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Dynamics 365 Business Central Done Right: Advanced Reporting and Budgeting

This article discusses the release of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and how to enable world-class decision making for executives and managers.

Before I spent more than 70,000 hours helping companies achieve success with ERP/CRM/CPM solutions, on a cloudy day in the Fall of 1982, my second year into my accounting degree, I experienced the birth of the first generation CPM solution. On that day, before me was VisiCalc spreadsheet software on an Apple II Plus. The President of Videx, Paul Davis, was explaining to me how this technology was allowing his startup that created a circuit board to expand Apple II’s 40 column screen to 80, and his function key pad for the Apple II keyboard would make it easier to plan, model, budget, and analyze his company’s business. His passion to spread the value of his creation by working with Steve Jobs and Wozniak’s engineering team to deliver the beginnings of a corporate performance management solution was not lost on me.

In July 1983, I went to work for Videx for 3 years before leaving as their Chief Accountant and starting my ERP career as Vice President for an IBM Business Partner. Prior to joining Solver in 2017 as Chief Commercial Officer to help with the advent of BI360 Cloud CPM powered by Microsoft Azure, I was an executive of ERP/CRM/CPM VAR for 24 years, with 20 of those years working as a Microsoft Dynamics Partner.

After 33 years in providing companies ERP/CRM/CPM software and most of those years with the Microsoft Dynamics product line, I can say with some confidence the newly released Microsoft Dynamics Business Central will be a leading Cloud ERP system. Like most Cloud ERP systems, transaction processing, such as order processing to collection of payment, is handled quite well. Departments are magically glued together by the interdepartmental flow of transactions and shared business processing rules. What is not apparent is how such a Cloud ERP system can enable world-class decision making by executives and business unit managers.

Cloud is new, and therefore Cloud ERPs such as Dynamics 365 Business Central have been outfitted with the latest technology, offer modern user experience, secure application programming interface (API), and the ability to extend with industry or user specific functionality through custom programming or independent software vendor application add-ons. In addition, Cloud ERPs have focused on providing better reporting and business charts, for example Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) and Power BI.

These improvements in Cloud ERP systems have focused on reducing the costs to process transactions with more categorization, improving user satisfaction, compliance, security, and reducing the cost to extract information out of the ERP for departmental managers to optimize business process decisions.

What is missing from Cloud ERPs, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central are tools for executives and business unit managers to make world-class decisions. Decisions like:

  1. When will I need to invest or source cash, and what will be the optimal instrument at that time?

  2. Based on company strategy, which business unit managers are not meeting their financial, quantitative, and qualitative goals (e.g. sales, qualified leads, employee retention rate, customer satisfaction, and LEED score)?

  3. Which employee roles’ compensation growth needs to be targeted for automation to keep product margins flat, and how many FTEs by period do we need to replace by how much capital expenditure by period?

  4. Which business units and associated salespeople are meeting their new account unit sales per qualified lead target?

Decisions like these can be made with Corporate Performance Management (CPM) systems. How?

  1. Aggregation of company wide data into a data warehouse. For example, data from Cloud and on-premise data silos such as: Cloud ERP (e.g. Dynamics 365 Business Central), Payroll/HR service, CRM, Point of Sale, industry benchmark service, bank rates, Big Data result set, IoT result set, Blockchain ledger, etc.

  2. Easy integration with out–of-the-box connectors to Cloud ERP like Dynamics 365 Business Central) and other data sources, such as a payroll/HR service.

  3. Easy migration of legacy ERP and other systems history into a data warehouse.

  4. Secure, scalable, and reliable Cloud service, like Microsoft Azure.

  5. Single planning, modeling, forecasting and budgeting tool for executives and business unit managers that goes beyond just planning at the general ledger chart of account level.

  6. Workflow for consolidating and approving of budgets across all business units.

  7. Single reporting and KPI tool for executives and business unit managers.

  8. Familiar and powerful Excel planning and reporting design experience.

  9. Reporting tool that can handle financial reporting requirements such as: multi-company consolidations, foreign currency translation, drill-down, general ledger dimensions, and accounting periods.

  10. Reporting and Budgeting Portal for the distribution of budgets, reports and KPIs, including security to publish Strategy, Goals, and KPIs to every employee and have visibility into the rollup through the business unit level to corporate executive level.

  11. Quick implementation capability of baseline CPM system for immediate ROI.

  12. Ability to start simply with financial statement reporting, then follow up over time with budgeting, planning, and other data sources such as industry benchmark data.

  13. With a Cloud CPM system that requires no customer on-premise support or infrastructure.

Although I referenced at the beginning of this article that I started with Solver as Chief Commercial Officer a year ago, I have been representing Solver products and services for over 18 years as a Microsoft Dynamics Partner. The 13 items I listed above represent what a world-class CPM solution should have and Solver’s BI360 Cloud powered by Microsoft Azure delivers this and more.

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