Power BI Gives Curio Wellness a Big Competitive Edge

In the highly competitive world of cannabis manufacturing, Curio Wellness has gained advantages by deploying a MaxQ Cannabis management solution that includes Power BI analytics. 

Brad Friedlander, CIO of Curio Wellness, described how his company is deriving a wealth of benefits from Power BI.

End-to-End BI Value

“Our executive team uses it for sales and key metrics, sales by customer, what products are trending, how things are selling within categories, in both quantity and dollars,” he explained. “We can view data in real time, daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly.”

Power BI is used to monitor and manage the entire business, including operations, sales, and marketing, said Friedlander, adding that this has resulted in better planning, decision making, and performance.

Overall, Power BI has given his company a huge competitive advantage, said Friedlander. “Most of our competitors are on QuickBooks,” he explained, “so they don’t have the ability to do what we do with Power BI.”

Using Power BI also has resulted in better customer satisfaction, he said. “It enables us to meet demand and keep customers happy, which is our number one priority.”

Expanded Use

Curio Wellness obtained Power BI as a standard component of the MaxQ Cannabis solution that is used to manage the company’s seed-to-sale cannabis operations.

However, as users worked with Power BI and discovered its potential, they desired to expand the range of analyses they were able to perform. MaxQ provided additional consulting and customization to enable Power BI to meet the users’ expanding needs.

Friedlander said he is continuously adding pages to Power BI to add functionality that enables the management team to view data in new ways.

Real-Time Advantages

The ability to continually monitor and analyze data in real time is a big part of the advantages the company is deriving from Power BI, Friedlander said. “We can refresh minute by minute and can see data coming from the field for sales and operations.”

Daily monitoring and analyzing of key metrics have enabled the operations and sales teams to make better decisions and change business outcomes, Friedlander said. “It’s allowed us to quickly see problem areas and address them immediately rather than at month’s end,” he explained.

For example, same-day analyses of sales data enable the company to adjust its product processing and packaging to meet market demand. “We can meet demand within a day,” said Friedlander. “When we harvest plants, we have strains that are cured and in the final stages of being packaged, so we can modify the rotation of strains to meet demand on any given day.”

Leveraging Key Metrics

Curio Wellness’s operations and sales teams use Power BI to track a variety of key metrics on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, Friedlander said. “We track many metrics,” he explained, “including sales by customer, sales by strain, dollars and weight sold, inventory on hand, and manufactured products. We also can see margins and selling price over any given period of time.”

Power BI helps the operations side keep in step with sales and marketing. “We can see the best-selling products in any given week, and modify our trimming and production schedules to meet the current demand,” Friedlander explained.

Power BI data also enables the sales and marketing teams to take steps to boost the sales of underperforming products. “We can see what’s selling and what isn’t, and we can put something on special or do special promotions for weaker selling products,” Friedlander added.

Power BI has proven to be fast, flexible, and easy to use, Friedlander said. “You can make changes on the fly, and you can look at the data in so many different ways.”

Production Optimization

On the operations side, Power BI enables the operations team to monitor production and gauge its efficiency. “We can see what yields are out of the garden and the gross weights and class of product that results from a crop,” Friedlander explained.

Power BI also enables the operations team to see how the crops that are harvested measure up to the planned production. “We can set the results we aim to hit for a crop, and we can see how well we have performed to hit that metric—for example, the percentage of flower that falls into upper tier, middle tier, and lower tier,” Friedlander explained.

The financial team uses the forecasting power of Power BI in the planning and budgeting process. “We can forecast relatively easily based on historical trends, including growth rates by customer, in quantity and dollars,” Friedlander explained. “We can see trends and apply those trends to our forecast for the next year.”

Limitless Potential

Friedlander said he could ever see a time when he could say the potential uses of Power BI had reached an end.“There are endless uses for this,”  he said. “It will continue to evolve to serve the business.”

The company currently is in the process of automating its Flash report, he said, which aggregates key metrics of entire business. “This will let users access data from a single source rather than dragging in data from multiple data sources, and the Flash report will be formatted for the purpose of visualizing the metrics,” he explained.

Going forward, Friedlander said the company plans to expand the use of Power BI in a number of ways, including creating customized dashboards for each team—executive, operations, sales, and marketing. “We also want to add the ability to analyze cost of sales, particularly on the cultivation side,” he said.

