As an owner of a business, it's hard to make changes sometimes; the business works, we are expanding and making profit, so why bother changing things, things are good enough.
As I sat down in my home office (my bed) back in March I was buzzing, an opportunity to fix things that needed fixing, and a chance to break the mold. I am talking about deeper changes than just how clients contact us or moving a member of staff from one department to another..
One of the items at the top of my “Business Wish List” was for KPIs… Key Performance Indicators for those who don’t know (the term has always annoyed me but it does what it says on the tin).. What I was really after was more “Business Intelligence” to understand where the business is working, where its not, and the areas we could improve from an efficiency and profit point of view.
We are a tight team of 20, and agile, so why was this such a big ask, and why had it been on my wish list for years and not achieved? The vision has always been to walk into the office and to see lovely presented dashboard of graphs displayed giving us all operational details live…
I will always remember that scene of arriving home, sitting on my bed, with two laptops (one to work on and one to have conference calls on!) for the rest of my life…. now what! I realised I had a whole team of amazing people working from their homes and I had no idea who in the team are working efficiently, who were answering calls more, who were speaking to more clients – I had no idea how we were running as a business...
Before locking, in the office I had four, inaccurate, and highly emotional KPIs…
- If staff arrived on time for work (and don’t leave the office at the exact second they finish!)
- The number of support tickets we had open
- General Support desk activity, who looked like they were on the phone the most, who was away from the desk the most & how often the Scalextric was used!
This management detail could be improved, vastly (I am rather embarrassed to publish them to be honest!). Covid and lockdown brought on the paradigm shift needed to make changes to the way we understood the business…
So I sat on the bed buzzing, this was the smack I needed to make real change to the business, not tweaks for the sake of it, but change to make the company better, more efficient and to increase our net profit.
There is a Microsoft app that comes as part of Office 365 called Power BI. (the BI standing for Business Intelligence, which i thought was a good start). After finding a 2 minute introduction video on YouTube I recognized that this was the tool I needed to move my head space on, and the business forward.
As its part of the Microsoft Office 365 family, there are no huge costs to using it, no huge consultancy time, or project cost to get things up and running.
Before I continue, please know you don’t need any kind of technical knowledge in order to read on further, or to play with PowerBI, all I would suggest is that a basic understanding of Excel would help. For reference, and this is most important, here is a link to the Introduction video I watched - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGrl-H87pRU.
So what does PowerBI really do (in a sentence)?
Its takes data from all over your business (this could be data directly from your accounts system, or CRM, or even your telephone system) and gives your insightful “Management” information and Business intelligence which helps you to make more informed business decisions.
It still sounds a bit wooly, a bit like sales propaganda right, so therefore thought I would use our case study as a really brief demonstration.
What detail did I want to know?
Good question… in simple terms I wanted to see how efficient our support staff are, and I wanted to know who our most involving clients are; which staff answer the phones the most, who create the most support tickets, and who fixes the most issues for our clients… and maybe a bit of sales performance detail along the way..
What programs or data did I have to answer this question?
Two systems; the first was the data from our telephone system (which is a VOIP system and so we had access to call details/logs) and the second was Connectwise which is our CRM (it logs our client interaction and is the system we use to create and update support tickets for our clients)
So how did you do it, where did you start?
I downloaded PowerBI Desktop and watched the YouTube video (and stopped and started the video many times!) – the first task was to connect my Data (above) to PowerBI – that was relatively straightforward – when I opened PowerBI it starts a lovely wizard to help in connecting your data – there are hundreds of data sources from Websites/APIs to Excel Spreadsheets, SQL connections and everything in-between.
Once you have connected the data then what?
The real “Boom” moment came when I saw numbers and detail that I recognised in a table in PowerBI from my telephone system!!! (extension names and client telephone numbers)
Then I had to format it, remove certain columns I didn’t want and ensure all is neat in the right columns...OCD kicked in! (I am playing this part down, it took me around 4 hours but it was an enjoyable 4 hours!) The second data source, connecting to our CRM, took 12 hours, but that's more a reflection on the CRM company rather than PowerBI to be honest.
Aren't you getting bored by now?
Now that’s done and all the data is straight I can get creative, its all good from here on… I pulled together graphs, tables and visuals which showed me detail about the business I was never able to do, answers to basic questions; when are the peak of our phone calls, are there busier days than others, who is the most efficient support team member, which clients are we most involved with, how many tickets are open, and how does our opportunities pipeline look.
Many would say I am rather dramatic by nature, and I would agree…but this next part is true... PowerBI has had a massive effect on my business. Not only do I have an amazing flashy dashboard with "meaningful" graphs and lists, but I have live information which I can look at to make informed business decisions rather than the proverbial finger in the wind.