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Choosing a Software Solution

Why you need reporting and planning software

Business performance information starts with the capturing of transactions and ends with the analysis and reporting of the actual or forecasted financial results of a business.

Most accounting software packages (including various enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms) allow users to manage all the transactional information in a business, but are rarely used for consolidation, reporting and planning purposes because accounting software does not offer the flexibility to design and frequently modify report formats to a business’ unique needs.

Businesses end up relying on spreadsheet solutions to collate, consolidate, report and plan the financial results of their business.

Spreadsheets inevitably become cumbersome, time consuming, ineffective for managing large amounts of data and unhelpful for analysis. Having financial information stored in folders (and not a secure database) can also cause various operational, continuity and governance risks.

Finnivo® replaces the spreadsheet-driven approach, removes manual intervention, automates the data collection process and provides comprehensive analytical and reporting capability.

In addition, our users do not lose the benefits of Microsoft Excel applications as Excel is used to design the client-specific report formats, and aggregated and consolidated results can be published to Excel or Word.

What types of software are available?

There are many software and plug-in applications available to help organisations report and plan, but there are only a handful of software applications that really cater for all the reporting and planning requirements of a multi-faceted organisation.

  It is essential to know what type of solution you are getting and how it will service your reporting and planning needs.

Here are some of the available solution types:

Excel Plug-Ins/Add-ons
Solutions that are installed as plug-ins which function from within Microsoft Excel are designed to link directly to the data source (such as an ERP database) and allow the user to analyse or present the result in a pre-defined format. These solutions are not expensive and they are very useful for small to medium enterprises or businesses that don’t have complex, multi-faceted or evolving reporting environments. They are also not geared for planning and scenario analysis and become very slow and cumbersome when subjected to large volumes of data.

Data Mining
Data-mining solutions also link to and extract directly from source databases. They are efficient for analysing big amounts of data (such as sales, inventory or other operational information) and presenting it in easily understandable and beautifully designed views. These solutions add enormous value to the operational environments of businesses but are limited with respect to financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting.

Custom Software
There are benefits to having bespoke software solutions developed and tailored to an organisation’s unique operating processes. It is, however, the costliest and most time-consuming option. Custom solutions often lack flexibility and require software technicians to code additions or modifications. This type of product would also include solutions that specialise in certain areas (such as budgeting or forecasting) which means that they are limited in their overall usefulness.

Standard Reporting and Analytics Modules (sold as part of an ERP)
These products extract directly to spreadsheet-like views. Because they fit within an ERP platform, linking to source data is easy and provides for easy in-depth insights. These products are also useful for simpler reporting environments where users need to simply access or analyse specific sets of information. But they are limited because they cannot collate non-system information from multiple sources and usually do not have comprehensive budgeting and forecasting tools.

Disclosure Management
These tools specialise in generating and publishing annual financial statements, and some include the automatic update of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). They are efficient tools for year-end reporting and include the ability to run monthly reports, but they do not have the flexibility and efficiency to do monthly reporting, budgeting and forecasting. These solutions generally rely on pre-defined report formats but are limited in terms of customised reports and on-going modifications to report formats, and they require a lot of specialised technical expertise.

Consolidation, Reporting and Planning Solutions
This type of solution includes Finnivo® and is the only one that caters comprehensively for a business’ consolidation, reporting and planning needs. This solution is also able to generate annual financial statements, though they generally do not include automatic IFRS updates. Some require several modules to achieve full functionality, while others can require a lot of software coding to set up. They vary greatly in terms of cost, self-maintainability, flexibility, implementation time, robustness and year-on-year cost of ownership.

Use the table below to determine which solution would best suite to your requirements:

Solution Type Finnivo® Other Consolidation, Reporting and Planning Solutions Excel Plug-ins/Add-ons Data Mining Custom Software Disclosure Management
Description Our Full Consolidation, Reporting and Planning Software Solution. Reporting and planning software solutions from our competitors. Installed as a function that works within Microsoft Excel. Business intelligence tools that present large sets of data in understandable formats. Custom software tailored to an organisation’s operational needs. Specialised tools used to generate annual financial statements (including IFRS updates).
Core Focus Areas Consolidation, reporting and planning. Consolidation, reporting and planning. Simple reports with a single data source and limited number of users. Extraction, analysis and presentation of operational and transactional information (such as stock and sales information). Tailor-made functional applications. Provision of IFRS templates based on latest standards.
Specialised Consolidation and Inter-company Reconciliation Functionality Yes. Yes. No. No. No. Unknown.
Scalability Extensive, at no additional cost. Possible through acquisition of additional modules, licenses or contracted development time. Limited. Negative impact on speed and ability when managing larger volumes of data. Yes. But costly as they require continuous technical expertise. No. Built to pre-defined specifications only. Limited.
Efficient for Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting Yes. Yes. No. No. Yes. Typically written to client’s requirements. No.
Separate Database Yes. Yes. No.
Reads directly from source database
Reads directly from source database
Depends on specifications. Yes.
Ability to Record and Analyse Text Commentary (Variance Explanations, Loan Details and Tax Detail) Yes. Limited. Not all solutions can manage text commentary. No. Unless drawn from source. No. Unless drawn from source or notes made at specific level. Depends on specification. Limited.
Self-Maintainability Fully self-maintainable Limited. A software technician or database expert is usually required to build or maintain reporting applications. Limited.
Requires database expertise to setup and maintain.
Specialised skill required to build new report formats.
No. Software developers or technicians required. Limited.
Specialised skills required for customisation.
Ability to Write Custom Reports Yes. Users can write reports at all levels. Yes. Users can write reports at all levels. Yes. Limited to availability of technical expertise. Requires software technicians to modify. Limited to predefined formats.
Decentralised Data Collection (Automated Distribution of Cost Center Packs for the Collecting Import and Input Data Across Multiple Centres) Yes. Various distribution methods available. Limited. No. No. No. No.
Annual Financial Statements Yes. Yes. No. No. No. Yes.

Helpful questions to ask

Most software solutions are not normally structured to provide a single, comprehensive solution for all consolidation, reporting and planning.

Some helpful questions to ask when deciding on a software solution are:

  • Was this solution originally developed to address only a specific area of reporting and planning?
    Solutions that were created to address only a specific area but expanded to perform the functions of other specialised software applications often have limited functionality.
  • Does the solution extract data into a separate database?
    A separate database allows financial personnel to assemble monthly and year-end reports based on specific insights; process elimination/adjustment journals; generate budgets and forecasts; and perform scenario planning.
  • Is the tool self-maintainable?
    Be sure to ask how you will be able to build a new reporting application yourself or how you can modify existing report formats (without needing to contract consultants). Most organisations do not have the necessary in-house skills required to either build the core of a new reporting application or to customise and modify existing applications.
  • Can the solution provider commit to the full implementation at a fixed cost?
    Has the solution provider performed a thorough review of the reporting environment they are contracted to automate and can they commit to a fixed implementation fee?

    On average, implementation costs end up being two to seven times higher than the original estimated cost. Many solution providers submit quotations based on a minimum set of assumptions, knowing that the scope will increase, the client’s requirements may change and the client will require on-going support post implementation. Be sure to fully interrogate the solution provider in this regard.