Better Than Expected

After using Power BI for a year, Friedlander said the tool had exceeded his expectations. “I love it,” he said, adding that, “I probably use it more than anybody on the team.”

Having never used Power BI before, Friedlander said he was surprised by the tools’ ease of use, ability to format data in many ways, and generally visualize data. “There’s a lot to like about Power BI,” he said. “It’s easy to create charts and visualize data in an appealing way. We use the mapping, which lets us see where the hotbed of activities is coming from.”

Is the company pleased with the return on investment in Power BI? “Absolutely,” said Friedlander. “The ability to get data in real time, and the amount of time you save in aggregating and reporting on data, you can’t put a value on that.”

Power BI has made life easier and benefited the business in numerous ways, said Friedlander, including better performance and decision making. “It also has given us a huge competitive advantage,” he added.

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.

 


MaxQ Cannabis Management Automation Works Wonders for Curio Wellness

In the complex world of cannabis manufacturing, the ability to manage operations efficiently and minimize costs can mean the difference between success and failure. Brad Friedlander, Curio Wellness CIO, described how his company has gained a major competitive advantage by employing MaxQ Cannabis to manage its cannabis operations. Growing high-grade cannabis and producing premium products requires careful management in all stages of the operation—including planning, cultivating, harvesting, testing, curing, extraction, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, inventory management, and sales. The MaxQ Cannabis management system has yielded benefits across all these areas by enabling Curio to operate with greater efficiency while minimizing costs, Friedlander said. Automated Product Data Management Automated product data management has yielded significant time and cost savings, said Friedlander. “We’ve created some standardization that enables us to create new parts and strains with ease from other data we have in the system,” he explained. When a new strain is entered into the system, all the associated parts are created automatically, including SKUs (stock keeping units), bills of materials, kits, and bundles for each of the products. Automated product data management creates all product data in a consistent, standard, and correct manner, greatly reducing errors caused by manual entry. “Just click a button and it creates the inventory items, kits, BOMs, and bundles automatically,” Friedlander explained. “The setup that would take hours manually, we do in 30 seconds.” Integrated Accounting Most competitors are running their business on QuickBooks and jumping between different accounting systems, said Friedlander. His observation agrees with that of cannabis accounting expert Andrew Hunzicker, who relates that many cannabis companies operating in this manner 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. Best practices for controlling costs in the manufacturing and distribution of cannabis, Hunzicker explains, are stringent and integrated accounting, coupled with the use of advanced analytics to track costs, perform forecasts, and maximize efficiency. The integrated accounting of MaxQ Cannabis, coupled with Power BI analytics, provides all these advantages, including easy data entry and data handling, with changes that ripple through the system automatically, said Friedlander. This saves time and labor and eliminates error, he explained. “The integrated accounting, data handling, cost tracking, and auditing are huge advantages,” Friedlander said. Cost Tracking The ability to produce cannabis products at the lowest possible cost is critical. Automated cost tracking within MaxQ Cannabis enables Curio Wellness to track its costs across all phases of its operation. “The ability to track costs is a huge one,” said Friedlander. The system enables the company to track the cost of inventory by automating the process of accumulating cost into inventory, he explained. “We can see historical data that we can’t see in the regular tracking system,” said Friedlander. “It helps us to understand costs and control them.” Product Traceability Automated product tracking is another key feature that helps Curio Wellness increase efficiency while reducing costs. The MaxQ Cannabis management system enables Curio Wellness to trace any product back to its origin with ease, said Friedlander. “It gives us full traceability,” he explained. “If there is an issue with a product, we can trace it back to the batch in which it was created and who we sold it to with ease.” Comprehensive product tracking and traceability enable Curio Wellness to stay fully compliant and auditable for any government agency that requires compliance information, Friedlander said. Quality Control The MaxQ Cannabis system automation also streamlines the lab testing process, including automated uploading of lab results and printing of labels for each of Curio Wellness’s products. The system will store the Certificate of Analysis (COA) and automatically generate labels from lab results. When products are shipped to customers, the lab results certificate will be mailed automatically with the invoice. “The system automates the processing of the lab reports for each product for each customer for every order,” said Friedlander. “The handling of lab results and label printing is completely automated, a process that was very time consuming in the past.” Analytics Advance Business Curio Wellness acquired Power BI analytics as a standard component of the MaxQ Cannabis system. Friedlander said Power BI is used to monitor and manage the entire business, including operations, sales, and marketing. “Our whole executive team uses it for sales and key metrics, sales by customer, what products are trending, how things are selling within categories, in both quantity and dollars,” he explained. “We can view data in real time, daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly.” Using Power BI in conjunction with MaxQ Cannabis has resulted in better planning, decision making, performance, and customer satisfaction, he said. The executive team uses Power BI to monitor key metrics, including sales by customer, which products are trending, how things are selling within categories, in both quantity and dollars, Friedlander explained. The ability to monitor and analyze key metrics in real time have enabled the operations and sales teams to make better decisions and change business outcomes, Friedlander said. “It’s allowed us to quickly see problem areas and address them immediately rather than at month’s end,” he explained. “Most of our competitors are on QuickBooks,” Friedlander explained, “so they don’t have the ability to do what we do with Power BI. It’s a big competitive advantage.” Ongoing Improvement Curio Wellness works with MaxQ to extend the system’s capabilities and refine processes in ways that will yield even greater efficiency, Friedlander said. Plans include automating the harvesting of crops with integrated RFID readers, as well as adding a host of new Power BI features. Has MaxQ Cannabis delivered the efficiency and cost control benefits he had hoped it would? “Absolutely,” said Friedlander. “The system not only enables us to operate more efficiently, it gives us a huge advantage over our competitors.” 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.   

