I use account schedules as the primary source of financial reporting at my company. With all the available choices out there, why do I use account schedules? I’ve got a whole list of reasons.
1) I can custom build all of my financial statements, exactly how I want to see them.
Especially when I talk with prospective NAV customers, I hear a lot of objections as to why NAV doesn’t come with “out of the box” financial statements. If you think about this for a bit, what part of your company’s financials might fit the definition of “out of the box”? Is your chart of accounts the same as someone else’s? What about the name of your accounts? Your numbering convention? Is the way you present your financial statements just like anyone else’s? If you built your financial statements using an out of the box solution, how long would it be before you began to customize them?
Why not build them the way you want them the first time and be able to customize them as your company changes?
2) Account schedules tie directly to the general ledger.
Someone told me once that reporting from the general ledger was the best way to get to the truth. Since my financial statements have got to be accurate and consistent above all else, I like this idea. I know, that without a doubt, my account schedules tie back to my trial balance and my detailed transactional postings. I can prove it out over and over. I can use my account schedules to debunk some of the untruths that come out of some of our other reporting sources. Knowing I can get to the truth makes me trust the results I get from account schedules and gives me confidence in deeming them as the place to get exactly the right answer.
3) Budgets integrate really well with account schedules.
I use the budgets area of NAV extensively. However, I only actually touch the budgets area once a year, when I populate them with our next years’ data. Budgets integrate to account schedules so fluidly that I have no reason to go back and forth between the two during the year as I track how we’re doing in comparison to budget or even as I look ahead to remind myself of what the plan was. I can get this information from account schedules and get all my financial information from one place.
4) Dimensions along with account schedules are a powerful combination.
Account schedules without dimensions are like James Bond without Q. James Bond can certainly hold his own without all the gadgets, but come on, the things that Q adds are really cool! Adding dimensions in almost as many combinations as you can think of gives you added power in your account schedules and lets you stretch beyond mere financial reporting and expand into operational reporting.
5) They export easily to Excel.
My monthly financial statement package is 18 pages, all produced out of account schedules. Each month, I export directly to Excel and produce reports that are consistently formatted and look the same every month. I’ve got good control over the process while still having the flexibility I need when we decide we want to make a change. All of this gets loaded up to SharePoint for the end users who use them, and no tree products are harmed in the production of our financials.
6) Account schedules can be built and maintained by finance folks without IT help.
This is, and always has been, the big seller for me. I’m a DIY kind of person. I do my own landscaping, I bake my own bread (not all the time), I can build a fire while camping, and I’m painting my own living room this spring. These same principles flow through to my business. I want to be able to do it myself. I love my IT colleagues, but goodness knows they have enough to do without having to produce my financials. Account schedules are easy enough to use that I don’t need to know a programming language, or how to accomplish a table join, in order to build them. All I need is knowledge of my chart of accounts, what the structure of my dimensions and budgets are, what the differences are between balance sheet and income statement accounts, and some simple formulas.
If you’re reading this, you are probably looking for answers now, as in “my implementation goes live in a month and I don’t have my financial statements figured out yet”. This is by far the most common question I get from people looking for answers about account schedules.
Assuming you are already a Microsoft Dynamics NAV customer, and you’re current on your BREP (Business Ready Enhancement Plan), you need to go to CustomerSource to get access to e-learning modules and training manuals that are just waiting for you to find them.
If you want to search on your own, here is the place to start. On the left hand navigation bar, choose Documentation=>User Guides and then look for one of these two:
- Overview of Training Manuals and Hands-On Labs for Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009
- Overview of Training Manuals for Microsoft Dynamics NAV 5.0
Once you get to these pages, you can search through a number of menus to get to exactly the topics you need without using the clunky CustomerSource user guide drop down choices, which are difficult to use at best.
Another good source are the Learning Plans for each version. On the left hand navigation bar, choose Training and Certification, then choose Learning Plans for Microsoft Dynamics from the main page. Choose your product and version, and you’ll have what you need. The Learning Plan for Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 is particularly good, providing links from the page directly to what you need. You will find sources for E-Learning, Instructor Led Training, and Training Materials. The link to the Learning Plan for Microsoft Dynamics NAV 5.0 actually points to a PDF version of the NAV 2009 Learning Plan; it looks like the 5.0 plan has been removed.
If, because you’ve taken a look at the Learning Plans and you know the Course Number for the training materials you want to find; here’s another quick way to get at them. At the top of the left hand navigation bar, there is a search box. Simply type in the course number, for example, 80050, and you’ll be taken directly to those training materials which you can immediately download.
