As one of the first cloud-based ERPs, Oracle’s NetSuite introduced a modern and efficient way to manage operational and financial data. This advance had a significant effect on improving business cycles and easily delivering information to more users. In each department, teams found NetSuite easy to access and use. However, one department was beginning to feel some pain: some reporting pain.
In finance, reporting is where the rubber meets the road. Financial users depend on the ability to access the data they need, in very specific formats, and for their specific reporting. In a cloud environment, data security is key, controlled at the data center where encryption takes place. In NetSuite’s case, its applications are separated from the data at the data center. However, users can access the underlying tables to pull data by deploying an ODBC driver, a function of the NetSuite Suite Analytics module. Although native reports can be inflexible and difficult to modify without IT assistance. Smart Searches may be relatively easy to execute but can only query a limited number of entities, requiring multiple searches to be dumped into Excel and merged appropriately.
The Devil is in the Details
The financial reporting offerings available from NetSuite can be used to produce standard external financial statements. For internal reporting, however, finance teams often need more flexibility and detail requiring the assistance of a data expert for customizations. As an example, NetSuite provides consolidated financial information, just not across subsidiaries, products, or geographies. It can’t easily produce balance sheet or cash flow trending across time. These are key areas of value to finance, particularly in larger enterprises with distributed offices, or merged entities.
In many cases, NetSuite users will use Financial Report Builder (NetSuite’s standard reporting tool) to access the data, then download it into Excel and reformat it to group by categories, expenses, or departments. Or they will perform “saved searches,” a form of querying, obtaining the necessary data to be dumped into Excel that they then must stitch back together for reporting.
In some cases, finance will employ the use of a power user or IT data expert to get beyond these reporting constraints. These power users can perform complex searches to get the exact data required from the database, then customize reports for the financial team in the formats they require. However, custom reports are often inflexible themselves, requiring complete rewrites when business requirements change, for example, to match changes in categories or entities in the ERP.
As business cycles increase in velocity, these enterprises demand faster, more insightful reporting. They expect their financial teams to provide reporting on demand, for both financial and operational sides of the business. However, if NetSuite financial teams are forced to export report data into Excel and spend hours reformatting it, or wait for power users or IT to work on their reporting, they struggle to meet required deadlines for reporting.
Another key issue is the separation of report data from its source. When users or IT perform saved searches and then dump the data into Excel, the result is only a snapshot of the data, not an actual link to the underlying source of it. This creates a significant roadblock for finance teams, who are responsible for investigating the root cause of any data error or discrepancy that is unveiled in reporting. It means a lot of manual detective work with their power users to track back through multiple tables and data to find where the issue originated.
This separation of data causes another issue for finance: the issue of timeliness of the data. If the business demands insights within period reporting, for instance, the finance team must examine and report on near-real time data. They may be required to produce interim reporting. And this is in addition to their required month-end or quarterly reports. However, with snapshotted data, information required for month-end, reconciliations, and standard journal entries and adjustments is no longer real-time. Users must pull down data repeatedly for up-to-date information. This leaves little time to run interim reports or to focus on high value analysis.
The Ramifications of Insufficient Reporting
When finance isn’t in control of its own reporting, things go wrong. They can’t find and fix reconciliations and data integrity issues without a lot of time and stress. They don’t have the flexibility for last-minute changes. They can’t easily do ad hoc reporting. They can’t produce consolidated reporting across multiple divisions and currencies, often forcing restatements and delays. They can’t run up-to-date reporting necessary for the best decision making. The finance team spends too much time preparing information for reports and very little time analyzing the results that could make a positive impact on the business.
A Modern Solution for NetSuite Financial Reporting
Finance teams need a modern reporting solution that gives them the same ease of use and deep capabilities they expect from their ERP. The solution needs to give them control over their reporting, provide near-real time data, and give them traceability back to originating data. They need to be able to create accurate, up-to-date reports for previous periods without relying on snapshotted data or data dumps of older data. They should be able to easily produce period-on-period analysis reports (e.g. a month-by-month balance sheet) and refresh them in seconds.
By simplifying these tasks and more, a modern reporting solution can reduce reporting by 50 to 100 hours per year and enable teams to boost their company’s timely decision-making, while helping improve business cycle time, market opportunities, and competitive position. Having a reporting solution that can give back the control the finance team needs is the answer. For more information, download our free whitepaper, Oracle NetSuite: Enhancing Cloud Based Reporting.