Full Sail Partners Blog

The Roadmap of Business Intelligence

Posted by Chris Simei on Wed, Jul 01, 2020 @ 11:35 AM

BI infographics

Business intelligence (BI) is playing an increasingly critical role in the strategic planning of organizations. The output of established analytics can be used to track performance against business goals, identify inefficiencies, optimize processes, report and share information consistently, and identify unrealized business insights, all in real-time across a growing number of browsers and devices. The options are plentiful, and it can get overwhelming as you determine where to start.

Before you can reach these autonomous, pilot-cockpit-type dashboards, you will need a strategy. This will remain fluid and evolve as you adapt to your firm’s needs.  However, it is important to establish a roadmap to ensure that your efforts remain focused and deliver value where it is most needed. Let’s take a look at how to get there.

Identify Pain Points at a High Level

A basic first step is to summarize key pain points impacting your business. What are the questions your business is hoping to answer with its data? What are the information voids in your company? What reports are being run week after week to make decisions? Oftentimes, the pain points will evolve with your BI and shed light on areas needing attention. 

An easy and high-value place to start is exception reporting. Exception reporting highlights potential problem areas in your data based on a set of criteria you define. Examples may include:

  • Executive staff need to have visibility when a branch has not met its profit goal;
  • A project manager wants a consolidated dashboard to display his or her projects as he or she may be stretching the budget;
  • Administrative support staff wish to easily see what project records need review and approval;
  • An employee wants to view a dashboard of outstanding items (i.e. timesheet submissions, learning and development courses, annual review progress).

This proactive approach to quick-glance data can be a strong starting point to develop your BI strategy while staying focused on important metrics that require action.

Review Organization Structure

How does your organization structure support your reporting needs?  If you would like to produce reports by organization units (i.e. division, practice, group), then you will want to ensure that your system supports that structure. In the case of Deltek products, you may consider how you are utilizing organizations, teams, timesheet groups, and custom field associations. Furthermore, the firm and system structure will ultimately affect the data that is accessible by different groups.

Define Role Based KPIs

Each role in your organization has a unique business function. Frequently, these roles can share a responsibility that cascades down the business’s organization structure.

Consider the various roles in your company. How can they be grouped into subsets that could be measured together; such as, will a project manager be measured with the same standards as a project principal or supervisor?

One fundamental metric for any company is managing accounts receivable (AR) – getting paid for services or products that have been delivered. Here is an example of role based KPIs, starting at the top of the organization:

  • CEO wants to ensure that the AR Aging is in a healthy position to deter cash-flow concerns. CEO is pleased as long as the AR >60 days is less than 10% of the total AR balance at a company level. If that target is not met, CEO can interrogate the data.
  • Group manager ensures the total accounts receivable >60 days remains below 10% of the total AR balance for his or her entire group. Data can be summarized by project principal and prompt a discussion with any principal who is above the 10% threshold.
  • Project supervisor ensures that AR >60 days is below 10% for each project he or she is responsible for. BI can prompt a discussion with any project manager who is approaching the threshold.
  • Project manager is responsible for ensuring that invoices are paid per the 30-day payment terms. Invoices aging over 30 days must be chased and addressed. 

This example illustrates how a single metric is relevant to all roles. Therefore, a CEO can reference a dashboard in discussion with a group manager, who can then take it to the project supervisor, and onward down the hierarchy, directly to the project manager. Since this metric is consistently measured, each role understands the importance and relevance of his or her responsibility. This ties all roles to the financial success of the company.

Educate Team Members

It is important to educate on how defined measures are calculated. By doing so, your teams will clearly understand how their work is being measured and how their project success influences KPIs. BI tools can offer sophisticated and shiny visuals, but the end-user must understand how to use the data. Otherwise, the insights will be lost, or worse – misleading. Clean, simple data and education can provide clear definition to team members. Furthermore, it will give consistent data interpretation across all roles.

Measure the Firm’s Success

As you navigate through the BI journey, pause to measure the success of your BI strategy and the analytics you are measuring.  It is critical to gather feedback from the intended audience to understand how the BI tools are promoting productivity as well as transparency. Are the end-users interacting with the data and making smarter decisions because of it? By being agile in the BI development strategy, you can confidently deliver the most valuable analytical tools for your firm and ultimately power project success.

Key Performance Indicators

Topics: Technology Solutions, Business Intelligence, Data Visualization

What Metrics are Important for Your Firm to Track?

Posted by Amanda Roussel on Wed, Apr 08, 2020 @ 11:30 AM

business metrics

“What gets measured gets done” is a common phrase heard in the business world. This thought process relies on business metrics that can be tracked and focused on within an organization. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the critical measurements which business leaders pay close attention to consistently. There are many leading and lagging indicators that can be analyzed to gauge a company’s health and employee productivity. So, what are KPIs that leaders and employees use to determine if their firm is operating effectively?  

Leading Indicators Look Forward

Firm leaders must always be looking to the future. New business is crucial to maintain a successful operation of a company. Likewise, appropriate staffing is necessary to ensure employee productivity.

New Business Pipeline – This measures the opportunities in the pipeline throughout the business development or sales process. The process typically covers efforts to attract clients, engage clients, then secure clients. How is a pipeline goal determined? Look at the firm’s hit rate – the ratio of wins to the number of projects pursued – and work backwards to determine the number of calls, meetings, and proposals needed to meet pipeline goals. Other metrics include client touch points, new leads, web visits, blog views, and dollar of proposals submitted, which all feed into the new business pipeline.

