Accounting technology research firm Software Advice recently reported that software replacement – Business Intelligence (BI) technology included – was largely because of organizations outgrowing their current systems. In addition, top requested functions included robust financial reporting, with a majority of prospective customers seeking something web-based. And all of this likely makes sense to you as an Intacct customer. You’re aware of the power and flexibility of web-based software, and it might even be a reason for your own growth. If you are experiencing growth and looking to replace, expand, or simply deploy powerful, modern financial reporting, budgeting, and/or dashboards, this article will give you the head start on the research you should do to find the best solution(s) for your team’s specific business needs.
Let’s start at what I consider a foundation for software implementation: data integration methods for building best-of-breed BI for Intacct. You have a few options when integrating company data to and from Intacct and a BI solution. Only a couple tools integrate live to Intacct, with a handful offering General Ledger (GL) and sub-ledger analysis. Should someone on your executive or finance team need a report or dashboard with up-to-date data, an easy and efficient integration is key. Depending on the number of users who have to query large data sets, BI toolscan make the Intacct server sluggish.
If your company runs reports or pulls information more routinely like a quarterly statement, you can integrate from a data warehouse or an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube. BI data stores provide higher performance reporting, budgeting, and dashboards, but this route requires replication of your data to the cube or warehouse. Moreover, data warehouses offer Intacct users a potent platform for financial consolidations, aggregating diverse types of company data from multiple sources, so you can build reports and dashboards and/or budgets or forecasts that pull data from Intacct and other sources, like Salesforce, for richer analyses and more informed decision-making. Good news: there are solutions that allow you the flexibility to decide between integration methodologies.
The more sophisticated BI software on the market today are true hybrids when it comes to integrating data, with options for real-time and BI store integrations – for flexible and dynamic financial reports, budgets, consolidations, dashboards, etc. This hybridity might be necessary for some organization and excessive for other companies. When evaluating what you need, think about how many Intacct users might be querying substantial data sets, slowing down the server, and how important a high performing BI data store integration could be for your team. BI software is all about how to manage and assess your data, so you should also be thinking about your method of data storage for a best-of-breed Intacct experience.
The main data storage offerings are OLAP cubes and data warehouses. OLAP cubes are multi-dimensional databases, so you can think of them as three-dimensional spreadsheets. A data warehouse is a configurable database that stores diverse data types. Management of an OLAP cube requires someone on your staff to have OLAP-specific skill sets to set up, organize, and maintain the cube because they are complicated. Traditionally, data warehouses were a development project for the IT department, but are now offered commercially as pre-built and configurable. Today’s commercial data warehouses are easy to use so that the financial team can manage the product, instead of IT professionals. When looking for BI tools to improve your Intacct experience, commercial data warehousing is going to be an easier, potentially more cost effective method. You should be shopping for BI solutions that make your processes easier and quicker, instead of slowing things down.
Next up on the list of considerations: Excel-based or proprietary platforms. Because Intacct is entirely web-based, the native report designer is also web-powered. It is, however, important to note that most accounting teams have been relying on Excel around the world since undergraduate days. Microsoft Excel’s familiarity arguably makes Excel add-in BI solutions an extremely valuable investment. There are very few BI tools that are Excel-powered when built for a Cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) system like Intacct, but they enhance the ERP with Excel formatting for flexible and familiar report design, calculations, and charting, all the while within a web browser. Alternatively, proprietary interfaces can be powerful, but don’t offer familiarity of features and functionalities, so this could mean more money spent on training and consulting.
As Intacct has proven, the mobility and flexible access of a web platform is a powerful evolution, and the BI marketplace is following suit. As the business world becomes more and more international, web platforms are a response to consumers’ need for flexible access to company data. Web report writing, budgeting, and dashboards allow business end users to manage and analyze information from anywhere with an internet connection, with some solutions also providing familiar Excel formatting, resulting in quicker, richer decision-making. Additionally, as an extension of web-based BI, mobile BI applications have also begun rolling out. If you have to access a report while on the go with information from Intacct, you can invest in a BI tool that also has a mobile application, giving you access on your smartphone or tablet. One more thing to consider: a suite of BI tools, so you can build a modern toolbox to tackle your analysis processes.
You might just be looking for a budgeting tool at the moment. But if you look ahead, whether it is 18 months or 5 years from now, a comprehensive BI product suite will ensure that if you want to add a financial report writer or dashboards, it won’t require more than one team of consultant or sales professionals. Some third party manufacturers will also give you a discount when you purchase more than tool at the same time. BI is basically the definition of planning ahead in action, so you should be doing just that when you shop for a BI tool.
There’s plenty to consider when preparing to invest in a vital BI tool, and it can be overwhelming. Solver, Inc. is happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s web-powered, easy-to-use Excel and mobile BI tools with both real-time or data warehouse integrated analysis, budgeting and collaboration as a way to accelerate company performance management beyond Intacct.