Unit4 Financials 2023 Q3 Release

September 2023

Unit4 Financials by Coda 2023 Q3 was made available on 12th September 2023.

The new release contains all the previous Unit4 Financials functionality and new features. Plus, many additional customer requested fixes, highlighting the importance of logging enhancements via Unit4’s Community 4U.

Highlights of the 2023 Q3 release include:

Administration

  • Webservice Index Page
  • Generic Browse
  • Internet Printing Security

Assets

  • Year/Period Master

Finance

  • Account Summary
  • Company Master

Deprecated features

  • 32-bit XL is deprecated. We recommend the use of 64-bit XL.
  • The Message Board feature in Administration is deprecated. It will be removed in a future release.

General Fixes/Updates

  • It is now possible to change a user’s password, when the user code contains a space.
  • Attachments can now be viewed from the Generic Browse Content Provider.
  • The private web service ‘clientauthenticate’ is no longer included in the public web service documentation.
  • An issue has been resolved where the Generic Browse Master code could not be selected when configuring a new or modifying an existing Generic Browse on a menu content provider.
  • An issue has been resolved where a session would sometimes consume licences for products which were not used.
  • A serious error no longer occurs when maintaining Asset category masters with no ‘Category element value’ or ‘Cost centre value’.
  • Forced Prompt(s) in the selector master for Link Table Maintenance now work correctly. This has been corrected for both Finance and Billing.
  • It is now possible to include the ‘@’ character in External references in documents within Finance. This means an error will no longer be generated when posting documents from Billing or Invoice Matching that contain an ‘@’ character in a reference field.
  • A warning message in Matching now appears if the capability setting of matching date outside the period range is set to warning.
  • Documents posted using APIs, where the document currency values have more decimal places than the currency master are now posted correctly and can now be edited on the intray.
  • Emails sent as part of the Pay/Collect process, where an email template master is not used, now includes the subject and text entered at run time by the user on all emails sent and not just the first email.
  • On the IBM i platform the issue which restricted the ability to write to or retrieve data from the database repository has now been resolved, the repository objects (as used by attachments) are no longer corrupted.
  • A rounding issue has been resolved when calculating the Home/Dual values, this issue occurred when using reversing tax and workflow to post books on approval.
  • You can now enter configuration options in the Console without the com.coda prefix. This now enables IBAN verification to work correctly in the Dutch Local product NL Common.
  • The WebSphere installation scripts have been updated to accurately implement the installation requirements. The previous WebSphere scripts could result in unpredictable behaviour and failures due to the configuration not satisfying Session Management requirements.
  • A reflected cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in the web user interface has been fixed.
  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerability has been resolved when viewing attachments. HTML attachments are now downloaded rather than being displayed in a new browser tab.
  • XML External Entity Injection (XXE) has been resolved. XML interpreter now cannot leak sensitive server side data back to the attacker from Request Body on /coda/finance/elementauthorisationrules/uploadrules page.

 

Further details on the new features, security updates and reported issues can be found in the release documentation on Unit4’s Community 4U.

  • Unit4 Financials by Coda 2023 Q2 was made available on 13 June 2023, find here.
  • Unit4 Financials by Coda 2023 Q1 was made available on 14 March 2023, find here.

 

Release dates for Cloud users

Unit4 Cloud customers are notified by Unit4 Cloud support when their pre-production and production systems will be updated. This information can also be found within the Cloud Services – Release Schedules area. View the 2023 Cloud Schedule here.

The Release Notes detailing the fixes and features within this release can be found in the Documentation area on Unit4’s Community 4U.


Upgrading Financials is not merely about accessing the new functionality that comes with a new software release. It is also about mitigating technology, operational, and business risk.

Find out more

Big Data: What it means for your business

White paper

Big Data: What it means for your business

August 2023

Big Data opportunities, use cases and technologies explored…

Have a read of this White Paper as it explores how Big Data is shaping different sectors and how Big Data initiatives can be of value to all areas of your business. 

Read now

Is your organisation ready to navigate the data-driven world?

