What’s So Special About Power BI?

In previous blogs we showed how businesses were benefiting from Power BI in ways that were not possible previously.

What makes Power BI such a revolutionary analytical solution are  technology innovations that were introduced in Excel.

As Gil Raviv notes, Power BI, Excel, and SQL Server Analysis Services share the same analytics engine, Power Pivot, which was introduced as the PowerPivot add-in to Excel 2010. Power Pivot, says Raviv, is “a game changer in self-service BI.”

High-Performance Engine

Power Pivot is based on an in-memory technology called VertiPaq, which arranges data into columns and compresses it to speed performance. In-memory computing speeds processing by storing data in RAM rather than on slower-performing disks.

As Microsoft explains, Power Pivot is a data modeling tool that works hand in hand with Power Query, a data extraction and transformation engine that began life as Data Explorer. Power Query enables you to discover, import, and merge data from any number of sources, while Power Pivot enables you to model, manipulate, and operate on the data you have imported.

Power Query can be embedded in Excel or the Power BI Desktop, and the tool can load a data set into an Excel spreadsheet or into Power Pivot for data modelling.

Power BI Ecosystem

The story gets even better. The tight integration between Power BI and Excel, which extends to Azure, Office 365, SQL Server, and other Microsoft technologies, creates an ecosystem that makes Power BI a flexible and formidable analytical tool.

Power BI and Excel also share the Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) language, which can be used to create formulas to operate on your data. DAX runs on top of the VertiPaq engine, whose official name is the “xVelocity in-memory Analytical Engine.”

You can apply DAX formulas to columns of data to perform calculations. For example, you can use DAX to calculate anticipated sales based on a percentage increase over last year’s sales, or to calculate sales rank or customer rank by sales. You also can perform time analysis functions such as year-to-date sales, actual sales vs. targeted sales, and current sales.

Automating Analyses

Power BI provides a host of features to simplify and speed up analytical operations. You can use Calculated Columns, which are formulas that are applied to joined columns of data. For example, you can calculate profits by joining sales and costs columns.

You also can use Measures, which are formulas that are applied dynamically to perform calculations as you interact with your reports. Measures are typically used to calculate aggregations such as average sales amount or average sales by region.

You can use Power BI to track your business’s sales and marketing performance by creating key performance indicators (KPIs) that enable you to evaluate the current value and status of a metric against a defined target. The KPIs can be updated automatically and the data can be visualized for easy understanding.

You also can use Power BI’s Quick Insights feature to evoke a machine learning engine that will instantly apply algorithms to your data sets to discover hidden insights such as correlations, outliers, and trends.

Data Visualization

Another core strength of Power BI is the tool’s data visualization capability.  As Gil Raviv notes, Microsoft built an HTML 5 compliant visualization engine for Power BI that can slice and dice data in any direction and provide visualizations of the results.

Besides enabling a myriad of visualizations out of the box, Power BI has a library of custom visualizations users can draw upon. This highlights another strength of Power BI: the large and growing user community that contributes to the ongoing innovation centered on Power BI as it evolves.

Advanced Analytics

Power BI accommodates a wide spectrum of users, enabling novice users to work at a basic level, while enabling more sophisticated users to work within the Power BI Desktop to employ formulas and perform complex calculations and analyses.

Power BI enables small and mid-size organizations to gain the advantages of advanced analytics that were beyond their scope in the past. This includes visualizing predictive analytics that can employed using Power BI linked to Microsoft Azure Machine Learning.

Predictive analytics can be used to optimize marketing and sales initiatives, such as predicting how customers will respond to new products, as well as helping to identify the best channels and messaging for campaigns. Machine learning can help identify potential customers, personalize marketing approaches, predict customer churn, and much more.

Real-Time Analytics

As Microsoft explains, Power BI also lets you access real-time information, which can be used to identify trends, optimize pricing, and take advantage of market opportunities that arise. Power BI and Azure Steam Analytics can be combined to create real-time IoT dashboards for monitoring sensors. Uses include tracking and monitoring instruments, devices, packages, greenhouse environments, market fluctuations, and real-time monitoring of machinery data streams that can be analyzed to predict failure.

