Choose Wisely: Which Microsoft Dynamics GP Reporting Tool is Right for the Job?
Dynamics GP users suffer from a pretty nice problem to have: an overload of reporting options. The suite of available reporting tools for Dynamics GP includes Report Writer, SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), SmartLists with SmartList Builder, Excel Reports with Excel Report Builder, Crystal Reports, FRx, Management Reporter, Analysis Cubes for Excel and all of those ISV solutions promising to make reporting easier. Whew! Users are left wondering which reporting tool to use. I thought that I would try to help by laying out where I think the tools fit. Admittedly there is some overlap and with that overlap there is room for a company to simply define the preferred tool for a specific need.
In my mind the preferred tools break down like this:
Posting Reports/Base Reports - Report Writer - There is no good substitute for the included Report Writer reports to print posting journals or generate a basic trial balance to confirm the accuracy of another report. Don't create new Report Writer reports though. There are better alternatives. Use these only as a baseline.
Recurring Reporting/Basic Business Intelligence (BI) - SQL Server Reporting Services - SSRS is being built deeper into Dynamics GP. It produces web-deliverable reports out of the box and SSRS reports can be woven into the GP Home Page and Business Analyzer for basic BI needs. If someone needs to run a report regularly, SSRS is usually the right answer.
Research - SmartLists - The SmartList feature in GP is a great tool for narrowing data, finding transactions and drilling back for details. For quick research nothing is better, but it doesn't scale well with large amounts of data so keep it for research, not analysis.
Analysis - Microsoft Excel - Whether this is a refreshable Excel report, Excel as a front end to Analysis Cubes or Excel paired with PowerPivot connected to GP, nothing compares to Excel as a front end for analyzing data. An Excel-based dashboard or SharePoint may be used to present the data but the analysis starts with Excel.
Financial Reporting - Management Reporter/ISV solutions - This is the hard one. Management Reporter is the default financial reporting tool for Dynamics GP. It's the replacement for FRx and it is fine for many companies. But as more and more, firms are getting deep into analytics, they don't want to abandon their analytical prowess just to build financial statements. Native Microsoft Excel can be leveraged to produce financial statements. Also some ISV solutions, like deFacto for example, build on the power of analysis cubes and Excel to make it easier for firms to leverage their analytical expertise for financial reporting.
GP users have a lot of reporting tools. Like physical tools, we sometimes use the one we know instead of the best tool for the job. I confess to having hammered in a few screws and to doing the reporting equivalent once or twice. In the long run, you'll get the best results from using the right tool.