Advanced Reporting Technical Information
The Advanced Reporting feature makes a copy of the QuickBooks database into a separate data store that is located in a folder that is relative to the location of the QuickBooks database itself. For example, I have a QuickBooks company file “Academy-14Enterprise”, and you can see that there is a folder “Academy-14Enterprise Advanced Reporting” at that same location.
Note that this is a Windows “hidden” folder, so you have to enable Windows Explorer to show hidden folders if you want to see it (there is no need to see this folder, though).
The data is encrypted and is not accessible through any other program.
Intuit has licensed an existing reporting product, QlikView, to be the engine that drives the analysis. Intuit’s programmers are responsible for creating the data export, organizing the tables and views, creating the basic reports and objects. I’m not familiar with QlikView, but the good news is that Intuit didn’t try to build their own product from scratch in this case. Did Intuit select the best product? Time will tell.
Fortunately, Intuit did modify the user permission setup to add a new option to cover Advanced Reporting.
Since this is a separate executable program from QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions itself, Intuit will be able to update this product independently of the “R” level revisions that QuickBooks releases. This is good, as that means that updates can probably come out more rapidly. I’m a bit concerned, though, about how users will be notified of updates.
Note that Advanced Reporting will also be available for the 2014 version of QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions as long as you have a current Full Service Plan, and you are using the R6 revision or later. You will have to contact Intuit to enable the feature there. Also, at this time, Advanced Reporting is only available in the US edition.
My Thoughts On QuickBooks 2015 Advanced Reporting
There will be four keys to the success of Advanced Reporting: Price, Layout Control, Data Capabilities and Education.
I will note, at this point, that this is a “early release” of the product. As is often the case with Intuit, the first release of a new product or function tends to not be fully featured. Intuit already has plans to address many of the shortcomings that I’ve pointed out here.
Intuit has the Price right – it is free, other than the cost of a Full Service Plan. Most Enterprise users will have a service plan, I believe, so this shouldn’t be a huge issue.
By Layout Control I’m referring to the ability to make whatever changes you want to the report. Adding any column, easily creating filters, controlling fonts, being able to include graphs instead of just charts, and so forth. Anyone who has tried to make changes to the inventory reports in QuickBooks will know the frustration of the limited capabilities that the program has. From what I’ve seen so far Advanced Reporting is a good step forward in this regard. Again, I’ve not had the chance to dig into the details, but it appears that you have a lot of control over every aspect of the report.
I’m not sure that the Data Capabilities are satisfactory yet. I’m talking about what data elements are available – the tables, the fields in the tables, and what higher level elements are included to make reporting easier. Again, I’ll admit that I’ve not used this very extensively at this time, so I don’t have a detailed analysis of what data elements are included, what kinds of analysis features are available. It looks like they have most of the basics, but they have to do more. If I’m going to work with a complicated reporting tool I want access to all data. While their list of data elements is long, it doesn’t seem to be complete. Where are the “custom fields” that I rely on heavily in QuickBooks? Do you have tables for the alternate ship-to addresses for customers? In addition to the basic tables, has Intuit created the proper “views”, aggregates of multiple tables that organize information into simple to use but powerful packages? Going beyond that, has Intuit picked the right reporting/analytics tool when they picked QlikView? I’m not ready to say if QlikView is what we are looking for, at this point.
Education is going to be a major key to the success of this product. This is a complicated program to work with, most people won’t be able to just sit down and start creating highly customized reports. Of course, if Intuit dumbed it down it would have been disappointing – they had to make as much data available as is possible, and they had include the capability to create complex cross-table views and reports. This is going to be a tool used by people who understand databases and complicated data queries. That creates a great opportunity for accounting professionals to provide additional services to their clients. At the time I’m writing this the educational tools aren’t ready, but I know that Intuit is putting a lot of effort into developing them.
I am a bit disappointed in a few things right off the bat:
- I wish that there was a more modern, dare I say more intuitive user interface. When I look at some of the modern data presentation and user interface tools that are available, I think that there could be something better.
- I wish that they would make this reporting database accessible to third party reporting and business analytics developers. There is a lot of data here, already packaged up and separate from the QuickBooks database, it seems obvious to me that there are wonderful opportunities for add-on companies to tap in to this data and provide users with other ways of massaging the data. Then you could have a simpler to use user interface for some situations, you could use this with business analytics and dashboard tools that you are already familiar with.
- I wish that there was a way to create reports that combine information from multiple company files (I don’t believe that is possible in the current package, although I could have missed it).
We’ll have to see how this works; how responsive it is, how complete the access to data is, how flexible the system is when trying to create complicated reports. How good a job do they do in creating useable advanced data objects? What kind of educational elements will they have to teach us how to make this dance? There are a lot of good reporting and business analytics tools for QuickBooks already, so Advanced Reporting will have to provide more than just the right price.
However, Advanced Reporting looks to be an interesting step forward, and I applaud Intuit for not charging an additional subscription fee.