July 2020

Every Picture tells a story …. or does it?

I recently had a meeting with the founder of a very successful financial services organisation and we talked about my pet topic, planning and reporting.

He told me a quick story about some of his eager employee’s who had created some ‘very impressive’ dashboards and graphs to present to him. He said they looked great but when he started asking questions about the numbers and what they where telling him there was a very awkward silence.

This is the problem a lot of organisations fall into, as Rod Stewart once sang “Every Picture tells a story don’t it” … but in the world of business analytics this is not always the case.

Popular software tools for creating dashboards like Power BI are very easily accessible these days, and they are also pretty fun to use, but therein lies the problem.

There is no plan or end goal … when you deliver dashboards and graphs to smart people, like senior management, Board members etc. they are going to ask questions about them and will generally want to know where they came from, what they mean, are the valid, are they current, what do we need to do to fix them etc. etc. etc.

Our business at bi5 is building Planning (Budgeting and Forecasting) and Reporting systems for our clients and we have been doing it for over 10 years.

So how do you get started?  Here is a very brief overview based on our experience.

At bi5 our projects generally start with a Proof of concept, whereby we can connect to the key data sources and prove acceptable connectivity. Many organisations extract data into Excel and load from there, however where possible loading directly from the source is the most effective method.

Based on this proof of concept methodology our clients can then see their own data as opposed to a canned demonstration from a software vendor. We find that this approach is very effective as it creates an environment, albeit basic at this stage, for ideas and discussion on what can be achieved.

This try before you buy methodology has worked very well for our clients.

Planning and reporting needs are always changing so you will need to create an environment to facilitate changes easily and quickly like adding and integrating new data sources (internal and external).

It’s quite ironic that many organisations have a ‘system’ for Accounting/Finance, HR, Supply Chain and many other functions but when it comes to planning and reporting, arguably the most important function, there is no system just a bunch of ad-hoc spreadsheets and may some dashboards.

The current situation we find ourselves in has made timely, effective, and efficient planning and reporting essential.

Now is the time to change.

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