Navigating Business Central Reporting Options

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In the digital age, where data dictates decisions, the crucial role swift, accurate reporting plays in growth, efficiency, and success cannot be overstated. While Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central offers a trove of reporting functionalities designed to fuel data-driven decision-making, the pathway to leveraging these powerful tools is often strewn with challenges, particularly for the common user who is likely not versed in the technical nuances of data analytics in the cloud.

These hurdles can hinder an organization's efforts to capitalize on Business Central's data capabilities, dimming its competitive edge. Effective reporting can become obscured and complicated by the expanse of tools available within Business Central, each promising some level of insight but functioning very differently.

In this article, our expedition into Business Central's reporting options aims to clarify the intent of these tools so those adrift in Business Central data can get more clarity and identify what works best for each scenario.

Diving Into Business Central Reporting

Business Central is equipped with an array of native report-building instruments, each designed to cater to a variety of users, from data novices to analytics veterans. Gaining familiarity with these tools—their functions, limitations, and the intricacies of their operation—is pivotal to mastering the art of report generation in Business Central.

The core bundle of built-in reporting tools that Business Central offers straight out of the box are Excel reporting, Financial Reporting (formerly Account Schedules), Analysis Mode, RDLC reporting, and Power BI. Let’s explore and outline each one of these by reviewing their intended use, strengths, and potential pitfalls:

  • Excel: Universally wielded and especially coveted by finance professionals, Excel is the forerunner of simple, familiar, and effective reporting. It ‘excels’ (so to speak) at offering the essentials—advanced sorting, custom formatting, and visual graphing—without fuss. Yet, in its simplicity is where the risks lurk; ungoverned spreadsheet-based reporting spawns a slew of inaccuracies and inefficiencies. For those looking to harness Excel within the Business Central ecosystem, external Excel-based reporting solutions often become necessary for enhancing, securing, streamlining, and simplifying the reporting process.

Learn More: Business Central Excel Reports: Demystifying Real-Time vs. Near Real-Time Reporting and Batch Processing

  • Financial Reporting: As the successor to Account Schedules, the Financial Reporting feature in Business Central streamlines the creation of bespoke financial reports directly from your chart of accounts. It empowers users to craft comprehensive financial narratives tailored via row setups and column layouts, including income statements and balance sheets. However, Financial Reporting is confined to GL data and is a rigid tool within Business Central. The report outputs often require further finessing in Excel, a step that reintroduces the risks and challenges of inaccuracies due to a lack of spreadsheet governance.

 

  • Analysis Mode: Unveiled in the 2023 Wave 1 release, Analysis Mode introduces PivotTable-esque capability for real-time data examination within the ERP itself. Intuitive and fast, it allows for on-the-fly analysis of data on a single Business Central page, providing a stopgap for basic queries without the need for external data manipulation. Nonetheless, Analysis Mode is not a silver bullet; it complements but doesn't replace dedicated reporting and analytics tools. Among other limitations, Analysis Mode doesn’t allow you to share or custom format and is limited by data size. For a detailed overview of features, we recommend you read our article on understanding Analysis Mode.

 

  • RDLC Reporting: For those who need and are seeking the pinnacle of customization and detail in their Business Central reports, RDLC stands as a front-runner among included, native options. With it, the creation of intricate reports becomes possible, but it’s at the cost of elevated technical demand. Mastery of RDLC requires a deep dive into XML, SQL Server Reporting Services, and Visual Studio. This development-centered tool necessitates specialized in-house or external expertise, which not only bottlenecks the reporting and data delivery process but also adds significant costs and complexities.

 

  • Power BI: A powerhouse of visualization and dashboard creation, Power BI marries Business Central data with graphical excellence, provided it’s sculpted by savvy hands. Optimizing data for Power BI without using a third-party integration solution entails complex data modeling and extensive technical know-how of database structure, DAX language, and SQL code. Read Why Your Business Central Reporting Tool Needs Power BI Integration to learn more about eliminating the technical barrier to entry of leveraging Power BI with your Business Central data.

How Technical Complexity Introduces More Costs

While the collection of native Business Central reporting tools offer promise, they also bear the weight of complexity and significant limitations. A lack of in-house expertise can transform what should be a straightforward task into a mess of workarounds and compromise.

Business Central's reporting landscape reveals a variety of technical barriers—data inconsistency, customization constraints, and performance stumbling blocks.

Nearly every tool in Business Central's arsenal demands a degree of mastery to unlock its potential. From the governance challenges inherent in Excel, through the setup required by Financial Reporting, to the programming prowess needed for RDLC, and the data preparation demanded by Power BI, each path is fraught with its own brand of complexity.

Aside from the outlay of the specialized resources needed alone, the technical intricacies of these tools also introduce hidden costs by unnecessarily tethering your productivity and making it difficult to obtain the answers you need to thrust your business forward.

Simplifying Your Business Central Reporting

This exploration of Business Central's reporting toolkit highlights the strengths and unmasks the challenges of achieving what every business needs: efficient reporting, accessible analytics, and accurate data on demand to support profitable, sound decision-making.

The aim is to be empowered by reporting solutions that are intuitive, adaptable, and ready to serve the needs of today's and tomorrow's decision-makers. To that end, investing time and resources into arming users with flexible, intuitive, self-served reporting is absolutely vital.

To assist every organization using Business Central in achieving this mission, Cosmos offers a comprehensive guide on how to overcome the most common reporting challenges in Business Central. We specifically cover how to overcome the usability and performance gaps in its resident reporting tools and offer practical solutions and approaches to mastering, simplifying, and streamlining user-centric analytics so you can harness being a competitive data-driven business!

 

Whitepaper: How to Overcome Business Central’s Top 7 Reporting Challenges

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