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In the dynamic landscape of business operations, the ability to gather and analyse data quickly and efficiently can make all the difference. But for businesses with data sources spread across hundreds of disparate sites, with new ones being added all the time, this isn’t always easy to achieve.
In these data-rich environments, Power BI – Microsoft’s business intelligence and data visualisation platform – has emerged as a powerful tool, transforming how businesses process, handle and interpret data.
In this article, we look at how Power BI has transformed operations for three BCN clients, showcasing the platform’s ability to standardise reporting, automate processes, consolidate data and drive better decision-making.
Our first client, a multi-disciplinary contracting company, was facing challenges that are typical of a siloed, Excel-centric environment. It had countless UK sites, and each of them was operating independently – each with its own ways of collecting, processing and storing data. This naturally led to huge discrepancies in data management, reporting styles and metrics across the business, and had a negative knock-on effect on top-level data oversight and decision-making.
When this client approached BCN, their primary goal was to establish a unified reporting system that standardised Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) across their UK sites.
Because the lack of visibility and oversight were a primary challenge, the first thing we did was to implement a new financial reporting and data management infrastructure. This centralised data from the huge number of individual sources and allowed for the creation of the all-important ‘single source of truth’. From there, with the siloes eliminated and all data now in one place, we were able to use the advanced data-modelling tools within Microsoft’s Power Platform to ensure all the large-scale datasets were being effectively and efficiently combined and processed.
Once all the data was there, Power BI really came into its own to help us deliver a bespoke reporting and data visualisation solution. The first thing we did was to create a suite of custom reports and data-capture apps that best met the client’s brief. These included 20 multi-page Power BI reports covering a range of KPIs for different audiences and stakeholders.
By leveraging Power Apps to create custom functions, we were able to deliver exactly what our client wanted: a streamlined reporting process and a centralised data management system that provided a single source of truth. Using custom Power BI reports, complex financial analysis is now regularly collated and represented as quick-glance, easy-to-understand graphics and charts, ensuring everyone from top-level decisionmakers to workers out in the field can see and access key financial insights, targets and KPIs.
The level of success this project has delivered across the client’s UK sites has helped pave the way for the rollout of these reporting solutions globally, demonstrating the scalability and versatility of Power BI.
Our second client, a utilities infrastructure provider, approached us during a period of rapid growth and expansion. The company had recently bought a number of other businesses and had undergone a huge rebranding project. Having grown to have more than 80 regional sites and satellite offices across the UK, the client sought to update and enhance their current on-premises, Excel-based reporting model and to standardise and automate it across the business, including at the newly acquired locations.
Using the client’s existing Enterprise SQL license, we were able to implement Power BI through an on-premises Report Server at no extra cost – a real coup for the client and a great start for our teams, who were able to get straight on with building a truly custom solution for the client.
Given the diverse nature of the business and the disparity and differences in sites, our teams were able to use their breadth of knowledge in Power BI to identify two distinct paths to success for this project. The first was ‘Cross Contract’ shared reporting, which allowed for enhanced insights across contracts while leveraging data from multiple sources including Excel, SQL, CRM systems and accountancy software. The second was ‘Contract Specific’ reporting, which supported more in-depth and targeted reporting within individual contracts while still using data from multiple sources. In all, our teams were able to deliver more than 20 custom Power BI reports, each of which is designed to meet the needs for a different group of stakeholders.
The automated generation of reports has saved our client an estimated 250 hours of manual work each week. This represents a massive efficiency improvement in terms of human resources, but also in terms of cost.
More than that, the accessibility of reporting through Power BI, with its easy-to-understand visualisation tools, charts, graphs, data maps and enhanced analytics, has driven a data-led culture change across the business, highlighting the transformative potential of Power BI beyond efficiency gains.
Reports are now being used on a daily basis across all divisions of the business, and are being used to facilitate better-informed conversations and more empowered decision-making at monthly and quarterly senior management team meetings.
When the UK’s largest gas distribution network company noticed operational performance being negatively impacted by burgeoning data siloes, they approached BCN. The business had masses of data being generated at thousands of disparate sources, and while they saw its value, they had no way of harnessing it to their advantage. They recognised they were data rich and time poor, and they knew they needed to become a more data-driven organisation if they were to improve efficiencies and maintain operational success.
Upon engagement, we immediately recognised the need to centralise the business’s data and make it accessible. Valuable data was being generated and stored at thousands of sites and in countless apps and formats, and the inability to share, collaborate or even access this data was making it difficult for leaders to make informed decisions.
We set about implementing Microsoft’s Power Platform suite, automating hundreds of data sources for access from a single source of entry, and creating hundreds of business dashboards that were governed by row-level security.
Due to the nomadic nature of large parts of the business, with sites changing all the time, one of the most important requirements of the project was to ensure data mobility – operatives needed to be able to access information and customer data while onsite, and ensuring data could be accessed on mobile devices was essential. The cloud-based functionality of Power BI and the data management capabilities of the wider Power Platform meant users from across the business were able to access and share all the data they needed, from anywhere and on any device, at any time.
Implementing Power BI has been truly transformative for the client. With all their data available in and accessible from one centralised, single-source-of-truth location, the business has seen operational efficiencies that have increased the capacity of the workforce by a massive 30% in just nine months, saving tens of millions of pounds. Alongside these savings, customer engagement scores, one of the key metrics by which the gas industry secured funds, have improved by 15%.
Power BI has been the complete solution this client was looking for when they sought to become a data-driven organisation. Not only has it given the executive team the holistic view of key business metrics and KPIs they needed to drive business performance, it has ensured all users are empowered to perform their roles more fully and more efficiently, even when out in the field. The business is now maximising the power of data to make better insights-based decisions, day in, day out.
These are just three of the businesses BCN has helped deliver operational transformation for by ensuring they have all the tools they need to make the most of their data. In each of these cases, Microsoft’s Power BI and the wider Power Platform has proven to be a gamechanger, addressing each business’s unique operational challenges and delivering truly transformative results. From centralising management and standardising KPIs across hundreds of disparate sites, to streamlining reporting in a rapidly growing company, Power BI has proven itself to be a versatile and impactful business tool.
As organisations continue to navigate the complexities of modern business in the age of Big Data, Power BI is a powerful tool that makes data not only easier but richer. By automatically turning raw data from multiple sources into easy-to-see, actionable insights, Power BI can revolutionise the way businesses operate. The question now is how businesses can harness its capabilities to thrive in an increasingly data-driven environment.
Get in touch with our Power BI team today.