If you simply don’t have time to look through the Learning Plans and expansive Overview pages, take my word for it and look up the following courses using the search box to get to more information now:
If you are brand new customer, using NAV2009 with the RTC (Role Tailored client), here’s your best bet: Course 80050 Business Intelligence for Information Workers. You may also try Course 80258 Trade in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 to expand into the topics of analysis reports and analysis by dimensions.
If you are an existing customer, using NAV 5.0 or below with the Classic client, these resources will be more right for you, since they are shown using the Classic client. If you’re not yet using the RTC, you don’t need to struggle through documentation shown in an interface that you’re not using yet. I’ll maintain that the basic functionality of account schedules is the same (so far), and the major difference between the Classic client and the RTC is navigation, as well as look and feel, of the new matrix. Look for Course 8875 Business Intelligence for Information Workers in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 5.0, Course 8939 Trade in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 5.0, and Course 8713 What’s New in Microsoft Dynamics NAV 5.0 Part I (chapter 8 talks about some of the improvements that were made to account schedules between version 4.0 and 5.0).
Find the link to this wealth of information here or under the Blogroll as Microsoft Dynamics CustomerSource.
If you’re a Microsoft Dynamics NAV user, like I am, there are a whole ton of choices to make regarding financial reporting.
- Account Schedules, the native financial reporting package that reports on general ledger transactions.
- Analysis Reports, also a native NAV reporting option, that extends reporting to item ledger entries from the sales and purchasing tables.
- Object Designer, the native C/SIDE development tool used for the NAV application, which includes a report writer.
- SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services), a Microsoft reporting tool package that uses the SQL programming language.
- PowerPivot, the free Microsoft Excel add-on that became available with Microsoft Office 2010, allowing data to load from NAV (and other data sources) through a direct connection to Excel.
- JET Express, a former ISV (Independent Software Vendor) reporting solution, released for NAV 2009 in September 2011 as available for NAV users, and included with the Microsoft BREP (Business Ready Enhancement Plan), instead of as a separately purchased add-on solution.
- Management Reporter, recently released by Microsoft on March 31, 2012 as a free add-on for all Microsoft Dynamics ERPs with the caveat that, for NAV users, it is only available if you already had the licensing for FRx.
- Any large number of additional ISV solutions, sold as separately purchased add-ons to NAV.
As the Controller for my company, it’s my job to stay informed on what’s available and determine which choices are the best possible given the available skills sets of the employees who use them and the overall cost. It’s also my job to make sure I know what the future direction of the ERP software is, so I can advise on decisions we make as a company with that knowledge in hand.
Take note, that from the list above, two major options have been launched in the last seven months. My feeling, as a NAV end-user, is that Microsoft has not delivered a clear direction for their financial reporting strategy for the NAV product, and has left the onus of choice on the user.
I have to admit, I’m the kind of person who likes choices, and I’ve sampled every single option on the list above in one way or another. The reporting strategy for my company is based on three principles: 1) the report must balance to the general ledger, 2) it must be consistently replicated in future periods, 3) it must be able to be maintained by someone in the company with the right skill set.
So yeah, we’ve got a lot to talk about.
I’ve used account schedules as my primary financial reporting solution, at two different companies, since 2004. I have the opportunity to teach about this reporting tool through NAVUG, doing webinars throughout the year, speaking at the annual conference, and even teaching classes for NAVUG Academy. For a while, I’m going to talk about account schedules here, but you’ll occasionally come across other topics as we learn more about the NAV financial reporting landscape, and where it will take us next.
There are lots of folks out there who want to sell you something. There are endless solutions, for a price, for the problem you or your business may have. All of these solutions have merit for one reason or another, or they wouldn’t exist in a competitive capitalist society.
But I’ll tell you a secret. The best solutions I have gotten have been from other people who do the same type of thing I do every day.
I have the great privilege to belong to an amazing tribe of professionals who use Microsoft Dynamics NAV as the ERP software of choice for their businesses. These folks come together at conferences and during webinars throughout the year and even reach out to each other informally through emails and quick phone calls. And do you know what they’re doing? They’re helping each other solve problems.
I’ve learned a lot from Microsoft training sessions, from reading the manual, and from plain old experimentation. But the best learning I continue to get comes from my tribe at NAVUG (NAV User Group).
I’m a Controller at a small company. There is one other person there who has an accounting degree, and two people in the IT department. Without reaching out through NAVUG, it’s easy to get out of date, out of practice, out of touch, and out of synch with what best practices are out there in the rest of the world.
I’ve found that by sharing what I know, I build new relationships through my network who share what they know with me, and you know what? We all win.