Is Month-End Financial Reporting BI?

If your month-end financial reports (typically your income statement, balance sheet and cashflow) from your accounting or ERP system doesn’t give you the financial information you need to support your decisions making processes, then I would urge you to investigate a BI reporting solution.

A typical scenario in small and mid-market businesses is when ERP or Accounting system’s financial reports are simply inadequate for the business decision makers. These decision makers’ requests for financial information beyond the standard financial reports from the ERP system lead to the ‘Export to Excel’ function becoming the default  financial reporting solution, which leads to wasted time, outdated information, unnecessary exposure to human error and even the dark place some call ‘spreadsheet hell’.

This year Gartner recommended that we make peace with Excel as a BI tool. The Alchemex founders were not required to do so because they had predicted years ago that Excel and BI were going to come closer together, not move apart as many commentators thought. This lead to their ‘entrepreneurial innovation’ for automated financial reporting directly from the data source of the ERP or accounting system into Microsoft Excel allowing financial managers and directors to have the best of both the familiar Excel environment and data already captured.

As the FD of Alchemex, I have the ‘luxury’ of being able to design and create the Income Statement that we need once and,  until I need to get more or different information from my Income Statement, I run it literally by clicking a run button at my discretion. I also have instant drill-down to the general ledger and various other clever Excel-based functionality that makes it easier for me to understand and interpret our revenue and expense related accounting data. But perhaps this functionality is more often associated with BI? Along with automated Trend Analysis, What-if Analysis, Executive Dashboards and Sales Analysis…all of which I have at the click of a button too.

Although month-end financial reporting is nothing new, what is new is the idea that the underlying data exists in the ERP or accounting system for automated financial reporting that gives you far more than your basic financial information quickly and easily. For example, it would be hard to claim that knowing your July Net Profit and YTD number on the 3rd of August is BI, but knowing what revenue lines contribute the most to your Net Profit, I would argue, is both expected from month-end financial reports and is also BI. Most small and mid-market ERP system’s standard financial reports would not be able to provide this information without someone, hopefully skilled, accurate and with time on his/her hands available  to ‘export to Excel’.

My conclusion then is, in our context, month-end financial reporting can definitely be also classified as BI.