Our team of experienced data specialists empower customers so they gain maximum benefit from their valuable data. With decades of experience in the field, we provide strategic guidance so you can realise the full potential of your data.

Find out more

MBilling Use Case: Solving Complex Billing for a Ferry Operator

August 2023

MBilling Use Case:

Solving Complex Billingfor a Ferry Operator

In terms of the sheer range of customer categories, billing methods, transaction volume and parameters to account for, billing doesn’t get much more complex than in the case of ferry operators.

Here’s a closer look at how MBilling from Millennium Consulting meets the needs of this highly demanding sector.

What is MBilling? 

MBilling is Millennium Consulting’s sales invoicing solution designed for users of Unit4 Financials by Coda.

The solution is underpinned by technology from order-to-cash specialists, ICORP, and is designed to automate and streamline processes of organisations with complex billing requirements.

For an introduction to its capabilities, take a look at our guide, Complex Billing Challenges Solved: Introducing MBilling for Unit4 Financials by Coda.

Read the guide

Ferry Operator Use Case

The Challenge


For operators within this industry, complexity in terms of billing and, invoice management & processing arises in multiple areas:

  • Customer categories – e.g. private passengers, different vehicle types, accompanied and unaccompanied freight. Service offerings for different customer groups will involve a wide range of pricing options, payment terms and invoicing procedures.
  • Tiered pricing. Examples include volume-based pricing arrangements for frequent commercial users – or group discounts for private passengers. Some of these may be standard arrangements. Others may need to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. All will need to be accounted for accurately in the relevant invoices.
  • Add-ons. Parameters to be factored into invoices may include cargo handling for unaccompanied loads, short or long-term ambient or refrigerated storage, and in-crossing cabin/catering packages for drivers.
  • Partnerships. With the type of add-ons listed above, elements of the service offering may be delivered by third parties. Accuracy of recording is essential for the purposes of recoupment and internal reporting.
  • Multiple touchpoints. When an initial arrangement needs to be varied for private passengers and commercial customers, terms of passage may be determined by a combination of touchpoints (e.g., a passenger books via your website and then telephones to secure an add-on or discount). When bills are generated, such variations need to be recorded in an accurate and consistent manner. Siloes existing between those touchpoints may impede this.
  • Cross-border and regulatory considerations. For each crossing booking, the application of levies, duties and taxes, the language used, and the layout and content of the bill may be determined by passenger type, onward-passage intentions, freight load category and volume. An incorrectly entered data point may lead to needless delays / additional outlay for the passenger – and reputational damage for the carrier.

The Solution - MBilling


Our billing solution is flexible enough to be tailored specifically to your preferred pricing and billing model. What’s more, it is powerful enough to streamline and automate that model – even in the case of multiple billing parameters and high volumes of transactions.

Thanks to this combination of flexibility and powerful processing capabilities, MBilling is already being put to work by a ferry operator to address the types of challenges detailed above.

With MBilling, you set the rules, and our solution ensures they are followed – while eliminating the time-consuming workflows and risk of data-entry errors that arise with traditional billing processes.

MBilling automatically identifies and lifts all relevant billing data and applies it to your system. It calculates the pricing considering all relevant variables underpinned by the rules set by you – and taking into account any exceptions or validation steps you need to apply. The same system generates and distributes those invoices according to your preferences. And when a bill is issued, the transaction is fed through immediately to your Unit4 Financials by Coda system.

Accurate, consistent, and easy to deploy, MBilling ensures invoicing processes support business growth – rather than being a barrier to it.

Find out more

To discover more about MBilling and how to integrate it into Unit4 Financials, speak to us today.

Find out more

The Evolution of Unit4 Financials by Coda

What’s the difference between run-of-the-mill and best-in-class when it comes to accounting and financial management packages?

There’s no single magic ingredient that makes a good solution great. Of course, it’s essential to get the fundamentals right – e.g., solid core accounting capabilities and a ledger that’s always in balance, a user-friendly experience, and easy integration with the rest of your tech stack. And in an ideal world, your solution should deliver visibility and control across your company’s people, processes, and systems.