For APTMetrics, Power BI Is a Gift That Keeps on Giving

To say that Power BI has been a game-changer for HR consulting firm APTMetrics may be an understatement, according to CFO Marty Kelly.

Kelly credits Power BI with not only improving his company’s performance, but with making his job and those of his co-workers an order of magnitude easier and more efficient.

APTMetrics’ primary business is assessment-centered talent management solutions. Kelly says Power BI has yielded benefits across all areas of the business, including finance, marketing, sales, and operations, allowing for the consolidation of information across multiple disciplines. The scope of Power BI’s potential uses is limitless, he said.

Kelly took advantage of MaxQ’s Power BI expertise to implement a solution that matched his business needs and made it easy for his team to access data from multiple sources, view and manipulate the data, generate reports, and perform an unlimited range of analyses.

Changing Outcomes

Although Power BI was deployed initially for managing accounting in the financial department, Kelly said the solution’s flexibility has provided a host of unexpected benefits.

For instance, Kelly said he now can take snapshots of the consulting business via Power BI and know much earlier in the month how well the company is doing. By monitoring and managing the project allocation of the company’s 40 consultants, he can make adjustments that improve business outcomes, something he could not do in the past.

Using Power BI, Kelly said, he can view up-to-the-minute information as the consultants input their time and project data into the shared system. “If I know a week-and-a-half into a four-week month that I am falling short,” he explained, “I can call the consulting officer and get people more billable hours.

More Effective Financial Management

Power BI also has enabled Kelly to manage the company’s financials in new and more effective ways. “I use Power BI for in-depth financial analysis, database management and querying, and to create graphical presentations in support of the company’s business model,” he explained.

Power BI is extremely fast and flexible, said Kelly, enabling him to access and analyze data and respond to business issues faster than in the past. It also enables him to delve into financial data to pull up sophisticated financial extracts and generate reports from multiple databases with relative ease.

“I can slice the data in unlimited ways to meet the needs and requests for analytics,” he said, “and I don’t have to distribute reports because people can access shared Power BI reports.”

Power BI also has made forecasting more accurate and reliable, Kelly said, as well as easier to perform. “With ten days of information, I’ll nail the forecast for the month,” he explained. “What used to take four hours, I can now do in ten minutes.”

A Wealth of BI Benefits

Besides better financial management and forecasting, Kelly said Power BI makes it easy to create and monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) for marketing, sales, and the company’s financials. Power BI also enables him to analyze detailed project lines of business and to better understand the company’s customers in terms of revenues and profitability.

In addition, Kelly said he uses Power BI to generate “Flash” reports covering key aspects of the company’s revenue stream—consulting hours, assessments delivered, and how many tests were administered on the IT platform side.

Power BI enables him to nest multiple layers of data, which consultants and other teams can then expand, collapse, button, unbutton, and drill down into.

Everyone in the Power BI Pool

Initially used only by Kelly and his financial staff, the use of Power BI is quickly expanding to support the entire company, including three businesses (consulting, assessment practice, and IT platform for high-volume testing), business partners, the APTMetrics sales staff, and the executive team.

