive your planning process
    Advanced CPM Software Why Use Planning Apps Instead of the Native Budgeting Features in Dynamics 365 BC? D365 BC’s budgeting functionality enables basic budget input, but similar to almost any other cloud ERP system’s native planning tools, this inherent functionality is not the preferred place where a budgeting manager would want to oversee an annual budget process or produce a forecast. Here is a showcase that includes several hundred budgeting, forecasting and report examples that can provide an idea of the breadth and depth of capabilities typical for professional corporate performance management (CPM) tools. Tools that can help you optimize planning processes and related decision-making in your business. While many D365 BC customers supplement their budgeting and forecasting tasks with home-grown Excel models, it usually becomes quite obvious when Excel no longer is the right platform for your planning models. Typical signs of pain include problems like:
    • Errors with formulas and links
    • No workflow
    • Long duration (often 2+ months) of budget process due to lack of automation
    • Lack of user security (especially for salary budgets, etc.)
    • Inability to perform web-based input so files need to be shared and collected
    • Painfully slow and inflexible budget consolidation and reporting options
    These types of common issues leave an opening for the market’s best-of-breed budgeting and forecasting solutions to offer a purpose-built and professional planning experience that also can automate and streamline your budgeting and forecasting processes. How to Pick the Right Planning Solution for Dynamics 365 Business Central Much can be written about evaluation and selection of budgeting and forecasting solutions. We will not go into details in this blog, but if you would like some ideas, this document highlights key areas to consider. This interactive app also provides a simple way to compare and score planning tools. It includes an ROI calculator to analyze the cost/benefit of alternative tools versus your current solution. In short, progressive Financial, Planning and Analysis (FP&A) departments of the 2020s want planning solutions that are flexible; closely integrated with their ERP as well as financial reporting (for variance analysis, etc.) and dashboard functionality; and that provide quick time to value. What Is Considered a Quick Start with a New Planning Solution and How Is It Deployed? These days, most D365 BC customers want their connected apps, including budgeting and forecasting tools, to be cloud based. The questions that quickly come up include: how complex integration of a best-of-breed planning solution with D365 BC might be and how much cost and effort will it take to get key budget input forms up and running in it. Forms such as:
    • Employee payroll (with taxes and benefits)
    • Capital expenses (with calculation of depreciation)
    • Sales budget (by sales person and/or customer, product/service)
    • Profit & Loss (revenues and operating expenses)
    • Balance sheet with automated or semi-automated Cash Flow budgets
    The typical answer: months of effort and tens of thousands of dollars in consulting services. However, some Microsoft software partners like Solver, that work very closely with Dynamics 365 Business Central and its partner channel, have developed pre-built ERP integrations as well as out-of-the-box budget templates. For example, Solver’s QuickStart integration to D365 BC can get a company up and running in a single day, with pre-built and customizable input planning forms, reports and Power BI dashboards. All of these forms, reports and visualization tools are available in a continuously growing template Marketplace. A note about tools that offer integrations to D365 BC: While almost all reporting vendors can claim to offer integrations to an ERP like Dynamics 365 Business Central, there can be big differences in the skill and effort involved to get such integrations ready and your financial data loaded into the planning and reporting tool. Generally, there are three categories of integrations, each with its own effort level required 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 D365 BC, but not pre-mapped to popular fields with an app that configures dimensions and views in D365 BC to “light them up” for its API.
    • Quickest and easiest: Connectors specifically built for D365 BC and that include an app or script(s) that properly and automatically configure dimensions and views in D365 BC. 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 Template Marketplace and Why Is It Important to Your Business? By now, most best-of-breed planning solutions have followed D365 BC and other popular ERPs to the cloud. They offer modern and flexible functionality to collect the budget and forecast data that your executives need. However, they still have at least one big deficiency: Somebody has to design those input forms and adapt them to your D365 chart of accounts and other key dimensions. This can be very painful when you include the time and cost involved, especially if you still remember the effort it took to get all required reports up and running in your old legacy on-premise ERP system. These days, there is a growing trend for cloud business solutions to offer pre-built apps such as reports, input forms, connectors, etc. in their own Marketplaces. Typically, app installations only involve a few clicks to install from a marketplace. This is not that different from apps you are used to downloading to your iPhone or Samsung phone. For example, in Solver’s Marketplace (see screenshot below), users can download planning input templates, financial reports and more than 50 pre-built financial dashboards that plug right into your Power BI web service. Solver Template marketplace for Dynamics 365 Business Central In other words, with true marketplace templates you should be able to provide your managers with at least a set of General Ledger account-level budgeting and forecasting templates the same day you install the planning tool! Now that’s a quick deployment! Summary For new or existing Dynamics 365 Business Central customers, the 2020s hold a lot of promise, with Microsoft continuously improving and updating their ERP system. You’ll also find a rapidly growing eco-system of third-party apps that further enhance the benefits of D365 BC. Picking the right solutions, including for planning, 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.