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Is your business information reporting hurting your business?

A very low-cost Business Intelligence tool from Microsoft is automating business reporting

Your organisation’s CFO is paid to think strategically and help you manage and grow your business. Correct?

However, in reality, most CFOs spend far too much time on nuts and bolts accounting work, which diverts them from their strategic role for which they are paid.

I know several CFOs who monthly can spend up to a week producing reports…

One reason is business performance reporting. In spite of massive technological improvements in budgeting, forecasting and compliance, performance reporting is still a labour-intensive process. This saddles the senior finance team with unnecessary workloads.

I know several CFOs who monthly can spend up to a week producing reports for all stakeholders from factory floor workers to their managers to funders and government departments.

Microsoft Excel

The major tool for such reporting is the omnipresent Excel spreadsheet, the accountant’s Swiss Army knife. Whether it is an analysis of your labour efficiency, or your last quarter’s P&L, or an examination of your sales pipeline, someone in the office will have an Excel spreadsheet to show you the picture.

However, is Excel the best tool for this role?

While Excel is an excellent tool, the optimal tool for reporting such business intelligence is proper Business Intelligence software. However, very few businesses in the Waikato/BOP use such BI tools.

The major reason is lack of information and knowledge.

While most business people have heard of business intelligence tools, few know exactly what they are and specifically what they do. Those who have investigated them in the past would have found them hard to justify cost wise except for large enterprises.

When the early BI tools (such as those from IBM or Siebel) first made their appearance, they were priced in the tens of thousands to even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And many of those who did take the plunge would have found the older BI tools to be intimidating. They require a lot of technical knowledge and effort to set up.

Waiting until the end of the month, or worse still, the end of the financial year, before taking action is to shut the gate after the horse has bolted.

Microsoft Power BI

I believe the time has arrived for most businesses to assess proper BI tools like MS Power BI (click HERE). This is for the following reasons:

  • They have dropped in price dramatically. For example, a full MS Power BI licence costs only $180 plus GST per annum.
  • They are much easier to use.
  • They are much cheaper to implement. Instead of weeks or even months of implementation, a program such as MS Power BI can be up and running in a few days.

However, MS Excel costs almost nothing for most businesses (it comes with MS Office, which most firms already own), is easy to use, and takes even less time to set up. So why use a BI tool like MS Power BI?

The biggest advantage of Microsoft Power BI over Microsoft Excel is that the former can tap into the backend database to automatically produce reports and dashboards. This effectively eliminates the hours of work that often need to go into exporting data from databases into Excel and then manipulating the Excel spreadsheets each time they are published.

 

Another advantage is that the BI results can be displayed in real time.

 

With MS Power BI, the data comes straight from the source database and assures that there is only one version of the truth.

The dashboards can be integrated with several different databases. For example, you may pull your P&L down from your accounting package, your labour usage from your payroll program, a set of budgets from an Excel spreadsheet and also pipeline data from your CRM database onto a single dashboard.

With MS Power BI, the only intervention needed is selecting what you want to see. For example, in the dashboard below you can set up as many selection parameters as you like. You then choose them by either clicking on the checkbox or on the graphs themselves. It is that easy to use.

Finally, the MS Power BI dashboards can be programmed to allow you to drill down all the way to the transactional data underneath to see the cause(s).

HTG Labour Dashboard

I use MS Power BI to give me daily high-level views of the most important KPIs in a business like mine, which earns its keep through selling labour. Each morning when I come to work, I look at the main dashboard that tells me how my two departments performed the day before in terms of chargeable hours

If the needle rests on the green zone, I know that all is well and I should perhaps treat the team to morning tea. If it sits in the yellow sector, I need to keep a watchful eye. If, on the other hand, it lies in the red zone then I need to meet with the department manager to investigate why.

Waiting until the end of the month, or worse still, the end of the financial year, before taking action is to shut the gate after the horse has bolted.

In the past, doing so with a tool like Excel would have been very difficult. With products like MS Power BI, this is now a very affordable reality.

MS Power BI Consultancy

HTG offers a consultancy service to help clients implement MS Power BI. We can integrate the software to almost any data source. We have successfully integrated it into most of the large-selling ERP packages like Xero, Greentree, etc. We have also helped clients convert from other BI packages like QlikView to save significant money in licence fees.

If the needle rests on the green zone, I know that all is well and I should perhaps treat the team to morning tea.

Contact us to discuss how a low-cost MS Power BI pilot project can help the people at your organisation responsible for performance reporting to win back the many hours per month spent on what should essentially be an automated process. And, more importantly, gain greater insights into your business in real time to help improve its bottom line and sustainability.

To watch a short video on how MS Power BI works, click HERE. Or download a brochure HERE.

http://houstoncrm.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/HTG-MAKE-IT-WORK-2017-09-02-business-intelligence.pdf

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