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 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.