We are never going to stop talking about the importance of data in a modern business. Accurate, timely data is essential for making the critical decisions that drive better performance and more efficiency. At a pretty basic level, accurate financial reporting data is also needed to make sure that every transaction that flows in and out of the business is accounted for and has that all important audit trail.
The responsibility for operational reporting and successful month and year-end close falls ultimately with the financial team. But they often rely other parties in the business – most notably IT – to help them query the ERP database and produce the data they need. As a process, there are quite a few steps and parties involved, and if one element goes awry, it can have pretty significant consequences.
Out of the box, ERP systems are not always built to offer effective high-level reporting. They are designed to offer powerful transactional processing and store masses of transactional data, but not to create neat summary information. Usually, businesses deal with this in one of two ways: they implement a Business Intelligence (BI) solution to deal with reporting, or they rely on spreadsheets and the skillset of a member of the IT team or a business analyst.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches, which many a business will no doubt have a considered. Here is a recap of the most notable for you, in a good old pros-cons list.
|Totally flexible – a skilled developer can build macros and utilise pivot tables to display data in a way that suits the business’ requirements||It’s very easy to change data without an audit trail (if you’re so inclined)|
|You can’t ensure 100% accuracy – there’s an element of human error involved. A human has to import the data and build the macros to interpret the data. 88% of spreadsheets contain some sort of error.|
|It’s hard to document the development of the spreadsheet – if one staff member builds the spreadsheet, it’s very unlikely they’ll document how they did it. If they leave, the business has to cross their fingers that no problems arise.|
|Pivot tables can get very complicated when there are more than 5 dimensions to look at|
|They are difficult to manage – in large multi-national organisations, it’s not uncommon to have thousands or even millions of spreadsheets hidden in various folders. This is far from ideal.|
|Can consolidate data from disparate databases.||Can’t handle ad hoc queries.|
|Gives easy to consume management information and provides high-level executive reporting.||Aimed at C level and executives that want visualisation rather than raw numbers.|
|Enables you to look at historical trends.||Not designed for operational reporting and analysis.|
|Builds pretty portals and dashboards.||Although cloud BI solutions make everything a bit simpler, they are still complex to set up and rely heavily on IT.|
|Some are expensive and time-intensive to implement|
|Additional hardware and tools are often required to integrate them with other systems|
What is FastClose?
FastClose combines the best that both spreadsheets and reporting software have to offer, while addressing their limitations. It’s a purpose-built Financial Intelligence (FI) product that plugs right into Epicor, and provides real-time, multi-dimensional operation reporting that makes month and year-end close an absolute doddle.
The key differences which make FastClose a better solution are:
- True real-time information – during the flash reporting cycle (the hectic period 5 days before and 5 days after month-end), your finance team will have instant access to up-to-the-second data.
- Finance drive the system rather than developers – FastClose is designed to be used by end-users, not your IT team. It cuts down on the resource needed to run this kind of reporting and reduces dependencies on one our a limited team of staff which can cause problems if someone is absent.
- Virtual online analytical processing (OLAP) gives the business the capability to look at any combination of dimensions, pulled straight from the dimensions present in ERP, at any level. While this can be achieved with pivot tables in a spreadsheet, this can be complex to setup and maintain – in FastClose you just drag and drop. This gives you the ability to look at high-level report as well as drill down into specific transactions quickly and easily.
- It’s all online – meaning that enquires run quickly and additional hardware and on-premise storage and server space isn’t’ needed
- WYSIWYP (What You See Is What You Posted) – the tool is run directly from your secure ERP database – meaning when you run a report, you get accurate, up-to-date financial information straight from Epicor.
- You can install and be up and running in an hour. This saves you the massive amount of time and cost which may be associated with implementing a spreadsheet or a generic purpose BI solution.
FastClose is the way to go
In summary, FastClose provides a pretty compelling solution to your month-end woes. If you’re looking for a flexible solution which gives you the ability to access both high-level and detailed reports on the fly, this is the one. We’re a FastClose partner, so if you’d like to chat more about how it could help your business, we’d love to talk.