Shine a Light on Your Data | Podcast | Episode 003
In this episode, we chat with Simon Divine, Owner of Hopton Analytics. Simon is a business intelligence specialist and has years of experience in the technology space, working with ERP applications, such as SAP and Microsoft dynamics and business intelligence applications, such as QlikView and Microsoft Power BI.
It is Simon's belief that data lies at the core of decisions that drive businesses forwards and is currently pioneering the BI as a service concept, which gives businesses powerful insight into their data without the need to hire skilled resource internally.
Audio Podcast Links
Please find the show notes below.
How did Simon get into doing what he is now?
Worked in operations for a Microsoft re-seller for seven, eight years.
BI was always something he wanted to try
BI in ops was always interesting as you can't escape the data
Used to work for QlikView who were the mark leaders at the time
They were big on 'BI tools should allow you to ask the last questions first.'
Start your conversation with data. If you want to start here, we'll look over there and still get to the answer you're looking for.
BI in projects & operations
Having a tool, which does that number crunching, which gives you that helicopter view that high-level here's the state of play is the first thing you should do because that saves time running reports.
Traditional businesses, especially if they want operational reports, will run them once a week, maybe even once a day, which is okay if that's the cadence or the speed with which your business operates.
But if it's super-fast moving, you need to know what the situation is now. You need information immediately at your fingertips.
I couldn't have done the job that I had done in ops without a BI tool, be it Qlik, which we used to begin with. And then when the time was right, I moved that to Power BI.
How does BI compare to a traditional project management tool?
So take project management software, the best ones out there now will give you up to date, accurate information upon resources, so you can make a decision on the fly.
The software is almost the thing we use to do the real work.
So if you've got the tools that enable you to make those decisions and pick the right resource with the right skills at the right time. Fantastic.
If you haven't if you don't have that one way of achieving it you can use BI to deliver similar sorts of results.
BI won't replace a dedicated project management app
But BI can sit alongside or on top off these sorts of tools
Large-scale software projects come with business change and process change
For a smaller outlay, you can use a BI tool to achieve similar results without having to change your business
"We're not ready for BI yet as we can't get the fundamentals right"
"The data's not good enough"
What about the data isn't good enough?
You can still shine a light on data that isn't complete
PowetBI is low-code so you can start yourself
You can also use BI to extract data out of old systems
It can then be stored and analysed without having to bring it into a new system
When people say they should wait, it may be because they've got too many projects on. But BI can be adopted at any point.
If the data isn't great, that's not a reason not to do something, it's a reason to do something
BI as a means of finding the gaps
BI is accessible, it's only a tenner for the pro version
Teams can connect their data to PowerBI to start surfacing information
If there are any gaps in the data that stop them from working towards a particular insight, they can backfill
Sometimes apps are built to deliberately show what data is missing. Using the example of projects:
15 don't have owners
25 have a start date and not an end date
You can proactively seek to improve
In these examples we're using the software as an enabler
It's not software for the sake of software
It's using information to make decisions
Do we buy that new machine based on our profitability?
Do we need to hire more people in the factory or warehouse based on the number of leads we've got coming in?
Being able to take data from multiple sources is advantageous
BI for data migration projects
Do you move data that isn't perfect into a shiny new system?
Do you keep two systems running in tandem for the initial period?
This often has a cost associated with it
BI can be used as a middle ground to visualise data outside of a system
BI is used as the storage
It can then be used to blend data. So you can take historic data from the old system, and link it with the data in the new systems
This will satisfy the auditors
You then have a tool that allows you to layer multiple versions of history and not lose it
How does BI make storytelling easier?
It's the people
It's the experience of someone being able to take the data and ask 'What will we do with it?'
It's then a case of building just enough to give people the information that they want
It's not a case of throwing everything into the mix
It's about giving people the right information at the right time
Are we looking at a shift in skillset?
As businesses start adopting more BI tools as part of their day to day, and aren't spending their life in spreadsheets, are we moving to a senior wherethe requirement for different skillsets will change?
Are we looking at industry knowledge and interpretation skills?
Are we moving towards employing analysis rather than operational staff?
