In this blog, we compare the BI/Reporting tools found inside of ERP/GL systems with pure-play 'third party' specialist best-of-breed tools.
"Oh yes, [insert accounting system/ERP here] is BI ready and more than capable. It’s rather excellent. You won’t need other tools! Don’t waste your time and money on other stuff.” Have you heard that before?
Yeah, me too. Is it true, though? Tens of thousands of companies invest heavily in 3rd party Business Intelligence/Reporting tools. So, why?
Here are 6 questions to ask not just the vendor but for your reference and other users you may know of the new system.
1. Does it rely on Excel to store and report data?
Why is this important? Excel is a tool that is great for reporting and budgeting small ad-hoc stuff, not a companies monthly and annual financial reports. And if you have to export your data into Excel, that's a big no-no as your data is suddenly not live. You need a live or near-live connection to your accounting system for those last minute updates.
2. Does it take more than 10 minutes to build a new report?
No drag and drop features for report building? No WYSIWYG? Hard to understand coding and field names (what sort of field doesn't have cows or crops on it anyway??) So you're forced to email or fill out a requirements form and send it to IT or your consultant. Then a couple of weeks later after a few emails back and forth, you get the report, but it isn't really what you wanted. To combat this, look for a reporting tool that gives you the power to build reports fast and quickly.
3. Can you visually analyze your data in 10 seconds, yourself?
This is simple in a tool like CALUMO. Check out this video on how to visualize your data in 10 seconds with CALUMO. If your ERP software can't do this, in the same reporting package by the way, not a different application, it's time to look elsewhere for reporting.
4. Can you build reports yourself without help from consultants and contractors?
See point 3 above. You really must have the power to create reports yourself. Your IT department is more than happy to have you building reports! In fact, they wish they didn't have to do it anymore. The best tools like CALUMO enable you to spend more time having fun with report layouts, colors, charts, etc. because you know the data is always right and easy to get access to.
5. Do reports load/display data in 5 seconds or less?
I can't stand waiting for data to load in a report. When I work with customers converting from the ERP supplied BI tool to CALUMO, I get worried the report is broken if it takes more than 20 seconds to return! Time is money and waiting more than 5 seconds is enough thank you. Great BI tools like CALUMO report your data instantly. Go for one like that. How do you test it? Use real data or real data volumes. Most demo data is minuscule, so ask the vendor to give you a demo with the same data scale you have today and expect to grow to.
6. Are you able to reduce the workload on the accounting team?
A reporting system that has budgeting built in (that's Corporate Performance Management, not just Business Intelligence) is a must in my view. Why? You're not only getting a single platform for your significant reporting and planning tasks that Excel does today, but you will also save money on people. You will either reduce the size of your finance team, or you won't have to increase it as the company grows. It's so much cheaper to implement software like CALUMO that has excellent reporting and budgeting/forecast capability than to employ people.
The tool needs to do at least the 6 things above otherwise you’re going to need to invest again!
If you answer “No” to any of these questions, you’re better off investing in 3rd party reporting tools - you'll save money and time.
Don’t forget Budgeting and Forecasting too - because that’s the next challenge after you've got the reporting sorted out.
Sure, you’re going to narrow the products down, but there are still plenty of products to choose from!