However, if you really want to understand what makes Unit4 Financials by Coda stand out as a great solution, it’s worth taking a brief look at how it has evolved. Architecturally and technologically, it has been completely transformed over 20-plus years. But none of this is about extraneous gizmos or change for change’s sake. Rather, it’s about ensuring that finance departments are equipped to handle their most pressing operational challenges; whether they be new regulations, doing business in new markets and volatile conditions – or responding to internal pressures to do more with less.

Here’s a closer look at how Unit4 Financials by Coda has evolved to meet customer needs – and at what the future holds…


20+ years ago

At this time, Unit4 was releasing software versions for Coda (as it was then known) and its other enterprise offerings approximately every three years, with maintenance releases approximately every six months.

Responsiveness to customer needs was always a key part of the company’s ethos. As such, Unit4 was heavily invested in responding to what were known as SARs (special ad-hoc requests): a huge but important undertaking for the company’s maintenance and engineering teams.

As was the norm for enterprise software at the time, installation of Coda was a manual and heavily time-consuming process: a vast difference compared to today.


15 years ago

How can we get new and potentially highly useful functionality into the hands of our customers faster? This was the perennial problem faced by enterprise software providers at the time, and Unit4 was one of the companies committed to optimising roll-out schedules.

The introduction of service packs facilitated quicker routes for delivery (far more efficient and less invasive than new version releases). Inroads were also made into a quicker and easier installation.


10 years ago

At about this time, Unit4 switched to EAR files (Enterprise Archive files) as a deployment methodology for the software. Starting with the web tier, and then the application tier, the use of EARs meant deployment could be achieved much more rapidly.

This led to a reappraisal of the company’s software architecture (Why have we got separate tiers for both our software and servers – and how can this be rationalised?”)

The result was a new, single-tier structure, with the deployment of the software being the same whether it’s on-premises or cloud. This was yet another leap forward in terms of easier software deployment and upgrade.


2020 and the arrival of Continuous Release

“With our new architecture in place – and the old database and schema restrictions a thing of the past – we’ve got the ability to roll out new and improved functions very rapidly. So why not formally commit to doing this – frequently and regularly?”

From early 2020, Unit4 now releases Financials by Coda updates every three months. And given the sheer volume of new challenges finance departments have had to face over the last three years or so, the timing of this could hardly have been more relevant.


The future: Cloud

Unit4 has long been committed to developing its Cloud offering – but that’s not to say that this development doesn’t benefit on-premise deployments as well.

By way of illustration, as far back as 2012 (release Version 13), Unit4 introduced support for internet printing protocol. This was an early step to moving away from the physical server.

Until this update, if you wanted to print from Financials, you had to hook your printer off the back of the server where the software was deployed. Now you can print to any printer in the world that has an IP address, just configure it up as a printer – it’s that easy.

In Version 14 (2017) Unit4 removed the desktop as well as desktop-based integration capabilities. At this time, the company also introduced multi-factor authentication with the Unit4 identity server. All the while improving feature function, delivering products, looking after the architecture, working towards the Continuous Release model, and building Cloud readiness.

At this time Unit4 also started assessing the existing integration capabilities. The problem was that many of these capabilities were not suitable for Cloud as they were based on tables on the desktop. Table link, for example, the batch input that ‘everybody’ uses, wouldn’t work in the Cloud. So Unit4 developed a Cloud integration for Table Link.

The company also introduced safer hashing algorithms. By evolving its thinking, Unit4 is delivering a product that is not just feature-rich but is also firmly focused on keeping users safe, current, and up-to-date with technology. This is an ongoing commitment for Unit4, with improved cost of ownership and REST APIs coming up, a step forward from the previous SOAP APIs.

Next Unit4 plans to look at Office 365 Web, because (as of publishing) you still must have a desktop add-in integration for Excel. The company is also looking at containerized deployment and so on.

What does that mean to us as a Financials user?

Upgrading Unit4 Financials is no longer a complex, time-consuming task.