Many businesses will already have these types of individuals
They already have industry knowledge because they understand their job
They ask the right questions, but it might take a while to surface information
They probably have a good feel for say revenue last year, it just takes time to arrive at the information
So what we're talking about it removing the manual drudgery
There are many individuals at all levels of an organisation that can interpret data
We have AI/ML tools, but in many cases these won't replace people, it'll only enhance
90% of organisations still aren't using the tools that are available
A lot are just relying on gut feel, like 'Bill' in sales who has an idea of what we're going to do next year
But Bill doesn't scale
Using PowerBI for Quick Insight
Relating to AI/ML, if you go into the PowerBI data set, you'll find a light bulb icon
It'll automatically trawl through your data to spot trends and spot outliers
It doesn't know what the data means, but it will start plotting trends for you
So if you've got a reasonable dataset and don't now where to start, you can click the lightbulb and get some inspiration
An example using Aged Debtors:
Inteads of hours to produce this now happens instantly
AI adds to the use, because you can start look at what factors influence a debt to be over a certain amount of time
It could be a customer in a region, it could be a credit controller, it could be an account manager
This starts lifting the veil, and uncovering stories as to why things are happening
An example using Sales:
We can use machine learning to crunch the numbers
How often do they buy? How much? What do they pay?
Frequency, cadence etc
After pushing it through an algorithm you can learn what customers might be about to leave you
We can tell because historically they've bought loads, but now they're not buying
Equally, here's customers that if we sold them this product, there's a 70% chance they'll buy this product, because they complement each other
You could do this manually, but it would take you an age
Example of a food manufacturer:
A big part of what they do is try to get items out of the door before they expire
You could combine average sales times against write-offs
Real-world applications of BI
The virtual warehouse
The BI dashboard is the wireframe of a warehouse
It included shelf locations
It was then turned into a heat map with the darker regions showing the faster-moving items
The aim was to support an operations director in re-arranging their warehouse so that the higher moving goods were more accessible
The sports field
The customer was a massive university
Each areas of the site was fitted with energy meters
Using a dashboard, we could see there was a massive spike in the evening from the sports ground
After identifying the spike, we tracked it back to a groundskeeper that when he was doing his rounds would turn on all of the floodlights
When asked why he did this, he explained it's because it's what he'd always done
This is what BI is all about
Point solutions that allow you to surface relevant data
It can be an iterative process
We start here, then move onto this, then onto this
It doesn't have to be a big bang where you'll only see value after 2 years
The public toilets
This was a local council
The energy consumption from one of the toilets would go through the roof at a certain time of night
It was a homeless person that broken in, and he’d used a broom to jam the the hand dryer on. So he could stay warm overnight.
Other examples may be trying to find outliers within departmental expenses e.g sales spending too much money on hotels
These are small examples, you don't have to implement a whole suite of business analysis tools to start seeing value
The estate managers
Large estate, loads of properties
The finance team would like to see where water is being consumed if someone's left a tap on for example
These aren't things you'd always think of
Other examples might be being able to update customers based on the progress of their goods on a production line
What approach does Hopton Analytics take when implementing BI?
Sometimes companies might say, we've got something we know we need something. We don't know what. This is less common
More often it's, we know we want to do something. We have the Microsoft stack, we need help.
We want solutions that enlighten us on what's happening in the organization.
The focus first is on 'proof of value' which used to be referred to as 'proof of concept'
It often starts with sales, as sales tends to be the lifeblood of any business
If it works there, it'll probably work in other areas of your business
It's not about going in and selling 100 days worth of project
We work in an agile way that might not be full days
That agility helps our customers save money
Can we provide value here? Yes, OK, let's move onto the next area
This helps build trust as well
Are there any data formats that work better than others?
There is no one format that's better than another
A recent example is a company wanting to pull data from their call stats. The data is in a simple format, but it's not structured very well
More complex data formats, when written well can be easily worked with
What are they trying to see when looking at call stats?
How long does it take to answer to get a call answered?
How many calls are answered in an hour, in a minute, in a day, in a week
We can start see how many are dropped, how many go to voicemail, how many go to voicemail and don't leave voicemails.
Who's answering the most calls in a ring group?
And actually the reason they pick up the call so often isn't because it rings their phone first, but just because they have a propensity to want to be helpful, right.
It's all geared towards trying to find ways to improve.
What does the future of BI look like?
Predictive analytics is going to become more and more important
There will be less of a divide between applications
ERP systems, CRM systems will start building in more and more business intelligence
What app, or piece of software could you not live without?
It's called Motion, usemotion.com
It’s not cheap, but it is one of the best products
It will connect to your calendar or calendars, and then it'll take your tasks, and based on priority will organise them into your diary
Some will be firm and won't move, but some the system will automatically schedule for you
You end up with slot after slot of focus work
The clever bit is the AI element
If you add something that has a higher priority to be completed than something else in the dairy, it will automatically re-arrange your schedule so you can meet your priority deadlines
It's essentially a virtual assistant
It'll also allow you to send a meeting link, and instead of just 'here's my diary book a time' it'll allow you to present your preferred times for a discussion as well
Where can you find out more about Simon and Hopton Analytics?
Linkedin - Simon Devine
Website - www.hoptonanalytics.com
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