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Excel vs Reporting Tools
Many financial people continue to use Excel daily. For the rest of the firm, the prevalence of report writing software has caused a move away from Excel reporting for the better formatting provided by other tools.
But is this the proper way to go? The answer depends on what you need to accomplish with the data.
Report writer documents provide easy to read and well formatted information. The inclusion of graphics in these reports produces Excel like analysis of the information. And, the information cannot be changed or manipulated by the readers.
Report writers present an accurate (if the report is written correctly) and static picture of the data as it is now. They can be refreshed and distributed on demand. But they are explicitly designed to provide unchangeable data in a nice format.
Excel, on the other hand, can be made to look nice but it is not as easy as other reporting tools. The benifit to using Excel is that the data can be manipulated. And that is why accounting teams like it.
Data can be read from application databases, pulling specific records and fields, loaded into the spreadsheet, then analysis functions applied. The data can easily be resorted in many different manners and regrouped as needed. Yes, this can result in distortion of the information but in the hands of a watchful accounting person, this is avoided.
So, which tool should your firm use? Both is the recommended answer.
For fixed reports for management, whether that is upper management or the shipping team leader, provides the data those groups need in an easy to read and static format.
For analysis of the company's financial data, pulling information into Excel provides the user with a body of manipulable data with significant ease and value.
Dynamics GP is delivered with up to 190 Excel Spreadsheets/Reports that are linked to the database through an Office Data Connection (ODC). These reports allow users to open the Excel spreadsheet and click on a refresh button to get a fresh copy of the data without opening Dynamics GP or any other reporting tool!
The Excel Report Builder, part of the Smartlist Builder tool kit, makes the creation of Excel reports using MS Dynamics data easy. The spreadsheets, once created, can be deployed to users who can open the sheets, refresh the data, and start their analysis.
Accolade's book Customizing with The Builders covers the use of the Excel Report Builder tool completely.