business intelligence

BI | Why you need a plan to implement business intelligence.


You want to get the most value out of any new business system implementation. Whether its new insights, automating management reports, a new operational dashboard or some predictive analytics to help make better decisions.

From our experience, a roadmap and some planning before you start development will help avoid the common issues that can cripple a business intelligence project. Resolving a disconnect with a major stakeholder halfway into a project is a challenging situation and it can be financially costly and bad for customer satisfaction.

At Advance, we’ve been working on implementing business systems for over 20 years and have seen it all. We’ve picked up the pieces of some very poorly implemented projects. Many of the challenges are common to all projects and some simple planning in the beginning will provide the best opportunity for a successful outcome.

  • Avoid the common traps and follow these steps. Spending some time on good planning early on will pay off in the long term.


1 - Get the main stakeholders in the same room.

Set up a short 1-hour meeting, outline the benefits and examples of successful BI projects. Get people excited about the project and what it will deliver. BI can free employees from manual, inefficient and low-value work. Managers can keep their team accountable and gain new insights on performance. Business owners can see key performance indicators instantly, even on their mobile devices. Mobile BI with instant messaging can provide an avenue for instant feedback so you can begin corrective actions.

  • Getting the key stakeholders onboard early is a major success factor to any project.


2 - Agree on the key problems you want to solve

There will be several problems you want to solve. Agree with the stakeholders on the 5 most important problems they want to resolve.

Write them down, define how the ideal solution looks, is it measurable, achievable, timely. It needs to be measurable!

Based on the discussion, prioritise. Depending on the feedback you might pursue a quick win, like automating a daily report or look at something bigger like a new dashboard linking a number of key business systems. BI will provide an opportunity to connect data from different sources like Excel, SAP, MYOB, Xero and Salesforce for example. This means you can get a holistic view of the business and connect data, something that was not possible with data silos.

3 - Agree on how success is measured with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) 

Think of KPIs as the mechanism to make effective, data-driven decisions. You are far more likely to improve what you can measure. This is what underpins a successful data driven business

Agreeing on the right KPIs will help in driving the efforts of the company towards a meaningful outcome. To rally the team, you need to measure the right things.

  • Don’t share too many KPIs, as a data analyst you will lose your audience and overwhelm the typical employee.

KPIs vary from each department. Agree on something achievable like 10 KPIs max.  Below is a list of common finance KPIs relevant to most businesses:

 •   Working capital

•    Operating cash flow

•    Return on equity

•    Quick ratio

•    Debt to equity ratio

•    Inventory turnover

•    Accounts receivable turnover

•    Gross profit margin 

4 - Data

Getting access to the data is one of the first steps to building a BI solution. Map out the various systems used and get the ball rolling early on whether you have direct access or what data APIs will provide. 

  • Access to the data can hold up any project. Dive in early to assess what you can get.  

We say do this early as some systems will provide different levels of access and data quality. More mature enterprise systems like SAP will more likely provide access to everything you need while other less mature vendors often need far more manipulation to get what you need. Perfect data is unlikely and getting access as soon as possible will help reduce delays caused by waiting on 3rd party vendors.  

A good data management framework will help to get the best possible data, the best data you can get will directly impact on insights. Test the answers and iron out any inconsistencies before rolling out the solution to a large audience.

  • Trust is hard to win back if the new system is not showing accurate information. Don't let this happen, if there is an issue, acknowledge it and resolve it.

5 - Action

Deploying a new system should drive new insights, new actions and opportunities. Use the new insights to make a positive step forward. Set up a system to action the data and new insights. First - Automate the delivery of reports, and have a clear strategy on what employees should do with this information. For sales teams, a weekly dashboard of KPIs will drive behaviours and actions. Make the most of this opportunity to get the team excited about new insights. Ensure the time to action KPIs is managed with clear deadlines.

Final Thoughts

  • Even if you achieve only a couple of the steps above, you will increase the likelihood of deploying a successful business intelligence solution.

We haven’t touched much on the software for BI and this really comes last. Each tool has its strengths and we tend to lean towards Power BI and Qlik just to be transparent. Most modern BI tools can get the desired outcome and some planning early in the cycle will make a big impact.

Like to know more? Contact us here or check out our blog on two leading BI solutions - Power BI and Qlik - Some interesting changes at Qlik and what to look for in a business intelligence solution.


BI | Drowning in Excel reports. Employee retention. Some unexpected benefits from deploying a business intelligence platform like Power BI and Qlik.

Power BI

Here is one recent example of how a business intelligence tool can deliver more than just new operational insights.

  • The client: Multiple systems, multiple sites, time and labour-intensive manual reporting

  • The result: Timely, automated reports, new insights with an instant feedback portal

  • Next Steps: Deployed to mobile with chat, user accountability and predictive analytics

Managing a business is very much about the people that you work with. The clients that rely on our services to run their business and the employees at Advance that are responsible for delivering these business systems. Clients and employees both need to have a good level of customer satisfaction or relationships can fall apart.

