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  • Writer's picturebillthomscpa

Canned meat

That does not look freshly squeezed!

Canned reports.

As I stated on my front page, you have gone and invested time, money, your peoples' time, hours away from family, friends, in-laws....well, maybe it's not all bad, but I digress... Basically you have gone through your system conversion. The sales people came and went with promises that your system would absolutely spit out the monthly financial statements you wanted, would reconcile all your Balance Sheet accounts and would make your annoying co-worker stop clipping his toenails on his desk.

Go live time has past, and your still running financials out of Excel and Tom STILL has a pile of toe nail clippings accumulating in his desk drawer. "But how?" you ask yourself. "We put 6 figures into this system, and we're paying vendors, invoicing customers and running cost reports. But why can't we run our financials at the click of a button?"

Unfortunately, like a snug speedo, one size does not fit all. And if you don't believe, go a European beach!

Most software companies are going to do the bare minimum in terms of their canned reports that they roll out for several reasons:

1) Their programmers' are not accountants. They have a firm SQL database background, and can do things with data that your grandparents probably only dreamed of, but most programmers are not trained in GAAP, day to day business operations, or basic human social interaction (kidding!).*

"And some of my best friends are invisible."

*Note - I like to have fun at programmers' expense. Some of my best friends are programmers.


2) Their company's main focus is not reporting. The primary focus of the software company is to:

  • Dazzle you with shiny salespeople who tell you more lies and make more false promises than your ex's divorce attorney,

  • Have programmers dedicating to wrapping duct tape around the server that runs the software and keeps setting off the smoke alarm. Basically, maintain the black box that they have created!

  • Upsell! Upsell! Upsell! $$$ Cha-ching, baby!

So what do you do? You can have the software company bust out some custom reports for a ridiculous amount of money that you probably did not budget on spending. You can have one of your staff members take some Crystal Reports classes and try to assemble those between balancing the checking account and reconciling inventory. You can also find a nice Crystal Reports developer who you can hopefully partner with who you can trust with your data.

Another option of course is living with what you have an using the work around. That does seem like a waste of investment though. You have spent a fortune on this new system, and your not getting the most out of it. Again, you are relying on Excel to do most of the work. You are piecing together data from 3 different canned Crystal Reports to tie out the A/P subledger to the G/L, for goodness sake!

Brass tacks - if you are using Excel for your internal and external reporting and not data extracted straight from your ERP, then you are not getting a good return on your investment!

So what are the best alternatives at this point?

  • Custom Crystal Reports - one of the best options, but not always the best option.

  • SQL Server Reporting - a nice alternative, and an efficient way to query data, however, the presentation is often leaves little to be desired.

  • Excel Query / pivot table - a great way to extract data, but still requires manipulation and is still vulnerable to the downsides of Excel, which I will address in my next entry.

  • Workarounds and Excel - may God have mercy on your soul

So canned reports are not going to get the job done. Every business has a different way of presenting data both internally and externally. You may just have to resign yourself to the fact that you are going to need to find someone to develop reports either internally or externally. Why else would you be reading this blog? Oh yeah, for the programmer jokes!

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