Understanding the financial reporting needs of SMBs

In a recent study conducted amongst our Sage ERP and accounting customers, we undertook to confirm our understanding of their reporting needs.

This is what we found out about financial directors and managers, small business owners and bookkeepers:


  1. Most love their jobs; there is clear enjoyment and ownership of the job and the skills set.
  2. Month end can be stressful due to the pressure to get everything done. This often requires longer hours in the office.
  3. Predictability, routine, order and automation are preferred. Familiarity with software, processes and templates helps to manage predictability.
  4. Frustration creeps in when formats change, or when unique requests come through.
  5. Reporting is a challenge for most, but many accept this fact.
  6. 98% of financial professionals surveyed use Microsoft Excel on a daily basis!
  7. A strong need was expressed for a tool that can help drive automation and the integration of data from different sources.

While the above was applicable to the majority of our sample, we did confirm differences between small businesses and medium-sized businesses:

  1. Smaller businesses, usually with a one person accounting department, appear to have lower expectations from accounting and reporting software – there was a feeling that smaller businesses can’t expect tailor made solutions.
  2. Small businesses focus on reporting more than analysis. Analysis was generally not a requirement in the business.
  3. Midsized and bigger businesses, usually with a Financial Director or Manager leading a team of financial specialists, can feel limited by software to provide unique business requirements when it comes to reporting.
  4. For these professionals, reporting takes too much time, and there is not enough time for the analysis that the business is looking for.

We then introduced the concept of Sage Intelligence to those that had not heard about it, in the following way: Sage Intelligence is an add-on module to the various Sage ERP and accounting products. The software is integrated into these packages. It is an Excel-based reporting tool that can deliver real time reports in Excel. Data is pulled directly out of the accounting package into prebuilt reports that can be manipulated in Excel and saved in that format for future use. This means that it can be customized to a business’ unique requirements.

Sage Intelligence was appealing to the majority of those surveyed. The key benefits of the reporting tool were identified by the respondents as:

  1. Time savings, through the automation of reporting.
  2. The seamless updating of reports with the latest data at the click of a button.
  3. The presentation of reports in Excel, which everyone knows how to use.
  4. The freeing up of time for analysis of information, rather than the reporting itself.
  5. The ability to easily customize reports according to the business’ unique needs.

This was confirmation that we do indeed know our customers! These are the benefits of the tool that we’ve been touting for years. It was gratifying to see that they rang true! Sage Intelligence was built from the ground up by three entrepreneurs to specifically cater for the needs of small to medium businesses and make a difference in the lives of these business owners and managers. The chosen front end of Excel continues to be the first choice amongst financial professionals the world over. Sage Intelligence however updates reports with your data at the click of a button, allowing you to make changes to the report and then save it in a format that works for you, so that you can populate the report again with the latest data whenever you need to. No more manual, repetitive work, no more cutting and pasting, no more spreadsheet chaos!

Going forward, the two key take outs from the research were as follows:

  1. For small businesses, we want to highlight the potential for improved reporting and teach them how Sage Intelligence reporting can easily provide them with information to help make the right decisions to fuel growth. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just a few comparisons and trends can be enlightening!
  2. For mid-market companies, we want to endorse the predominant benefit of customizable analysis. After all, each business is unique, and Sage Intelligence allows for this, by providing easily customizable templates in the familiar face of Excel.

Does any of the above resonate with you? Do you think our research has accurately described our customers? We’d love to hear if you agree or have differing points of view. If you’ve used Sage Intelligence, perhaps you could let us know how it has helped you and your business.