Full-Time Equivalent – This number shows if a firm is properly staffed for current and future work. The concept includes hours worked by part-time employees and full-time employees to determine the full-time equivalent (FTE). A firm can look at the total number of hours worked by all staff combined for a given time period and divide it by the number of working hours in that same time period. The FTE metric could trigger human resources to ramp up recruiting efforts or signal to business developers to target work for a specific time to keep utilization where it should be.  

Lagging Indicators Evaluate the Past

To keep a firm running successfully, business leaders must constantly measure results against goals. Were the goals met? Why or why not? There are a number of factors leaders analyze here.

Utilization Rate – Many firms use utilization goals as the benchmark for employee productivity. These goals are usually set by team managers and consider billable time, employee development, and administrative time. Employees can bring their highest value to the firm when they are operating at their optimal billable utilization goal. This metric is widely used at the individual employee level and group level.

Overhead Rate – This measures a firm’s non-billable costs compared to billable costs. Overhead expenses can be monitored and adjusted if this number is higher than desired. Examples of non-billable, or overhead, costs include leases, supplies, and non-billable professional hours, to name a few.

Revenue – This popular metric is the number that sits at the top of the income statement and measures the income a firm generates before subtracting expenses. This can be measured against revenue goals to determine how the company is performing. This number is important, but it should not be the only source of motivation.

Gross Profit Margin – This metric tells the firm’s process efficiency. The higher the number, the more efficiently the work is being completed. This can be measured overall for the firm as well as at the project level.

Revenue Growth – Is your firm on the desired growth path? This comprehensive view shows leaders the growth trajectory year-over-year. If it’s not on the desired path, course corrections can be made to get back on track.

Ongoing Pulse Checks Monitor the Present

It is also important to keep abreast of the general attitude towards your firm by both clients and employees. Both clients and employees contribute to the ultimate success of your firm. Thus, both should be assessed for current satisfaction levels.

Client retention and satisfaction – Repeat clients are vital to a firm’s success and can be tracked against new clients. Keeping clients satisfied helps ensure they will continue using the firm’s services. Tools such as the Client Feedback Tool can be used to gauge how satisfied clients are with the firm’s work and communication. The Client Feedback Tool can also be used to the employee’s advantage, learning where improvements can be made, or assistance requested.  

Employee satisfaction – The employee experience is just as important as the client experience. Satisfied employees are typically more productive, resulting in a stronger bottom line. It is best to keep lines of communication open and engage with, survey, and collaborate with employees regularly.

Using Metrics Ensures Firm Success

There are hundreds of metrics that can be tracked on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. It is key to find the proper balance of metrics that works for your firm type and structure. Knowing how to get the right data is also important. Solutions such as Deltek Vision, Vantagepoint, and Informer can provide business intelligence showing real-time KPIs, giving leadership teams the data necessary for effective decision making and business management. Clear data can be used to identify the most successful areas as well as those that need attention and improvement. This is the most effective way to regularly stay on top of your firm’s performance.

Key Performance Indicators

Topics: Technology Solutions, Professional Services, Business Intelligence

Data Visualization and How it is Used

Posted by Full Sail Partners on Wed, Jan 22, 2020 @ 11:05 AM

chart graphic

Business Intelligence (BI) puts together business analytics, data mining, data visualization, technology resources along with the best practices to help companies make more data-driven decisions. Business intelligence can help businesses make better choices by displaying present and historical data in their business context. Analysts can use data visualization to provide performance and competitor benchmarks for a smoother and more efficiently run organization. Analysts can also detect market trends to boost sales or income more quickly. Making sure you are using BI and data visualization properly is important. Let’s look at how you can choose the right data visualizations for your company.

Temporal Visualizations

In the temporal category, data visualizations belong if they satisfy two conditions: they are linear, and they are one-dimensional. Temporal visualizations normally have lines that either stand alone or intersect with each other, with starting and ending time. Some common examples of data visualizations include scatter plots, time series sequences, timelines, line graphs, and polar area diagrams. These visualizations are usually pretty easy to recognize and understand. Picking the right visualization all depends on the kind of story you are trying to tell. When choosing a temporal visualization, your end goal should be comparing one or many value sets. This can help you easily show the low and high values of a data set.

Hierarchical Visualizations

In the hierarchical category, data visualizations are those that organize groups within larger groups. These are best used to display clusters of information, especially if they flow from one point to another. Typical hierarchical visualizations are tree diagrams, ring charts, and sunburst diagrams. Just like any type of data visualization, it is important that you are effectively telling a story with the graphics that you use. For this type, showing levels of importance coming from a single source is the main purpose of these visualizations. The only downside is that these graphs tend to be complex and sometimes difficult to read. The tree diagram is used most frequently because of its easy-to-follow linear path.

Multidimensional Visualizations

While linear data is easier to understand, sometimes you have the need to capture your audience’s attention. Multidimensional displays two or more different variables to create a 3D data visualization. These types of visualizations are scatter plots, pie charts, Venn diagrams, stacked bar graphs, and histograms. These visuals can break down a ton of data into key takeaways, making it easier to clearly identify what you are trying to get across. Multidimensional is used to compare data and parts of a whole and show relationships between two variables. With multidimensional data, you are able to choose different colors and shapes to really customize your graphic.

Data Visualization Makes an Impact

Choosing the right visualization for your data directly impacts how it gets across to the viewers. Your main goal should always be to properly tell a story with the graphics that you use. Data visualization allows you to display specific data in an eye-catching way leading to a successful conveyance of important and relevant information.

Blackbox Connector for Informer

Topics: Technology Solutions, Business Intelligence, Data Visualization