I’m a big fan of cobbler. There’s just something about the gooey, warm fruit, contrasted with cool, melting ice cream, and the finish of a crispy texture. With peach season at its peak right now, ending the day with my favorite summertime treat cancels out any struggles of the workday. Or, does it? When it comes to reporting, most of our customers might disagree. In fact, 1/3 of Zerion’s customers say that reporting is their biggest hurdle in Eclipse. Numero Uno! And, we can understand why. Eclipse is absolutely awesome at collecting data, but it’s pretty darn lousy at getting it out.
The Gaps in Eclipse Reporting
The standard reports that exist in Eclipse, as well as interactive reports (or queues), are Eclipse’s bread and butter when it comes to reporting. They are meant to cover the fundamentals. However, there are holes in the output you can generate … lots of holes.
This is somewhat expected with any kind of canned reporting; and, it’s not so bad because you can fill the gaps with custom reports (via Report Writer) that perfectly suit your company’s needs, taking reporting to the next level. Sweet! But, wait … there’s a catch: most users do not consider Report Writer to be a user-friendly tool. It’s not something you can give to a basic user if you’re expecting decent results.
Users who have the privilege of running on Solar are privy to something called “Eclipse Reports.” This is Report Writer in fancier clothes. It has a much friendlier interface so that an end user can actually extract what he or she is looking for. But, wait … there’s another catch: it’s easier; but, it’s only easier because it’s focused on creating basic reports. You shouldn’t expect complex results from Eclipse Reports.
So, if standard reports aren’t enough, and custom reports are too convoluted, where’s a troubled Eclipse user to turn? Our suggestion: Cobbler! If it can spin a difficult day into a perfect summer evening, it can turn bad reporting to good.
At first it may be a tough peach to swallow; but, you’ll need to combine the use of standard reports, Report Writer AND a third-party business intelligence (BI) tool if you want to operate at your finest. Standing alone, none of these three tools provides an end-to-end reporting solution. But, strategically cobbling them together will help you optimize the data that’s anxiously awaiting your extraction.
3 Steps to Put it Into Practice
Here’s a generic strategy to get you going:
1. Cover the must-do’s. You need to start with the fundamentals. You should be utilizing at least these eight standard reports on a daily basis:
- Customer calling queue. This is every salesperson’s dream. It allows management of tickets before they go out for delivery, and provides motivation for customer follow-up.
- Trouble queue. This lists tickets that are intended to ship before you have the material.
- Review PO backorders queue. Verifies POs that were backordered at the receiving dock to find out when they will actually arrive.
- Freight audit report. Assigns freight to sales orders from procurement POs with freight on them.
- A/R Collection queue. Designed to help A/R people systematically collect monies due.
- Unavailable queue. Tickets that were attempted to print but couldn’t because some items weren’t available.
- GMROI report. Helps to analyze what your turns are for your company.
- Transfer register for disputed. Helps you resolve discrepancies between what was shipped and what was received from branch to branch.
2. Get help creating custom reports. Face the reality that you need custom reports, but don’t waste your time getting them. Reporting is an investment; but, it will quickly produce an ROI with time saved (and possibly knowledge gained). In fact, custom reporting is one of the most common reasons that clients utilize our services. Whether you hire us, Eclipse, or someone else, recognize that it may take you 40 hours to develop the same report that a seasoned consultant can create in three. Someone who knows his or her way around Report Writer can get at data that most users can’t, often producing a better, more functional report in less time. Even if it can’t be done in Report Writer, custom programming can usually deliver what you need.
For example, Zerion recently cut the time Bakersfield Pipe & Supply was spending on a report by 96%. The Purchasing manager said, “I had to let you know the time that you saved me with this. Because merging three reports was so tedious, it usually took me a day and half, maybe 12 hours from start to finish. From the time I ran the [new] report, tweaked it, and sent it completed was 30 minutes! I am doing my happy dance! Thank you and thank you again!”
Also, another customer was spending 3 – 4 hours creating a rebate report for a vendor once a month. We developed a custom report by adding columns and formatting to the exact specifications of the vendor. This reduced their time to just 30 minutes each month.
3. Sharpen your intellect with 3rd party software. Even with the best use of Eclipse’s canned reports, and well-done custom reports, there are no intuitive capabilities to speak of. In other words, you don’t know what you don’t know. These are reactionary tools that don’t necessarily solve problems. Even with Report Writer, you must first know what questions to ask it.
This gap can only be filled with third-party BI software. Expanding your reporting capabilities will enable you to identify opportunities, such as with sales, inventory and financials. You’ll more clearly understand your performance so that you can gain efficiencies and make smarter decisions.
There are several options in the Eclipse space for you to consider, but we happen to be partnered with phocas. We choose to work closely with them because we believe their solution best fills the void for Eclipse users. Just a few of the things we like about them are: a fixed implementation fee; a user interface designed for the end user, not an IT person (which eliminates the IT bottleneck); and, a subscription model with a quarterly opt-out, meaning phocas stays engaged. Also, for the second year in a row, phocas has been named BI Vendor of the Year at the Software Satisfaction Awards.
To date, there are over 50 Eclipse customers on phocas; and, we’ve personally been involved with 40 installations. We weren’t initially involved with Eclipse user Universal Supply Group when they implemented phocas (athough we’re getting involved as of late), but their testimonial speaks volumes. The CFO remarked that, in the first few months, the company gained an additional $20,000 in rebates. He said that with Eclipse it would’ve taken “days to write reports, combine the data, load it into Excel and so on. Added to which, quite often errors would creep in and we’d have to do this again every month.”
The Cobbled Conclusion
The conclusion we assume you’re coming to is that, unfortunately, there’s no easy answer for reporting with Eclipse. There’s no cut and dried solution and no out-of-the-box perfection. But, there is good news: there’s amazing data of all kinds multiplying every minute on your server; and, it can be retrieved, compiled and analyzed to greatly enhance your company’s performance … it just takes a little bit of cobbling.