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A New Era for the CFO with Integrated Dashboards and Financial Reports in the Cloud

This article focuses on the best of both worlds: a world-class reporting solution and a leading visualization tool.

Neither data visualization with dashboards nor financial report writers are by any means new. As a matter of fact, both technologies can be traced back to the late 80’s and early 90’s. However, executives and department heads, had to suffer through poor design experiences, lack of automated data feeds, and more. Then, as these features improved, another problem arose; the companies building financial reporting tools where almost never the same companies that were building dashboard tools. Sure, there were acquisitions in both camps, but nothing ever stuck or became market leaders in both areas. After 30 years, there is not yet a combined user experience where the Office of Finance can use “the best of both worlds” to provide its management teams with world-class reporting and analysis. Currently, the preferred experience is in the cloud. This typically gives a higher ROI for a longer period of time, because in the 2020’s, the business world is definitely moving their applications to the cloud at an increasingly rapid pace.

Examples of the Two Technology Camps

Examples of these two “technology camps” are the visualization tools on one side, with solutions like Power BI (Microsoft), Tableau (Salesforce) and Cliq (Thoma Bravo), and Corporate Performance Management tools on the other side, like Adaptive Insights (Workday), BI360 (Solver) and Prophix (Prophix).

How can the CFOs of the world provide both world-class reporting and a leading visualization solution to their internal customers? First, they can avoid investing in mediocre hybrids that overly eager salespeople and consultants often promote. In other words, dashboards that try to be financial reporting tools and financial reporting tools that try to be dashboards. The lack of functionality and flexibility in such hybrids typically lead other departments (outside of the Office of Finance) to buy their own best-of-breed solutions anyway. This often leads to wasted investments, excess training and poor integrations. The latter frequently results in “many versions of the truth”. This means there are different formulas and data repositories providing the same information, such a revenues or gross margin, but not reconciling across the company’s tools.

Best of Both Worlds

Recently, with all the aforementioned vendors providing their solutions as cloud offerings with constantly improving integrations, there is now a new opportunity for the Office of Finance to provide “the best of both worlds” in visualization and in financial reporting. At Solver, for example, we made the decision to deliver a deep integration to Microsoft’s Power BI solution, so that our BI360 customers can automate and streamline both the financial reporting experience, the visualization and the analysis they provide to their managers.

This type of solution allows dashboard fans to take their analysis over to financial reports with a simple click of a link, while managers that previously relied mostly on formatted reports can now get powerful, interactive visualization. Direct integration ensures “one version of the truth” as managers navigate back and forth.

So, as vendors and consulting firms deliver integrated, best-of-breed dashboards and financial reporting solutions, what can the CFO do next to deliver faster and better decisions across the organization? We will talk about that in an upcoming blog.

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