Since launching Continuous Release at the beginning of Q1 2020, Unit4 has issued 14 quarterly releases, with 75 (and growing!) customers on Continuous Release.

The end result is a lower cost of ownership, stronger security, platform adherence, ease of installation, and regular feature updates. In short, everything you need to ease your transactional workload, stay on top of compliance, and handle the challenges ahead.

Find out more

Safeguarding the Energy Sector and Beyond

Cybersecurity
August 2023

Safeguarding the Energy Sector and Beyond


As we fight to keep greenhouse gas emissions under control and keep household bills at affordable levels, new technologies will help the energy, utility and infrastructure sectors become more efficient and move toward Net Zero.

However, at a time when the energy sector should be taking advantage of these new technologies, it faces ever-growing risks from cybercriminals. These attacks, the protection measures used to combat them, and the legislation designed to protect everyone can heavily impact the adoption of new technology.

A look at current threats and opportunities will help business leaders in all sectors see the need for a cybersecurity outlook when introducing new technology safely; this expertise can also help you get the most out of a project.


Supply Chain Risk: SolarWinds and MoveIT

Take all the hardware and software that runs your business (unless you build and develop everything in-house). You will buy some of these as goods and services from other companies, this is your technology supply chain and in doing so, potentially expose yourself to vulnerabilities out of your control.

So, an attack directed at your company only needs to find the weakest link in your supply chain. Supply chain attack is not a theory; it is an ever-growing problem, especially if the vulnerability lets an attacker get ransomware in and data out.

The two most significant examples in recent years have been via Solarwinds product Orion (An IT administration platform with 33,000 customers) attack managed to push access for the attackers into an update. Now we have MoveIT, a managed file transfer program that is effectively still a breaking story in its scope and ramifications; victims include some of the world’s largest public and private entities.


Balancing the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence

Solution design is a balancing act, and some choices can be made with good intentions, typically to solve a problem, but result in unintended consequences. Unfortunately, some of the best solutions (IoT and AI) carry some of the greatest dangers.

Choices when building or buying IoT solutions need to be carefully managed; some devices carry slimmed-down low-power versions of operating systems and support software or do not have current hardware protections, making them vulnerable to many types of attacks that might now be a thing of the past in normal IT.

With everyone talking about Artificial Intelligence, the question of how we can use AI to solve our problems is increasing. From a development perspective, the ability of AI to write working code quickly might be a temptation for a pressured Dev Team. However, it again can introduce issues, as the bases for the AI’s learning include depreciated and vulnerable code.


The right tools: IFS FSM and IFS Cloud

IFS FSM has been named Gartner Field Service Management Magic Quadrant Leader for seven years. It provides an end-to-end service management solution, allowing companies in the energy sector to reduce the complexity of their IT supply chain.

In addition, IFS’s Cloud offering is designed to cut technical complexity and use inbuilt automation AI and IoT input to improve efficiency and workflow while being protected by IFS’s ISO 27001 compliance.


The proper support: Millennium+

Millennium Consulting has ISO 27001 accreditation and takes Cybersecurity and Cyber resilience seriously for us, our partners, and our customers. We also aim to make processes as efficient as possible, meaning less complication for cyber criminals to pray on.

Our Millennium+ service offers you peace of mind, as you can use your time to book any of our experts for any part of your business. Be it a cyber resilience review, help with a stalled implementation or a process review, or one of many other services we can help.

Get in touch

Financials User Group: Purchase to Pay & Procurement

Financials User Group

This event is only open to the Unit4 Financials User Group members. To find out how to join the User Group, please click the button below.

Join User Group

Webinar: Purchase to Pay and Procurement Module

Presented by Millennium Consulting


Join the Financials User Group webinar on the Purchase to Pay and Procurement Module.

Wednesday 26th June 2024

This session will cover:

Purchase to Pay:

  • End to end process flow

Procurement module:

  • Product Groups
  • Item masters
  • Cataloguing
  • Requisitions
  • Purchase orders
  • Goods receipting
  • Invoice matching
  • LRN Housekeeping

This event is only open to the Unit4 Financials User Group members. To find out how to join the User Group and attend this event, please click the button below.

