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Best Features of Great Plains Accounting Software

Posted by Alanna Friedberg on Jan 4, 2018 9:14:00 AM

businessmeeting10615.jpgTax season is right around the corner. With big changes in the American tax code looming, it’s going to be even more important to make sure receivables are in order. Fortunately, there is great accounting software on the market that can flex with whatever changes are coming while giving you an accurate vehicle to skillfully report and analyze corporate finances.

By “great” we mean Great Plains, Microsoft’s answer to the conundrum of business accounting. This article looks at the best features of Great Plains accounting software to help you understand how it can improve business.

Great Plains Accounting Software – A/R and More

Microsoft’s Great Plains (GP) accounting software is an expansive financial platform that also includes enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools. This is a commercial tool that helps businesses manage all crucial functions in one place, from e-commerce to accounting, supply chain to customer service. The specific functions that fall under GP include:

  • Financial accounting tools for cash flow and the control of assets. Great Plains includes the ability to automate receivables and payables and generally streamline how finances are handled.
  • A business intelligence (BI) module that handles budgets and business metrics. The software has more than 225 Microsoft Excel templates that are out-of-the-box ready, but also customizable. Predictive modeling allows users to take the data and turn it into actionable insight.
  • Supply chain management functions help improve sales order processing and back-end inventory and purchasing.
  • The manufacturing functions provide project management for materials and production. The tool helps businesses better manage work order changes and increase QA.
  • Human resources are simply less complicated when the software handles the work. Great Plains also handles payroll, hiring, benefits, compliance, and more. If your organization is spending big bucks outsourcing any of these features, GP will pay for itself.
  • The project management tools will help you control profitability by project or service line. Tracking time and labor costs and then running a BI report to analyze against pricing will help the sales team focus on areas such as increasing price or selling more of a particularly high-value service.
  • Dashboard management of IT functions will empower departments to do-it-yourself instead of relying on a backed-up technology team that has plenty of other things to worry about. IT can use the tool to manage mobile devices and remote access, along with security restrictions for transactions, forms, and much more.

The goal of GP is to give organizations 360-oversight over every function that matters in a business setting. This will positively affect cash flow in the short and long-term. Some of the benefits of using this software include:

  • Insight into how your business is being run. Great Plains accounting software helps organizations improve their financial transparency. You’ll see who is doing what and understand where the money is going. For financial audit trails, Microsoft has hit the gold standard with this software product.
  • Decision-making will improve, both through your ability to make better decisions due to more accurate up-to-the-minute data, but also because these decisions will be made quicker. Great Plains enables critical business decisions.
  • Business intelligence that informs inter-departmental decision making by empowering managers with self-service tools. The BI features reduce the dependence on IT, freeing up their time to focus on bigger initiatives.

The whole point of GP is to provide organizations with insight while taking a patchwork of slapped together systems and turning it into one integrated whole. The biggest benefit in one you may not even recognize until you rollout GP; it will reduce redundancies in basic functions like data entry. That’s because GP uses a shared database structure that extrapolates information across every department.

Feature Rich Microsoft GP

Some of the best features we’ve found in GP have to do with being able to grab an on-the-go visual snapshot of every functioning department in an organization. Access the Power BI reports dashboard from the homepage to get a clear view of all of the pieces of your business. From here you can run budget exception reports that show accounts that haven’t made it into the general ledger. Or, manage lists and run reports. What’s even better is that the dashboard functionality of GP is customizable with a drag and drop interface. With a SQL database backbone, this opens up a whole new world of reporting for an organization.

Speaking of reporting, we think the reporting mechanisms are actually one of the best features in Great Plains accounting software. That’s because of the volume of canned reports available that make it easy to get up and running quickly, but also the ability to create unique reports and couple them with predictive modeling tools. Remember that GP is more than accounting software – users can take control of BI reporting for forecasting. Imagine the possibilities if your organization could start to work proactively and not reactively.

The latest version of Microsoft Great Plains also has some additional features that we would be remiss not to mention:

  • Microsoft took the concept of business productivity to a new level with the workflow functions housed in GP. Workflows have automated features allowing for built-in decision trees and notification. You can set up batch approval for general ledger, receivables, or payables, vendor approval workflows, and even for HR functions like employee training and skills management.
  • There’s an integrated communication tool that helps people collaborate. Instant message clients and share email or other documents straight from the desktop.
  • Invoice consolidation lets you pull together multiple bills into one integrated communication.
  • Even small details are important; if you issue a customer credit and void a payment, GP automatically pulls that billing from the customer invoice. Credit card vendor invoices also automatically void when a credit card payment is voided.
  • You’ll be able to run a status report of assets being impacted by closing the year-end. The report will show net book value, accumulated depreciation, and more.
  • Document attach feature allows transactional context by adding relevant files to bills or business correspondence.

We could go on – but we should also mention that GP already integrates well with the Microsoft products you’re already using, like Office 365 tools, Dynamics CRM, and of course, Azure cloud services. Microsoft has created an interconnected series of office productivity tools designed to improve oversight, transparency, and business communications. Together, these tools enable businesses to do more in an increasingly efficient manner. In today’s competitive business world, this is an imperative for gaining and achieving market share no matter what type of service or product you provide.

Implementing Great Plains Accounting Software

Implementation of any tool as complicated and feature-rich as GP requires a planning and rollout process to ensure that the software is optimized. We suggest a process that includes:

  • Designing a roadmap that defines business processes, workflows, and security.
  • Training and testing staff on best practices for maximizing the software.
  • Elbow-to-elbow support during go-live, as well as after-hours support desk service.
  • On-going support and training. 

Great Plains in the Cloud

Microsoft now offers GP as a fully hosted service in the cloud. This makes for a less-costly alternative to on-premise hardware and software installations. It’s a secure, compliant, and stable platform that offers cloud scalability, and real-time accounting features. It’s the on-the-go option for today’s flexible work arrangements.

Third-party integrations are not a problem for GP, which makes this cloud-hosted application a great option for industries like manufacturing or distribution, which typically have in-house customized solutions to handle their unique business.

Increasingly, mid-market and enterprise organizations are joining small businesses in the cloud. That’s because software-as-a-service, and platform-as-a-service cloud computing models have proven to be a stable alternative to on-premise legacy applications. Cloud-driven software provides multiple benefits for any company:

  • Easy and cost-effective licensing.
  • The ability to scale up or down as needed without hardware costs.
  • Best-in-class security controls and real-time updates.
  • The predictability of monthly pricing.
  • Reliable and consistent cloud backups and recovery options.

While GP is available for on-premise applications, we would encourage your organization to consider cloud computing as a viable option in 2018. IES is standing by to discuss whether the public, private or a hybrid cloud model could work best for your organization. Contact us today to take a test drive of Microsoft Great Plains accounting software and get ready to improve your business.


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Topics: Microsoft Dynamics GP