For the modern company that “runs on data”, there’s a pressing need to analyze and pull discoveries from the information. A core tool for data analysts is business intelligence (BI), a solution that has evolved over time to become user-friendly and powerful. Once the playground of IT, BI solutions are now accessible to users with minimal technical skills who can generate reports and identify issues in new and surprising ways. Getting the most from a BI implementation requires a data-centric culture as well as a quality BI platform. A prominent solution that offers power and cost effectiveness is Power BI from Microsoft.
Why should firms look at Power BI and hiring a firm for crafting a business analytics strategy? Power BI provides a host of benefits, including a familiar Microsoft interface and the ability to integrate with not only Microsoft technology, but dozens of other software solutions including Google Analytics, Hadoop, SAP and Salesforce. It’s a well-regarded platform, appearing at the top of Gartner’s “Magic Quadrant” in a 2017 report, and is consistently one of the best-reviewed platforms in terms of capabilities and ease of use. The report notes a Power BI license is typically one-third the cost of other tools, and up to 80% less than other BI cloud services.
Power BI Costs and Calculating ROI
Fast and simple implementation that does not require significant build costs makes Power BI a surprisingly cost-effective solution. Companies can begin seeing positive ROI quickly with Power BI, especially when used in settings that previously relied on outdated BI platforms or where no BI analytics were used at all.
Power BI not only provides data analytics about customers and the quality of their experience, it also offers useful internal-facing metrics. For example, Power BI can illustrate how much time staff is using their own Microsoft documents against the time they utilize docs created by other internal workers. Taken in the aggregate, such data can point out which types of documents encourage or discourage collaboration, and overall trend information on how well the team is working together to solve problems. Power BI can also offer visibility into which versions of Office 365 are running on the systems and the types of devices that workers are using to access various systems. Such information relates directly to the cyber threats, as a significant portion of users might be on unapproved devices or using older versions of software without the latest security patches. Additional ROI calculations should review the following:
- A calculation of the business value derived from the BI platform in terms of revenue, profitability, customer satisfaction metrics, and operational efficiency
- Metrics on the productivity gains by those using BI and those who benefit from the changes implemented due to BI insights
- The benefits should be weighed against total cost of ownership (IT time, training costs, cost of the actual platform) metrics to provide a sound ROI number
ROI should be developed with the understanding that there are various “soft” costs to Power BI, including greater collaboration, increased access to information, and possible improvements in job satisfaction.
Exciting Use Cases
In the utility sector, providers are using BI analytics to generate new data sets that give them insights into the health of the electrical grid and the usage habits of consumers. The implementation of smart meters is driving the amount of available data and the need for the usage of platforms such as Power BI. TechBlocks has experience working with multiple utilities to develop BI and other interconnected solutions that help them improve internal process and the customer experiences. Utilities are extracting multiple benefits from BI analytics, including:
- Reduce downtime from outages and other problems by proactively identifying issues through the monitoring of assets in real time
- Improving the service delivery for customers through tracking of customer behaviors and common pain points
- Conduct predictive analytics through artificial intelligence-powered platforms and produce demand forecasting for streamlined operations and reduced costs
- Promote energy conservation by better understanding exactly how and when consumers use electricity, and offering information to adjust or promote certain customer behaviors
- Inform decisions about rates and construction of power generating infrastructure based on predictive analytics of demand
Logistics firms are using leveraging Power BI to streamline their processes in response to the demands of the modern business. On the consumer side, the expectation of fast (and often free) shipping is pushing every participants in the supply chain to review how people and processes function. Predictive analytics allow logistics companies to immediately spot problems within the supply chain so they can be fixed before a major disruption occurs. Analysts can look at trend data to find the reasons for past delays, to perhaps uncover if the issues were for example due to late materials delivery, distribution center issues, or poor warehousing practices. Microsoft provides examples of Power BI at work, including this example of screenshots that details a procurement analysis and how a company can discover it is offering unnecessary discounts.
Utilization of Power BI is an important part of a company’s data strategy. BI platforms encourage teams and management to make recommendations and decisions based primarily on facts derived from analysis. This allows them to introduce change to the smallest of processes and broad strategies, both of which will positively impact ROI.
Looking to learn more about developing an advanced BI strategy? TechBlocks delivers consulting services for companies in the utilities, logistics, and manufacturing sectors that allow clients to uncover new insights. We’re a Microsoft Gold Partner and experienced with Power BI integration and usage. Visit www.tblocks.com to discover how we can help.