Join the User Group

Presented by

Phil Leaf

Principal Unit4 Functional Consultant at Millennium Consulting


Financials User Group: Technical Accounting

Financials User Group

This event is only open to the Unit4 Financials User Group members. To find out how to join the User Group, please click the button below.

Join User Group

Webinar: Technical Accounting

Presented by Millennium Consulting


Join the Financials User Group webinar on Technical Accounting.

Wednesday 24th July 2024

The agenda will be published soon.

This event is only open to the Unit4 Financials User Group members. To find out how to join the User Group and attend this event, please click the button below.

Join the User Group

Presented by

Phil Leaf

Principal Unit4 Functional Consultant at Millennium Consulting


Volunteering at Wildwood Trust

July 2023
Green Agenda

Volunteering at Wildwood Trust

On Friday 21st July 2023 the Millennium team spent the day volunteering at the Wildwood Trust site in Kent.

The Wildwood Trust is a registered charity with the mission to protect, conserve and rewild British wildlife. Wildwood is committed to improving conditions for wildlife throughout the UK and thrive through generous volunteers donating their time and talents!

Seven members of the Millennium team spent the day helping the park with maintenance ahead of their busiest season. The team reconditioned park benches and planters, as well as treated new fences on the 40-site.

“We had a great day team building for a good cause, giving back to the local community and supporting sustainable wildlife initiatives. A nice change from the office!” 

– Philip Keet, CEO, Millennium Consulting


Complex Billing Challenges Solved

July 2023

Unit4 Financials by Coda

Complex Billing Challenges Solved:

Introducing MBilling for Unit4 Financials by Coda

As a business evolves, the finance function must ensure that billing processes remain fit for purpose. A sub-optimal billing system can leave you with cash flow woes, revenue leakage, dissatisfied customers, and a mountain of extra work to handle.

Millennium’s powerful sales invoicing solution, MBilling can provide a future-proofed alternative to legacy processes. Designed for Unit4 Financials by Coda customers and underpinned by order-to-cash specialists, MBilling ensures billing processes are able to support business growth – rather than being a barrier to it.

Here’s a closer look at the challenges associated with complex billing and at how MBilling can address them.

Complex billing defined

According to McKinsey, 71% of consumers expect a personalised approach from the companies they do business with. Meanwhile, 80% of B2B buyers expect the same buying experience as B2C customers, with 65% of business buyers saying vendors are not demonstrating an adequate understanding of their needs.

With customers increasingly demanding a personalised service, many businesses are finding that a rigid approach to billing is no longer good enough. Tailor-made packages and usage-based pricing are often a much better fit for customer expectations than ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ bundles.

Between 2021 and 2022, the global subscription market grew from $72 billion to $120 billion. It’s part of a wider trend of businesses taking a long hard look at pricing and distribution before tweaking – and in many cases, overhauling – their model. The end result can often be a complex web of tiers, personalised price plans, subscription options, and add-ons.

All of this has a direct impact on accounts receivable. Whenever pricing policies are altered to make the customer experience more personalised, rarely do those changes make the model simpler! Invariably, the list of variables by which you engage financially with customers will be extended substantially.

The end result is that you find yourself operating in the realms of complex billing. This is where invoices are no longer dependent solely on volume or time. Rather, billing takes into account a wide range of parameters, which could include bespoke contractual agreements, customer type, size and location, preferred payment method, loyalty discounts, and special plans (to name just a few).

Complex billing challenges

When it comes to administration and management, complex billing can give rise to the following issues:

In a simpler world, drawing up an invoice meant checking the volume and matching it against a set price list.

Once you are in complex billing territory, there is a much wider range of variables to take into account. What category does this customer belong to? What does the contract say? What optional extras or discounts are relevant? What special terms have been agreed at different stages of the customer journey?

The answers to these questions may not all be in one location. Depending on your tech stack, key information could be scattered across various CRM and finance systems, contract repositories, pricing documents, spreadsheets – and even email threads lurking in account handlers’ inboxes.

