I recently spent some time chatting with Jo deRuiter, Senior Dynamics GP Consultant at Heartland Business Systems, discussing her experiences with reporting in GP and the tools she prefers to use. Ms. deRuiter has 10+ years working with Microsoft Dynamics GP, is a CPA by trade, and has built hundreds of reports for her customers.
In my experience, Jo is the type of consultant that everyone wants work on their project – extremely knowledgeable about GP and other ISV products, practical in her approach and has a personality that makes her fun to be around. When I normally have interviews like this, the conversation can be a bit dry; not with Jo. We laughed through the whole interview – sharing stories of the good & bad of all things GP. For the sake of the article, we’ll focus in a bit on our discussion around eOne’s SmartList Builder and SmartView tools.
A: Jo, thanks for taking time to chat! I knew we needed to chat as soon as I saw one of your LinkedIn posts.
J: Uh oh – hope it was a good one!
A: Absolutely, you shared about your love of one of our products – which of course always gets my attention.
First Tool to Recommend
A: I’ll get to that in just a bit, but before I do – I know you’ve been working in the channel for quite a while and focus on implementing the best Microsoft Dynamics GP solution end-to-end for your customers as possible. What are some of the common threads you see within your customer base? What do you find yourself recommending over and over?
J: Well the first thing I tell them is that GP is a great choice for their ERP system. It’s honestly pretty confusing for customers right now trying to choose between cloud solutions and on-prem solutions, try to project where they’ll be in 5 years and what they’ll need then, and all-the-while consider their budget. So, arriving at GP is a great spot. By the time they get to me, one of the things I tell them to do is embrace the fact that add on solutions from ISVs are a huge part of making GP work just the way they want, for their unique business needs. So, out of a handful of tools, one of the first I tell people they need is SmartList Builder for reporting.
A: It’s true. ISVs are critical to the GP world. It’s just the way the channel was designed. I certainly love hearing you’re a fan of SmartList Builder. Why is it one of the first tools you recommend?
J: It just makes the most sense. Every single company that owns GP needs a reporting solution that’s tailored to their business. Sure – there are basic reports they can get when they purchase GP, but I’ve yet to come across a customer that doesn’t need more. SmartList Builder allows people to build multi-company lists, bring in the notes they need, add calculated fields and more. It has, hands-down, all the functionality a customer needs to create the very best reports for GP. There’s no need to mess around with anything else.
Thoughts on SmartList Designer
A: We’ve seen other free reporting tools pop up in recent years. What are your thoughts on those?
J: You mean SmartList Designer? Honestly, I hate it. Designer started out as a good idea, but it is not user friendly. It can’t do anything complex. It’s a struggle just to make Designer work. If I have a customer who wants the free version – what they are really saying is they just want to pay me to write custom reports in SQL and deploy it for them as a View in the Builder because that’s what happens. The “free” tool usually ends up costing a bunch more for the customer. Consultants writing reports are not cheap.
A: Unfortunately, I’ve seen customers try to create a custom report on their own, spend a ton of time doing so and then realizing they need a better solution and come to us for SmartList Builder. I always wish I could introduce them to SmartList Builder before they waste their time!
J: Right?! I’ve yet to work with a customer who cut out key solutions they needed – who didn’t end up regretting it later.
Unique Projects with SmartList Builder
A: So you’re obviously a big advocate of SmartList Builder. Tell me some of the cool things you’ve done with it.
J: Oh gosh, where do I start?! I’ve created a report to get the company dynamic reporting on what was hitting the GL from project accounting and they could get that information without doing any research – they just had to pull up the SmartList I created.
Another cool story is reporting we created for Metro Cafes. They have 40 databases and because they have various suppliers for the restaurant (and they don’t want to use MEM) they need reporting between all the databases. They really need to know how much they bought from suppliers. I’ve created a lot of reports through SmartList Builder to look across all their databases. It has saved them a TON of time. Let’s say they want to see when the last invoice to a specific Vendor across the databases was created – with SmartList Builder it’s the click of a button to find out.
We also did payroll out of GP for them and created a 401k report that they can get for all their companies and put it all together to get a comprehensive, company-wide view into all their employees.
A: Sounds nice & customized to me.
J: Honestly, it’s the only way to approach customers. They all have some commonalities and yet they really are all very different. Why would any customer want to limit themselves to a canned report that doesn’t factor in any of their true business needs?
GP End User Experience
A: I know you mentioned that prior to working as a GP consultant, you used GP as an end user. Tell me a little bit about how that experience prepared you for what you do now?
J: It was a great experience and catapulted me into the world of GP – which has been really fun to be part of. Back then though, I wish I had had tools like SmartList Builder. And SmartView could have saved me so, so much time – it’s kind of ridiculous. It’s crazy to think of the hours and hours I spent reconciling things that I can now find in SmartView in a second. I could have a lot of my time back had I been using those!
A: So, is it safe to say you’re a big SmartView fan, too?
J: Oh my gosh, yes. I love how SmartView lets you group totals without having to move it to Excel; how you can filter and group by account number and boom – there’s the report you needed. You can drag your columns in and out, no problem. And it works great for looking for duplicate data. Honestly, my customers just get it. As a consultant I don’t have to worry about leaving a site after implementing it and getting 20 voicemails with frantic support questions on my flight home.
A: It sounds like SmartList Builder and SmartView are some of your favorite GP solutions?
J: I hate to pick favorites and I am talking to someone from eOne – but yes. There’s a lot of great add-on solutions out there but I would say SmartList Builder and SmartView are the most practical and provide the best ROI over time.
Want to know more about SmartList Builder and SmartView? Reach out to the eOne team at +1.888.319.3663 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More about Jo DeRuiter
Jo is an accomplished, action-oriented Microsoft Certified/Advanced Certified GP Professional who currently serves as the Chairman of the GPUG Partner Advisory Board, sits on both the Dynamics Pro Credentialing Council and Exam Committee and is a die-hard volunteer for all things GP. She has over 30 years of experience in the fields of accounting, finance and business intelligence software with 21 years of that exclusively Dynamics GP (Great Plains). Prior to joining the partner community Jo was a Senior Accountant and Controller who utilized GP extensively. Now a senior consultant with Heartland Business Systems. Jo has also worked with a number of other Microsoft Gold Partners. She has focused on implementing and supporting Dynamics GP and many of its various 3rd party tie-ins. With a great understanding of SQL (especially the GP tables), networking and functional GP, Jo loves to share her knowledge.