MBS Reporting

News and Trends on MBS Reporting. The purpose of the blog is to discuss news and future trends of reporting in MBS. The blog will focus on overall trends and relate to tools used for all of the MBS products. I look forward to your views and comments. Thanks Jim Hummer

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Management Reporter: Death to &&&-####-????

First some comments on what I have seen with Management Report which is slated to replace FRx. I was involved in the initial TAP testing for Management Reporter. The program was first designed to be used on Axapta and was only good for cubes. The Wizards and overall UI for the product were much improved to include being SQL based and having folders. The performance and loading of cube data left much to be desired and it was struggle to deploy. We deployed MR to one client and had to replace it with other reporting tools. MR V1 is mostly dead from what I understand.
Last Convergence in New Orleans the MBS BI team announced a new plan for Management Reporter and a roadmap to the future. One of the biggest changes is the concept of moving most of MBS BI back to MBS. Redmond has been involved the past few years with SSRS and PPS and now the focus is back to MBS BI with focus on ERP reporting. I thought the MBS BI team did a great job on the roadmap and demoing MR V2. MR V2 will be out next year and I saw some nice features which should be an improvement from FRx.
1. System is based in SQL not Access. The old FRx was based in Access and there is a clear advantage going to MS SQL. One being the old g32 files are gone and hopefully all the reindexing issues that occurred in FRx.
2. There is an Organization File Structure so that users can store reports by organization.
3. The old hook and crook account structure will be gone. This was a report killer and a major reason why FRx struggled with Axapta.
4. DrillDown is going to change. The old DrillDown viewer which was a repository is no more and I am sure MR will look to a more modern Drill Down concept.
Most of the other features will stay the same. It will be interesting to see how this product rolls out to the MBS nation and changes that will occur in Reporting.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Road Ahead for Reporting and Budgeting

Having observed all the product changes and roadmap announcements from Microsoft this year, it is tempting to make some conclusions around what is in store for organizations looking for budgeting and financial reporting applications the next 1-5 years and beyond:

In January this year, when the Microsoft BI team in Redmond announced that they would pull the plug on PerformancePoint Server’s (PPS) Planning module (originally meant to be MS’ workhorse for budgeting, forecasting and financial consolidations) it led their competitors, partners and customers to wonder what solution a Microsoft-friendly organization should be investing in for their needs in this area. Within a few weeks of the PPS announcement, it became clear that the BI team in Redmond was moving the responsibility for budgeting and financial reporting tools over to the Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) development team. Probably not a bad idea, considering that MBS works with financial data all day long, while the MS BI team in Redmond operated in a more generic technology environment.

So, what will happen next? It is likely that the MS BI team (but not the MBS team) will be more open to 3rd party budgeting and financial reporting applications as long as they are “Microsoft-friendly” (run on SQL Server, supports Office and/or SharePoint, etc.), and as they already announced, MS will focus on developing PerformancePoint dashboards and scorecards, Excel Services, Reporting Services to the next level and to make security, graphics engines, and SharePoint-related functionality similar and pervasive across these tools. At the same time, the development pace for budgeting and financial reporting will now pick up a lot of steam in MBS. As they announced in their roadmap, the golden nugget is going to be Management Reporter (MR). In 2010, it will start replacing FRx (which has 90,000+ customers world-wide) as a report writer, then in 2012 it will also offer budgeting functionality so it can replace Forecaster. Then, in 2014, MR is also supposed to have added advanced budgeting and consolidations functionality so it can offer Enterprise Reporting customers an upgrade and new customers can buy a single budgeting/reporting/consolidations tool from Microsoft at that point. Needless to say, we can assume that MR will also have strong integrations to SharePoint and the BI tools that the Redmond teams will be pushing out along the way.

But, it is Spring and 2009, and most decision-makers are not planning to sit around and wait until 2012 or 2014 for the Management Reporter releases, and what if they are delayed or lacking functionality in the early releases? They will have a few choices:
1) Do nothing and wait for the future MR product to arrive
2) Implement the current tools available: Forecaster for simpler budgeting and Enterprise Reporting for advanced budgeting & consolidations. Larger organizations could be well served with Enterprise Reporting as they can afford the higher license- and implementation cost, and they should be able to enjoy five and a half years of stability (and probably small upgrades) before they need to start thinking about an upgrade to Management Reporter. FRx is quickly becoming less attractive as it is going off the price list next year. But, there is a quickly growing field of Microsoft-friendly alternatives to FRx, such as XL Reporter, Jet Reports, Atlas XL, and OneStop Reporting. All of which are Excel-based and that will enjoy all the “free features” that came with Excel 2007 and that again will be enhanced with Excel 14 next year.
3) Implement a BI solution that competes with Microsoft’s BI stack. Oracle and IBM are two of the main players here. For organizations leaning towards an Oracle or IBM platform, clearly the BI alternatives from these vendors will be very seriously evaluated. For a “Microsoft-friendly” shop, the current Microsoft offerings above and their roadmap should be a good, cost-effective alternative as all the key functionality is available across the BI tools and they eventually come together as a tightly knit, multi-functionality stack.