Against this backdrop, the billing process involves the collection and consolidation of data from disparate areas of the business from multiple systems and in multiple formats. It’s a recipe for error – and for a drawn-out process.

Difficulties with complex billing are often compounded in the case of transactions with an international element. Along with all the data-gathering issues detailed above, you can also find yourself dealing with complications over region-specific pricing policies and currency conversions. This may be in addition to VAT, invoice formatting and other regulations that can vary per product, per customer, per company, and per country.

The business risks associated with sub-optimal billing processes are pretty obvious. If those processes are prone to error, this increases the likelihood of customer queries, lengthening the time-to-payment – with knock-on implications for cash flow, and possibly also revenue leakage.

Does this enterprise client’s 5% volume discount apply before or after the loyalty bonus? Should I treat this element as part of the package or as an optional extra? If billing is a manual process with lots of variables to consider, it can increase the chances of finance team members or branch offices adopting their own interpretation of the rules.

The emergence of an inconsistent billing process is a further risk that should not be overlooked. If your customer’s accounts payable team notices that bills vary from quarter to quarter – depending on whoever happened to be responsible for calculating it – then an erosion of trust is inevitable.

A company’s billing process tends not to be simple one day and then complex the next. More typically, it grows in complexity as go-to-market and pricing strategies evolve. Consequently, the workflows linked to billing – e.g., the systems you need to access to gain relevant information, pricing data to consult, and the signoffs to seek – can also evolve over time.

One problem here is the risk of a single point of failure, e.g., the existence of just one person in your team who understands the Excel formula used to apply a certain billing rule in the right way.

Another problem relates to the onboarding of new people. Longstanding team members will have absorbed your various process changes organically over time. For new recruits, however, it’s a case of getting them familiarised with what may be a complicated and counter-intuitive series of tasks. Training in this area can be a complex process in itself.

What is MBilling?

MBilling is Millennium Consulting’s powerful and flexible billing solution, designed to address exactly the kind of issues detailed above for companies with complex needs, or who need to generate high volumes of invoices.

The solution is underpinned by ICORP, a leader in order-to-cash technology, designed to be customised to precisely meet your billing requirements – however complex your operating model.

Seamless integration is a key feature of the solution. It is built to work with Unit4 Financials by Coda, both on-premise and in the cloud. It offers frictionless integration with whatever ERP system you use, external applications and databases – including Microsoft Excel and email solutions.

How does MBilling work?

With MBilling, you can finally replace those error-prone and resource-intensive workflows for the collection of the data from disparate sources necessary to generate invoices.

The ICORP algorithms under the bonnet of MBilling are data miners par excellence. The system will automatically identify and lift all relevant data – including, for instance, email attachments – and apply them to your system as structured data. The process is quick, accurate and error-proof.

Through its calculation engine, MBilling can calculate the pricing for your billing, taking into account all relevant variables (e.g., tax, product, customer characteristics, etc) according to rules defined by you. The process is fully automated but also allows you to set whatever validation steps you wish to apply. The system can also deal with automated intercompany bookings – with a useful function dedicated to royalty rights. (It is also possible to turn MBilling around, for instance, artists and producers could use the system to send a payment run.

Once the system has completed the complex billing calculation, the bill can be generated automatically.

If you want it to, MBilling can take all the invoices for one specific party and consolidate them in one large invoice. The frequency at which it generates invoices and all the rules behind it are completely configurable by you. It can do one-to-one invoicing if you want to. It can deal with multi-language invoicing – it will recognise the individual recipient and compile it accordingly. The solution can handle reverse billing and invoicing, repeat billing and invitation to invoice. All with validation and approval where desired.

You can also configure your solution to automatically forward invoices to relevant internal parties for approval.

You can configure rules for invoices to be printed, emailed internally or externally, or integrated according to whatever policies you have in place.

Relevant information will be posted automatically to Unit4 Financials, including intercompany processing where relevant. This full Unit4 Financials integration applies whether you are on the cloud, SaaS, VM, or on-premise.

