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Our Transition to Microsoft PowerBI for Internal Reporting

Are you investing a significant amount of time into report creation and not feeling an equivalent return on investment due to the time and effort required?

Faced with this dilemma, we tasked members of our team with finding an alternative solution to manual report creation, one that might be helpful to apply to your organization, too.

This case study shares how KSMC transitioned to Microsoft PowerBI dashboards for our internal reporting.

Problem Identification

Investing a significant amount of time and resources in creating weekly internal reports, our team saw the need to upgrade our reports from manual, logic-based Excel spreadsheets to more sophisticated technology.

Solution Development
A cross-discipline team, including members from our BI practice, internal operations, and executive leadership, was identified to lead the upgrade effort. Solution development was divided into two phases: discovery and requirements gathering.

Discovery
The initial task was determining the origin of the reports before formulating a replacement solution. Previously creating reports through logic-based Excel spreadsheets, the team sought to understand what logic was incorporated in the report and where the information was derived. Interviews with end users identified how reports were developed and used throughout the organization. With these insights, the next step was to prioritize requirements.

Requirements Gathering
Interviews were conducted to capture end user needs and determine what the solution needed to accomplish. End users shared about their usage, goals, gaps, and needs. This information was synthesized by the team to:

  • Capture what decisions the solution would allow users to make;
  • Clarify what behaviors the solution should support; and
  • How to best showcase the data.


Technology Selection
Understanding end user needs, the team sought to find the right technical solution. Upon deliberation, we decided to implement Microsoft PowerBI as the interactive dashboard to replace our manual reporting.

Operating on the full Office 365 suite, the team recognized that the integration of PowerBI would be seamless. Plus, the consistency of the user experience would enable quick adoption of the new solution.

Additionally, the team selected the tool due to the regularly released application enhancements by Microsoft, access to Microsoft support, and specific capabilities of the application that served our needs. These capabilities included ease of report authoring and off-the-shelf visualizations. Finally, PowerBI empowers end users to develop the reports and dashboards they need.

Solution Implementation
After deciding a PowerBI dashboard would be an effective solution, the team drafted mockups and underwent an iterative review process with a pilot test group prior to development. The test group included stakeholders across all levels of the organization to ensure requirements were met.

It was important to end users that the data reflect up-to-date information. Therefore, after it was cleaned and input into the dashboard, the team established import jobs that would conduct a daily refresh of the data.

Once the dashboard was tested and finalized, the team needed to update our Microsoft licensing structure. The team selected Pro Licenses because of the role-level security. This provided varying levels of dashboard access, and ensured that employees only access the appropriate dashboards for their needs.

Finally, the dashboard was rolled out company wide. Continued communications to support adoption will include video training and ongoing dashboard enhancements.

Lessons Learned
Throughout every project, there are lessons learned along the way. Our BI implementation was no different.

For instance, once underway, the team realized the project scope was broader than originally envisioned. Across the company, each practice group defined success measures differently; therefore, we had to find the right balance and flexibility to ensure the dashboard worked for everyone. Selecting the most appropriate test group and combining stakeholders across the organization proved valuable in developing a solution that worked across the organization.

Knowing the backend requirements necessary to bring a mockup or wireframe to life was critical to the project’s success. Early on, the team learned the importance of understanding what the backend requirements were to produce the appropriate visualizations for end users. For the best results, the team developed the backend and then focused on the visualization of the dashboard.

Impact
Our high-level objective was to enable data-driven internal decision making by creating a visually appealing way to report internal performance measures and enable employees to track progress. The result was an internal BI dashboard solution that allows the team to simplify, condense, and clarify what measures we report on in an up-to-date and user-friendly manner.

Additional benefits of the interactive dashboard include:

  • Automation of a manual process that took hours to complete;
  • Ability to review status reports anytime, anywhere through Office 365;
  • Increased efficiency by understanding where time is spent and how it translates into efficiency; and
  • Centralized and cleansed data readily available for future business intelligence initiatives.

Adoption of the solution has been well received. Our team continues to maintain and upgrade the dashboard, working with teams across the company to ensure the solution meets today’s needs and is continually refined.

Is it time to update your reporting processes? Our business intelligence team is ready to help.