Being able to make strategic business decisions is one of the main goals of an organization’s leadership team. Reporting tools provide businesses with the ability to turn data into meaningful information to help guide those decisions, which makes leveraging the right reporting tool critical to generating valuable reports. What works for one organization may not work for another. It all depends on the existing reports you utilize, your staff members’ experience with reporting tools and the vision of what reporting capabilities you need.
For businesses that utilize Microsoft Dynamics GP, there are several reporting options available. Understanding each tool is key to picking which one works best for your organization:
1. SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS)
SSRS is a reporting tool from Microsoft, so right off the bat, you know it integrates well with GP. There are a large number of reports that can be deployed with your GP package. And by pulling data directly from the SQL database, you can create reports that pull directly from the GP company databases. SSRS has great visualizations, easy-to-use filters that drill down to the information you want to see and is exportable to Excel. It is also very simple to change the parameters of a report, which saves added steps or customizations that you may have to take using other reporting tools.
Additionally, if numbers are changing quickly during the day, you can subscribe to run the report you need in the evening or overnight so that you can open it in the morning and rest assured that the numbers are now static and up to date. Since SSRS refreshes with data directly from GP, you can access real-time data as it happens in GP.
Most people are familiar with Excel and its capabilities, so this may be an easier option to implement. It’s customizable, the visuals are strong and simple to create, and Excel also refreshes data directly from GP tables. You can create complex calculations to assist with activities, streamlining repetitive steps often used to create spreadsheets and graphs. Many companies have an Excel go-to person on their staff, and this option can utilize their strengths to help build the reports needed.
One potential downside of using Excel is that it pulls all your data before applying a filter, slicer or timeline. If you have a large amount of data that you want to narrow down, be aware that Excel can get overwhelmed at times. (On the flip side, the SSRS reporting tool applies the filter up front and only pulls data meeting your specific criteria.) There are methods to reduce the data returned to Excel, but it will take an intermediate to advanced user to help apply those filters.
3. Jet Reports
Jet Reports utilizes Excel as a foundation. It provides add-ins for report creation and design, so you can use their preset reports or create your own. The Jet add-in helps to simplify the report creation and distribution from within Excel. And the reports look great. They’re visually appealing, nicely formatted and able to clearly define data so it’s easy to read and interpret. If you were considering using Excel, Jet Reports certainly ups the design look and feel.
4. Power BI
With engaging visuals, Power BI’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and dashboard reports are a key area that may draw some businesses into choosing it over other tools. Power BI can be accessed in a web browser, allowing users to view reports from anywhere. Power BI can pull data from a number of data sources, which means dashboards can be built from GP and non-GP data. However, it does not offer real-time reports with GP but rather updates hourly.
Overall, Power BI is very navigation friendly and very powerful when it comes to displaying key information and visualizing data on your dashboard. It’s easy to use and set filters — and on top of it all, it’s cost-friendly. There are plenty of benefits to using it.
How to Implement Your New Reporting Tool
When it comes to picking a reporting tool, the first step is to think strategically about how to get the information you need to help your business develop. To build those reports, you need to determine what you want to get out of them.
Once you’ve chosen the tool with the features that best fit your business’s requirements, planning comes into play. Key considerations include the types of reports you need (e.g., default, modified or custom), user access and security requirements, and your timeline for implementation.
During the implementation, do not forget about the importance of change management. The tool is only as good as how — and if — it’s used. Make sure you communicate to your employees what changes you are making and why you are making them to prepare them for what’s coming, which will help improve user adoption. Hold training sessions to ensure everyone knows how to use the reporting tool to its fullest capabilities and do not resort to old, manual habits.
When creating new reports, make sure you thoroughly test to capture all business activities and ensure the data and information is correct and meets the requirements. It’s important to have more than one person test the report so you can get different views of activities that each person performs. Don’t forget to restrict access to only those who need the report. Security can often be overlooked, but it’s crucial to keeping your data safe.
Lastly, establish ongoing reviews. User feedback is key to improving results, as data needs change and reporting tools evolve. There may come a time when a more effective tool comes onto the market and can increase your ability to provide meaningful data and reports. Periodic reviews help you establish how your reporting needs are changing and if the tools you use are still the best option.
If you’re looking to upgrade your reporting tool or automate what’s currently a series of manual processes, Wipfli can help you choose the best reporting tool for your business’s needs. Contact us to learn more.