The ICORP Intelligence Monitoring Tool is hardwired into the MBilling solution. This ensures full data alignment so that when a bill is issued, the transaction is fed through immediately to your master data, so you always have access to a real-time picture of business performance and financial health.

What next?


By implementing MBilling, Unit4 Financials users can always be confident that invoices are accurate and submitted in a timely manner – no matter how complex your operating model is. To find out more, download our factsheet or submit your details and one of our MBilling experts will be in touch.

Find out more

The benefits of FP&A Lite for Unit4 Financials

FP&A Lite

July 2023

The benefits of FP&A Lite for Unit4 Financials

Unit4’s add-on, FP&A Lite enables you to perform ad-hoc, self-service analysis on your profit & loss, balanced sheet, and cash flow statements on a central, secure, and connected environment. All are tightly integrated with your financial data source, Unit4 Financials by Coda, to boost trust and agility in analysis and decision-making.

Read on to discover the benefits of this easy-to-use, easy-to-deploy analytics solution for your finance function and for the wider business.

The go-to analysis tool for many organisations is Microsoft Excel. So, for instance, if you are a Unit4 Financials user and you want to interrogate your underlying financial data, the old way of doing things tends to involve using the Excel add-in to connect to the solution, pulling the data out, and then applying Excel’s filters, pivot tables, formulas, diagrammatic representations, and other tools.

Analysis through Excel is, however, a largely manual process; one that’s often both time-consuming and resource intensive. No matter how careful you are with validation, errors are pretty much inevitable. Even a minor mistake (e.g., the wrong input in the wrong cell or accidentally swiping over a range) can have major consequences for decision-making, resource allocation and, ultimately, your bottom line. Meaning you are unable to trust the data on which you base the financial health of your organisation.

Financial analysis is a collaborative process involving multiple team members. Excel, however, was devised primarily as a personal productivity tool; it was never designed to support multiple users working with the same data simultaneously. Multiple users working simultaneously on spreadsheets, increases the risk of versioning issues, questions over accountability, accidental cell changes and other errors, to name a few.

FP&A Lite delivers an effective and efficient alternative to this common business critical challenge. Instead of having to manually extract data into Excel, the solution provides a single, fully integrated platform for analysis. FP&A Lite reports directly on both actual and budget data from your Unit4 Financials system and seamless drill-through to underlying transactions comes as standard. No longer do finance team members need to contend with Excel’s structures and calculations. Instead, you get a self-explanatory, easy-to-access framework for analysis and reporting where complex data is simplified into meaningful insight for better decision-making.

Gartner defines self-service analytics as a form of business intelligence (BI) in which users are “enabled and encouraged to perform queries and generate reports on their own, with nominal IT support”.

This approach to analysis is focused squarely on data democratisation, i.e., giving finance and line-of-business professionals the ability to drill into the data – even if they do not have a background in statistical analysis and devising formulae. Ultimately, it’s about giving users instant answers to queries and rapid insight into critical business trends to boost productivity and agility.

Legacy systems – particularly those reliant on spreadsheets – are often a barrier to self-service. The lifting and shifting of data is often a cumbersome, time-consuming, and error-prone process; not what you need if you’re looking for rapid answers on a tight timescale. What’s more, the ability to carry out effective analysis is limited to those members of the team who are confident in using Excel’s formulas and toolset.

FP&A Lite opens the door to self-service analysis. Self-explanatory dashboards give you an instant and varied view of what’s happening across your various profit & loss, balance sheet and cash flow statements. Alongside this, a choice of various dynamic, interactive visualisations supports native drill-through to the underlying transaction data to truly gain an understanding of outliers and data behaviour. All of this makes it much easier to make sense of the information behind your statements, to spot trends, generate reports and make better-informed decisions – all without the need for specialist IT intervention or logging in and out of multiple systems where data can often become stale.

One of the core benefits of Unit4 Financials is its “no compromise” approach to financial management. We’re talking about true, trusted, and integrated financial visibility.