It was interesting to hear from my peers about situations where talented employees have left their jobs because of frustrations caused by data overload and using a process that is inefficient, manual, slow and often frustrating. There are times when work will be challenging and that is a part of life, but throwing more labour into a manual process to get the result is not a good long-term solution.

Companies that foster employee growth through technology innovation will improve staff retention. We try to adopt innovative tools early that are good value and this means our team is always learning new skills. The users of these solutions on the client side are eager to adopt a new system if it makes their work life easier and more productive.

Employee satisfaction and retention was an unexpected benefit from deploying a successful business intelligence platform.

Below is a BI solution we have been working on which is quite a common example where daily reporting is needed and there simply aren’t enough hours in a day to manually pull all of the data from the various branches and the 30+ systems. This type of reporting will cause frustration to any employee, especially if they are tasked with manually accessing each branch early every morning to build a complete view of the businesses performance.

The Challenge

  • Multiple sites, often in the double digits. 30 sites are not uncommon

  • Multiple disparate business systems across different locations, systems like Xero, MYOB, SAP, many others for HR functions and client facing systems

  • Be aware that although powerful, API’s are not built equally and something that performs well in a mature system like SAP may not provide the same data and consistency in something like MYOB. The ability to manipulate the data is a critical aspect of connecting multiple data sources

  • Time-consuming and labour-intensive manual reporting

  • The window for generating daily reporting not big enough to generate reports on time

  • Sites spread across multiple geographies and time zones

  • Manual, static Microsoft Excel reports to consolidate data into PowerPoint and then emailed each day




Using Traditional Reporting Encountered Some Of These Challenges

  • Hardly scalable and very prone to human error

  • Time-consuming, manual and inefficient

  • Not a lot of fun. Repetitive tasks

  • Staff turnover is high

  • Inefficient with no automation

  • Slow

  • Missed opportunities

  • No forward projection or predictive analytics

  • Linking performance to industry systems that benchmark against competitors in the same industry was not possible

  • Reporting can look inconsistent and not well branded when required for management reporting

A Better Solution

  • A business intelligence solution connecting all of the systems and data into a single verified view of the truth

  • Automated, consistent, branded and uniformly formatted reports and dashboards

  • Dynamic insights that can be queried, drilled down for further detail

  • Automatic red flag warnings for KPI’s that are underperforming or outliers

  • Opportunities for further growth in positive KPI’s

  • Data pulled directly from each system, automatically calculated, verified and disturbed in minutes

  • Manageable distribution via internal systems like Slack or email to a selected user or group based on title or credentials

  • Connected to external data sources such as local weather to provide further insights and predictable analytics

  • Easily managed by employees without any special training

  • Portal for reporting commentary enabling stakeholder feedbacks

  • Secure and only the right people have access

KPI Pulse

The Results

  • Finance now quickly generate required reporting each day for 9:00AM reviews

  • Holistic reports for entire business across all 30 locations

  • New insights for things like revenue vs payroll

  • Automated reports are distributed each day to key stakeholders

  • Increased efficiency, productivity and employee satisfaction

  • Finance can focus on actions versus generating reports

  • Minimal manual reporting – there is always some needed and the human touch.

  • Consistent presentation with clear branding

  • Instant feedback on the numbers via comments on a secure portal

Final Thoughts

A well thought out BI implementation will connect all these business systems and inputs to build accurate business reports and dashboards. Smarter insights and visualisations with automated reporting will reduce risk and provide the feedback needed to manage a business effectively with a holistic view.

Enabling your team with valuable tools will teach them new skills and a reduction in manual inefficient processes will lead to better job satisfaction.

Tools like Qlik and Power BI are powerful, they will pull together all the systems so you can start building meaningful insights. Qlik is remarkably good at this. By linking to virtually any data source will let you manipulate data to build reports without the need for a data warehouse. The benefit is that it is more cost effective, quick to get answers, often within days not weeks. We have connected to a clients systems in a demonstration right there on the spot and built a report from a live system which is very compelling. Speed to new insights and value is a key benefit when using a tool like Qlik.

A Common Question

How do you get started? The first step to any project is getting access to the data.

If you would like to know more or have any questions about BI, get in touch with us here. We are passionate business intelligence experts.

Power BI


PHONE: +618 8238 6521

MOBILE: +61 408 800 753


BI | 7 Valuable Tips for Power BI

BI | 7 Valuable Tips for Power BI

Power BI is Microsoft’s interactive data visualisation and analytics tool for business intelligence (BI). Power BI is used to pull data from a wide range of systems within the cloud to create dashboards that track the metrics you care about the most, or drill in and (literally) ask questions about your data. Power BI allows you to create rich reports or embed dashboards and reports into reporting portals you already use.