As a Finance Team member, you will undoubtedly have had to create more than your fair share of reports from Excel. As an application, Excel provides some great options to enable this and of course there are many ‘how-to’ videos and resources out there to help you produce some impressive results.
Great so far, but what happens when you need to blend data from Excel plus all the other database systems that your company uses into a coherent and integrated reporting system which also provides pixel-perfect Business Intelligence reports? In this blog post we’re going to take a look at how XLCubed enables just that, with a simple and intuitive user interface, which extends what’s possible with data-connected Excel, giving users the agility that they need in reporting while retaining data integrity for IT.
Advanced Reporting Straight from Excel
While it is easily possible, with some specific application knowledge, to produce respectable reports from Excel itself, the financial reports that most people will create are fairly standard in format and straightforward in nature. They will though, rely heavily on the user’s knowledge of pivot tables and formulas, and will also very often require help and assistance from IT to produce.
To make this process a lot easier and efficient, what is needed from the user's perspective, is to have the ability to connect Excel to a wide variety of distinct data sources, and to be able to do so using simple drag and drop actions directly from the Excel interface, without the need to ask IT for assistance. Such tools do exist, and we’ll take a look at an ideal example later in the article.
Is Excel a Reporting Tool?
Without doubt, Excel is the ideal application for personal productivity in the Finance Department. But of course, it also goes much further than that. For financial forecasting in particular, it is the well-deserved tool of choice – even if that often means extracting data from your enterprise-grade CPM system, re-modelling it and then uploading the resulting data back into the aforementioned CPM system! But is it really a reporting tool?
Undoubtedly, Excel reporting templates are frequently the method of choice. And many of the financial performance software vendors actively encourage such activities through integration with MS Excel via Excel Add-in toolbars and capabilities.
So, while Excel shines in that respect, and can indeed be used as a reporting tool, it does have several limitations which are pretty quickly encountered in day-to-day use regarding the modelling of dimensional data to enable creation of interactive reports. Many finance teams recognise this of course, and in our experience, probably the single most asked question of any new FP&A system review is “what is the reporting like”?
Typically in this regard, users encounter issues when ‘reporting by exception’ for dashboards, rank, and charting of trends and/or outliers. Commonly, financial performance software vendors now offer integration to MS Power BI to enable the desired ‘slicing and dicing’ and ‘drill anywhere’ capabilities for their datasets.
What Is a BI Reporting Tool?
Business Intelligence and Reporting really go hand-in-glove. A well-designed BI report can quickly convey business-critical insights and highlight actions to be taken in a concise, clear and straightforward manner, without the end recipient having to trawl through lines and lines of statistics and detailed tables of numbers to get to the end result. Multidimensional ‘guided analysis’ is frequently offered to assist with the self-service navigation of cube data.
Unlike financial reporting tools where columns and rows are often predefined for periodicity and accounting labels/references, with a strong emphasis on standardised (IFRS/local GAAP) layout and compliance, BI reporting focuses upon imparting Business Insights both visually and succinctly through the use of maps, dials, clusters and arrays in addition to chart types.
Of course, once again this can be achieved in a limited manner from Excel, but the key to successful Business Intelligence reporting is the ability to easily connect to all business systems and provide drill-through to detail when needed. This is not possible from Excel alone and requires a dedicated, purpose-built reporting system.
As referred to earlier, there is a product which enables Users to combine, maintain and replicate modelling structures through Excel-connected source data, and that is XLCubed.
XLCubed solves the Finance Team’s reporting requirements and perfectly integrates with your Financial Consolidation requirements, plus Planning, Budgeting, & Forecasting systems and processes, making the month-end faster to deliver with greater insight. This powerful, finance-led reporting enables:
- Precise and accurate integration with month-end close, consolidation & reporting needs
- Smarter decision making delivered with time-savings of up to 90%
- Reports delivered from data integrated from all business systems and delivered by the Finance Team members with no input needed from IT
- Pixel-perfect KPI reporting delivered across all devices
- Best practice data visualisations using industry standard charting certified by the IBCS
With its origins in Microsoft Analysis Services, XLCubed enables Users to connect Excel directly to original source data i.e. Power BI, SQL Server, SAP Hana, plus many others. It uses simple click, drag and drop selection boxes available from the XLCubed ribbon that is provided via an XLCubed Excel Add-in. Data connections and presentation formats are simple, and standardised Excel templates can be shared amongst Users via the XLCubed Web functions, enabling complex Reports across multiple divisions and departments within an organisation to be easily created.
Fundamentally, XLCubed also solves data integrity issues at a stroke. The system has straightforward connection to many data sources, providing optimised Excel reports across an organisation. And because all data can be validated, there are no more reporting errors created by multiple un-aligned spreadsheets and databases.
Whether you are seeking to improve reporting against existing or legacy consolidation tools or simply have need for improved Business Insights, through Excel-connected data sources, then XLCubed is likely to be the most appropriate solution for further evaluation and review
XLCubed was acquired by Fluence Technologies Inc., during November 2021. This provides Fluence with a logical and very powerful asset to deliver alongside their existing Cloud-based Financial Consolidation system. It is seen by many market analysts and commentators as a potential game-changing opportunity.
While Finance Teams will undoubtedly continue to use Excel to create ad hoc analyses and modelling, the potential of Fluence with the XLCubed reporting capabilities outlined above raises the prospect of enabling many Financial Performance Management and CPM systems to finally realise the end-to-end financial integration and analytical delivery promised by vendors for so long.
For further information or to request a demo, please Contact Us.