How to Make the Process of Choosing the Right Reporting Software Simpler

If you are seeking the right reporting tool to integrate with and boost your productivity with Microsoft Dynamics Solutions, you are probably pondering whether to use the already known “Microsoft Technology” or to opt for a reliable third party reporting supplier with an extensive database of happy users. When should you spend more money for a better product, right after having spent hundreds of thousands on Microsoft Dynamics solution?

To find out a possible answer, let’s break down the differences between the Microsoft Technologies and other third party reporting options for Microsoft Dynamics AX or CRM. 

Fighting the Maze of Microsoft Technologies

If you take a closer look at Microsoft Dynamics AX, you will actually find a long list (a shopping cart) of other Microsoft technologies and products you must learn. What at first sight may seem like a dream scenario with so many options can easily turn into the nightmare, as each product comes with their own terminology, toolsets, and user experience. As we know, this is what Microsoft Dynamics AX relies on to deliver simple reporting tasks. However, no matter how much of an eager learner you may be, time and deadlines are not necessarily working to your advantage, and when one is looking for a solution, there is certainly not a second to spare getting lost in a maze.

Behind the scenes of the Reporting Maze

We have established that multiple technologies and skills are required by the Business User to accomplish simple reporting tasks. One of the reasons for that is very straightforward: These products are made by different divisions within Microsoft with different goals. No two programs talk to each other. You have, for example, the Management Reporter team developing their UI, the AX 2012 developing their UI for Financial Statements, and the SQL Server team working on reporting applications. Have you considered how well these products are glued together and the total cost of ownership of all of these technologies and prerequisites?

Using Microsoft Dynamics AX

It is a given that report designing isn’t simple. By using Microsoft Dynamics AX, the user experience when designing a report is unique and much specialized (and by all means, specialized is great.) However, you will no doubt need a developer at every stage. Do you think that may put a burden on the report author (who never seems to relinquish ownership)? So what does it mean to pass the design onto your development team after all? To say the least, it means the author needs to “visualize” the end result in hopes that the developer will be providing the perfect result. What is the trick then? Well, no rocket science here, but this almost never happens which not only consumes time and increases costs with resources.

It would be redundant to state that report building this way is extremely inefficient and from an end-user perspective, not exactly natural. It is more natural, though, to deliver the final report by building it up with checks and balances as its being built with actual data. After all, doesn’t the designer user want quicker results for reporting efficiency?

Using Management Reporter

Another toolset, user interface, and terminology to learn. The Management Reporter interface is described as being “Excel like,” which sounds perfect, but besides the column headings A to J across the top, it’s a completely new experience with very little familiarity.

Management Reporter allows the user to report off of general ledger data only, therefore limiting its use to financial statements.

It must use a data warehouse to summarize the transactions in AX. At times the integration to this data warehouse becomes corrupt, requiring technical support personnel to troubleshoot and correct the problem, often during a company’s most critical month end close.

With Management Reporter being different from Microsoft Dynamics AX, there is no basis of cross-learning which can be applied. Management Reporter is a new skill set, using different syntax and logic than standard AX. Yet another thing to learn in order to complete the job at hand.

Using Excel Add-In

The Microsoft Excel add-in is a tool designed for basic reporting which falls outside of most real needs of a user. If you are tasked with understanding the best reporting option and tools for Microsoft Dynamics AX, here’s some advice.

You want one product. One user interface. One training schedule.

The best reporting tools to give you the best Microsoft Dynamics AX experience should be those that are end user focused, work within the confines of an already familiar interface, are simple to use with minimal training, offer great flexibility, secure access to your data, and allow you to access data from many different data sources.

If you are going to put time, effort, money, and resources into choosing a software, then you should invest in a simple software your staff can use. You want one single solution, one user interface, and one training schedule, which keeps all the experiences consistent across the company.  Many companies have chosen software based on the Microsoft technologies, only to have replaced and upgraded to a third party option months later.

Choosing the right reporting software should be simple. Research those third party options with the highest user count for Microsoft Dynamics AX. There’s a reason partners sell the software to more users and why the user count is so high.