“Business intelligence has been given a bad name,” says PrecisionPoint CEO Michael Evans, “because people don’t trust numbers . That’s because they don’t agree with finance.”
After stints with Comshare and Analyst Financials, Evans is a chartered accountant with almost 30 years’ experience of financial reporting applications. So it must pain him to cite recent research from Ventana showing that companies are typically taking longer to close their periodic reporting cycles.
“This should be worrying to management. Even if companies buy BI tools, they don’t apply to this area of the business,” he moans.
While BI used to be the preserve of the corporate elite, smaller companies also have complex reporting requirements. But both ends of the corporate spectrum suffer from the same worrying affliction, according to Evans: “If you rely on manual spreadsheet systems to drive this, you’re probably just focused on very narrow accounting needs.
“You need to fulfil statutory obligations, but we think financial departments need to raise their game and see the close-to-report cycle as serving the entire business. Anyone who depends on a reporting system attached to a bunch of spreadsheets should not be proud of that and look to use something more sophisticated.”
And, as one might expect after such a tirade, PrecisionPoint is well positioned to provide the necessary tools.
Tailoring its products for Microsoft’s Dynamics range of enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, PrecisionPoint has packaged a set of tools to cover closing the books, making adjustments, translating, consolidating, analysing, reporting and distributing financial information - “what most management accountants occupy themselves with”, as Evans puts it.
That’s the source of the problem, he continues. “Outputting to Excel and producing reconciliations demands some heavy cutting and pasting to get standard reports. Most accountants are pretty good at that, but spend most of their time doing it, so there’s not time left to do sales analysis.”
The PrecisionPoint close-to-report is built around an independent database designed to take the data from the multiple tables within ERP applications. The software extracts all the ERP data into a single table, but retains an audit trail of where it all came from. The result is a single database that automatically reconciles every transaction.
While aware of the slow progress of business intelligence within the UK accountancy profession, Evans explains that the recession did have an impact on slowing down adoption, but adds that the market for business intelligence has been much livelier in the past year.
“Deciding to make an investment to improve reporting across the board is discrectionary. The most senior people who authorise spending can ask for a report and they’ll get it. What they should worry about is all the other people in the organisation,” he says.
“If you’re an accountant, like I am, most people aspire to do a professional job. If you are reliant on a patchwork of spreadsheet systems, SQL Server and all sorts of things you bring together, that’s not a solid way to do it.
“You can do better. You’ve got to know you can raise your game.”
AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.