Microsoft has done an excellent job of making it easy and affordable for non-technical users and power users to gain the benefits of enterprise-grade analytics. And with the continual contributions of the Power BI community, the story grows better day by day.

MaxQ Technologies provides state-of-the-art Power BI solutions and incorporates Power BI within advanced business solution suites. Contact us to learn more about Power BI and how your business could benefit from a Power BI solution.

 


Cannabis Price Crash Puts Manufacturers in Peril

The price of legal cannabis has been dropping at a steady rate, and the outlook is for a continuing decline before the market levels off. Small cannabis manufacturers and dispensaries are being driven out of business, and large manufacturers that fail to take measures to minimize production costs are at risk of meeting the same fate.

As marijuanaventure.com warns, “When the market shakes out in five years and people stop selling at a loss, companies capable of producing high-quality cannabis at an industrial scale and with low production costs will be the only players left in the game.”

Revenues Up, Prices Down

Although cannabis revenues have been rising rapidly in states in which cannabis is legal, cannabis prices have been declining because of overproduction. In Colorado, for example, the Department of Revenue reported cannabis sales of $1.49 billion in 2017, an increase of almost 15% from the previous year and more than double the revenues reported in 2014. Over the same time period, however, cannabis prices in Colorado declined from around $200 an ounce in 2014 to less than $100 (including tax) in 2018.

The average wholesale price of cannabis per pound has declined from $2,000 per pound in 2015 to about $1,000 in 2018, with producers in some states having to sell for less than $500 per pound. One grower in Oregon was forced to sell his excess cannabis at a mere $100 per pound at auction.

The Guardian describes a bleak scene in Oregon in which overproduction has pushed consumer prices down to $6 an ounce.  Unable to remain profitable, mom-and-pop farms are selling out to out-of-state investors as the market becomes increasingly owned by a few big players. Many non-growing dispensaries also are losing money and selling out to large cannabis chains.

It appears that the cannabis industry is following the same consolidation path as the grocery industry in which small grocery stores were put out of business by big grocery chains.

Control Production Costs or Perish

As more and more large cannabis ventures enter the market and expand their businesses, only manufacturers that can keep production costs low will be able to survive.

As marijuanaventure.com warns, “by 2025, or maybe even as soon as 2020, this industry will be based around per-pound production costs in the $100 range, or potentially lower, and companies that can’t compete at that level will be swiftly left in the dust.”

As cannabis management consultant Rich Cardinal points out, the only way to create facilities capable of producing low-cost, high-quality cannabis is through the implementation of efficient growing methods and investments in advanced production models that employ state-of-the-art automation.

Accounting Practices Are Key

Critical to controlling costs in the manufacturing and distribution of cannabis are stringent and integrated accounting practices, coupled with the use of advanced analytics to track costs, perform forecasts, and maximize efficiency.

As cannabis accounting specialist Andrew Hunzicker observes, many cannabis companies find themselves plagued with financial struggles stemming from the complexity of cannabis accounting, including cost controls within the growth, manufacturing, and retail phases, as well as compliance and tax issues.

Besides establishing solid accounting practices and procedures, says Hunzicker, cannabis businesses must recognize the importance of deploying cannabis management software tailored to the needs of their industry.

The crucial need to control costs is why cannabis ventures like Liberty Health Sciences, Acreage Holdings, and Medmen are investing in facilities that incorporate the most modern, state-of-the-art growing and production methods, including manufacturing management software capable of streamlining and maximizing accounting operations.

As Hunzicker and other experts point out, these and other forward-looking operators are making the investments in systems that enable them to achieve the low production costs that will be required to survive into the future.

This is exactly what advanced management software like MaxQ Cannabis was designed to do—enable large-scale cannabis manufacturers to minimize production costs, streamline operations, and maximize profitability, including integrated and automated accounting with cost controls and compliance throughout all phases of cannabis growth, manufacturing, and distribution.

As the maker of the most modern, integrated, and scalable cannabis manufacturing solution, MaxQ has deep cannabis industry expertise. Contact us to learn more about the latest trends and management solutions in the cannabis manufacturing industry.