Business Central expert
Fulfill all your needs for managing ACCOUNTING and BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE in BUSINESS CENTRAL.
In this article, we explain what you should require, how you avoid customizations, and which APPS to use.
Accounting is an area that Business Central is very good at. ERP began as accounting systems, so accounting and finance are functionally well covered in ERP systems in general.
But there is “reporting” in the form of Business Intelligence, which is a big topic in the finance department, and then there are also some special areas where we need add-on solutions. And then we would also like to use a standard chart of accounts – but we will return to that a bit later.
Reporting is about visualizing data and creating insight into how things are going in the business. In order for us to have data in place, dimensions are important in Business Central.
Dimensions are the extra attributes that we can put on records, and finance people always like to have many dimensions because it gives them a lot of data, while other employees in the organization usually don’t like dimensions because it means they have to record more data.
The question is how we would like to measure our business. If we are exporting to eight countries, then we should create one account with a countries dimension with eight options – instead of eight separate accounts. It provides better reporting options – and a chart of accounts that is easier to maintain. Add dimensions instead of accounts when the need is reporting.
Business Intelligence and reporting in ERP solutions has come an incredibly long way in recent years, especially in the Microsoft world.
It used to be expensive to export data from ERP and create reports in external BI systems. Many reporting needs were therefore met by developing custom reports inside the ERP system, and even though it was expensive, it was still cheaper than a ‘real’ BI system.
Nowadays, basic BI systems are cheap, and we can get ready-to-use templates for our ERP data. Using a BI template is cheaper than developing a custom report in Business Central, and it’s much more flexible and useful.
Chart of Accounts Template
That brings us to the chart of accounts. We would like to have a simple chart of accounts so that it is easy to maintain. A simple template-based chart of accounts also makes it easier to adopt new Apps.
Most companies instinctively want to continue with their old chart of accounts. Most people don’t think they can use a chart of accounts template. But when they look at the details and compare with their old chart of accounts, the vast majority recognize that they can easily use a chart of accounts template.
And it offers the advantage that there is much less configuration work, less maintenance, better reporting options, and it is easier to use new Apps.
» Chart of Accounts template
The accounting department also needs a number of additional solutions that make everyday life easier. Here are the solutions we would like to bring into play:
KPIs and Reporting
What does a CFO need to get out of an ERP solution? Of course, there are accounts to be kept, and that is a fundamental part of ERP.
The finance module in the ERP solution is actually not something a great deal of time is spent on when an ERP solution is implemented. Companies have a lot of expertise and experience in this area.
Many CFOs look on the ERP solution as a database that provides the data to underpin the insight, they apply in managing the company. We therefore see reporting and business intelligence as being one of the most important topics in Finance.
However, it all begins with the company objectives that we want to pursue. When we can say which KPIs we run the company by, we will also know what data needs to be registered in the IT solutions and what this requires of the ERP system.
Many people forget what management wants from a supply chain point of view. We want to look at our organization from multiple perspectives, not just financial ones.
If it is important to our customers’ satisfaction that their orders are dispatched quickly, we must find out how we can measure our handling time.
If we want to take measurements of our supply chain and monitor our service level or inventory bindings, we should start in the production area and the warehouse, and see how we can best collect these measurements – and then see how it should be reflected in the finance module.
The more we can consider our supply chain and our organization holistically – instead of just seeing everything from a finance department viewpoint out of longstanding habit – the more focused and value-creating our reporting will be.
We believe that a CFO must be forward-looking and must supply the rest of the organization with insight and opportunities. The finance department must not sit on its data; it must activate the data by pushing it out around the organization to the people who can act on the insight it brings.
Business Intelligence (BI) used to be extremely difficult, and suddenly it is now something that users can set up for themselves. They can gather data from all kinds of sources, set up their own dashboards and easily share with all their colleagues on a variety of devices.
Microsoft has really got into gear on this front with their Power BI.
We will see more of this trend in the years to come. It is already easy to collect and relate data from multiple sources – and the BI exercise is no longer about what the ERP system can work out, but how we can understand the interconnection between data from ERP and all the other data in our company.
We must be making data easy to relate – by giving it the same names and the same structure in different systems and databases.
Ultimately, it is about turning data into insight – rather than spending energy overcoming technical obstacles.
Accounting is the core of an ERP system. All ERP systems once began as finance systems. And because it is the core of the ERP system, a bad chart of accounts infects all sorts of other things with its ills.
Management needs in the Chart of Accounts
Many companies instinctively incorporate management needs into their finance systems. For example, they might create lots of accounts so that they can do detailed reporting.
This is not a good idea. ERP systems have more intelligent ways of supporting management and reporting needs. It has for decades been possible to work with dimensions, making the need to create accounts for everything obsolete.
We want a simple, more comprehensible chart of accounts with the option of using filters for data needs – or just to move reporting to a completely different system where data can be extracted in a smarter way.
So… instead of building all the complexity into the chart of accounts and doing all our reporting straight from the finance module… we can use other tools for easier, more graphical reporting, and thus keep the finance data structure much more straightforward.
Instead of having 100 cost accounts for all kinds of purposes… now we have a handful of cost accounts and can use filters to find the information we want.
We must think thoroughly about the chart of accounts and the dimension set-up from the beginning because it is not easy to change later on.
It is the reporting that really determines how it should all be set up. We must be clear about what we want to measure and how the dimension set-up will support it.
Chart of Accounts template
We want to go one step further. We want to use a standardized chart of accounts template instead of the old customized one.
All companies can conform to a chart of accounts template, but the initial reaction often is resistance.
We have worked for many years on consolidating a standardized chart of accounts. It brings together the input and the needs of a great many companies. It is based on the contribution method and is relatively simple, but still fairly detailed without too many accounts.
Most companies acknowledge that the template actually meets their needs, once they start to look at the details and compare it with their old chart of accounts.
Now we come to the advantage of using a standard.
When we start using an ERP system, whether it is a new one or whether we have merely upgraded an old Dynamics NAV or similar, the vendor has to configure a lot of parameters.
Of course, all the features and modules in the ERP system need to know how to post in the finance module. This posting configuration is arduous, because if we have, say, 100 revenue accounts, 100 different posting rules must be set up.
There are often hundreds of hours to be saved by not having to set up warehouse management, intercompany, manufacturing, purchasing etc.
The great thing is that a template does not actually prevent us from building on top of it. We can easily add extra accounts and increase the complexity if it makes sense to do so.