The moment you start lifting and shifting your data into other applications for the purposes of analysis, you start to lose the benefit of this integrated approach. The concept of the ‘single source of truth’ can become eroded, and questions can arise e.g. Where did these figures come from? How up-to-date is this information? What’s more, if there are multiple participants involved in the analysis process, version control issues can make it difficult to determine whose version of the truth you are looking at.

One of the best things about FP&A Lite is that it extends Unit4’s “no compromise” approach to financial management into the sphere of financial analytics. By giving you a single, fully integrated platform for analysis and reporting, you can always be confident that you are dealing with trustworthy, error-free data, viewed through a single lens. You can finally trust the numbers – and apply them with confidence to your decision-making.

This type of question is all too common with spreadsheet-based analysis and reporting. The absence of accountability and audibility can be a real headache for anyone with responsibility for internal compliance. As we all know, it’s incredibly easy to alter a spreadsheet by mistake, and the absence of adequate tracking functionality makes it hard to spot when those changes have been made.

The beauty of being able to carry out analysis and reporting natively within Unit4 Financials is that you can bypass all of those Excel-related headaches. In their place, you get the full benefit of Unit 4’s governance frameworks controlling user data access rights (e.g., single sign-on and ‘need to know’ access restrictions).

Usefully, FP&A Lite also allows you to make a distinction between Storytellers who can create new public and private Dashboards and edit or delete existing Dashboards and Analytics Users who can view public Dashboards and create, edit, or delete private Dashboards.

In short, not only does FP&A Lite significantly enhance your analytics capabilities, it also gives you greater control over how those capabilities are deployed – and by whom.

The potential benefits of financial analysis are obvious in theory. After all, few CFOs would dismiss the opportunity to gain a better understanding of financial performance and greater insight into trends. In practice, however, the thought of having to overhaul your data architecture and make a significant new addition to your tech stack might be too painful to contemplate. This is especially the case in the current climate, where budgets are under strain.

There’s also the learning curve aspect to consider. The last thing you need is to make a significant investment in FP&A only to find that the new solution is too complex or counter-intuitive for ordinary business users to put to work day-to-day.

The ‘plug and play’ nature of FP&A Lite speaks directly to all these concerns. The solution is deliberately pared down to focus on what matters most to finance teams: i.e., being able to drill down and draw workable insights from your financial statements and the data that underpins them. Native integration with your existing Unit4 Financials system means you can be up and running with FP&A Lite in as little as five days.

So far as the user experience goes, the emphasis is on self-explanatory, easy-to-access reporting and analysis. It’s about building on your existing tech investments, without having to reinvent the wheel – and without a huge outlay in terms of cash and time.

Supporting your digital transformation journey

We know that ambitions are high within finance departments. According to PwC, 53% of CFOs say they plan to accelerate digital transformation this year by exploring initiatives such as data analytics, AI, automation and cloud solutions.

But how do you get to your end goal – which may ultimately include capabilities such as predictive models and scenario analysis capabilities – from a standing start? When change seems too big – or too expensive – to contemplate, stasis can easily set in.

It can be useful to approach digital transformation in bite-sized, consumable chunks; focusing on the areas that are going to have an immediate impact, to begin with, before looking at more ambitious projects at a later stage. This is a further area where FP&A Lite really comes into its own.

FP&A Lite is only the first step on your journey. As we’ve seen, the emphasis of FP&A Lite is on analysis and reporting linked to core financials. It’s an easily deployable solution that gets your people used to drilling into the data and generating answers on-demand in a user-friendly way. Post-implementation, the next logical step is to consider boosting your planning capabilities with Unit4’s more comprehensive FP&A solution. The solution, therefore, becomes a useful first step in building a data-driven culture and in building a bridge between legacy processes and next-gen planning and analytics capabilities. Upgrading to the full FP&A solution is easy and straightforward. Planning, budgeting, forecasting, scenario analysis, and more capabilities can simply be “switched on”.


Want to learn more about FP&A Lite?

Take a look at our earlier article: “what is FP&A Lite and how can it improve my Unit4 Financials system” by clicking the button below.

Read now