Power BI plays a huge role in the annual financial plan, Kelly said, enabling him to manage the yearly results of the business more effectively. After budgeting and forecasting for the full year, he can refine the plan in real time as the year progresses. “I can see how sales activity is turning into business,” he explained, “and I can more easily compare actual financial data with the full-year plan.”

Kelly also uses Power BI to calculate sales incentives, prepare supplemental financial information for the company’s CPA, and support pipeline activities. “With Power BI I can see whether we are back on a sales cycle and if there is too much quiet time. If we haven’t heard from a customer in a while, it’s time to contact them.”

Accessing data to generate reports has become easier with Power BI, Kelly said, eliminating the need to compile data in Excel and run reports from Microsoft Dynamics. “I used to have to drag a Crystal report into a database or do a direct query from the Dynamics tables and mine those. Power BI is much faster and more efficient.”

Installation a Breeze

Kelly also had praise for the ease with which he and his team could begin using Power BI, and for the MaxQ team who installed and configured the Power BI solution. Once the MaxQ team understood APTMetric’s requirements, he said, they were able to write the formulas, connect the data sources, and have Kelly and his team up and running in two days.

“For setup, we needed help from the folks at MaxQ,” said Kelly. “But once it was set up, we haven’t needed much help afterwards, just an hour of consulting support from time to time.”

Only the Beginning

After one year of using Power BI, Kelly says his company is just getting started. “We addressed key business needs first, but we haven’t come anywhere close to tapping Power BI’s capabilities.”

A big benefit has come from requiring less people to do the work, said Kelly. “If I didn’t’ have these tools, I’d have a million people doing all these tasks. With Power BI, I need less professionals to get the work done, and the work is more efficient and accurate.”

Has Power BI exceeded his expectations? “Absolutely,” said Kelly. “The cost is low and the value for the money is amazing. Every day we see new ways to use the tool. It keeps giving more value.”

Has it made the business more profitable? “Yes. More forward looking, efficient, and profitable.”

“I’m a big fan,” said Kelly. “I have yet to see a downside to it.”

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.


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.

 


Power BI Gives Businesses Super Powers

Since Microsoft’s Power BI launched as part of Office 365 in July 2013, it has evolved at a rapid pace and blossomed into a full-blown feature-rich modern business intelligence tool.

In July 2015, Power BI had 45,000 users worldwide. Today that number has grown to more than 5 million users.

What makes Power BI such a compelling business tool is a combination of strong data visualization capabilities, ease of use, and affordability (starting at free, with a Pro version priced at $10 per user per month). Moreover, Power BI can be accessed from the cloud, run as a desktop app, embedded in applications, integrated with other business planning tools, and optimized for mobile devices.

BI Barriers Fall

Years ago, obtaining the capabilities that Power BI provides required complex and expensive systems that had to be implemented by specially trained data scientists. A data scientist would develop a design concept and hope it would deliver the results you desired. Because of the cost, complexity, and specialized skill requirements, only the largest enterprises with the deepest pockets could afford these types of BI systems.

Power BI has changed the game, enabling small and midsize organizations to perform analyses and visualize data in ways that previously were prohibitively complex and expensive. Rather than the long development periods required to build these systems in the past (often weeks, months, and years), users can get accurate and actionable results in only a few hours. Moreover, real-time updates can be used to enable business managers to leverage a continual flow of insights.

Seeing how Power BI has been deployed by real-life companies shows the benefits that can be gained, as well as the ease and speed with which a Power BI application can be set up and immediately begin delivering useful insights.

Real-Time Insights Pay Dividends

Pizza Express in the UK was able to gain real-time insights and improve its business operations by deploying Power BI. As part of its strategy to expand worldwide, the company migrated all its data to the Azure cloud, created a data warehouse, and began using the data to make decisions based on its customers’ preferences.

Real-time monitoring comes from a tool called Event Stream that was built using Microsoft Event Hub and Data Factory. Besides giving managers an up-to-the-minute view of the business, it allows Pizza Express to track customer activity and make personalized offers. While in the past, building a tool like this would have been complex and time-consuming, Pizza Express was able to set it quickly using ready-made Microsoft tools.

Power BI has enabled Pizza Express to aggregate sales, customer, and operational data that used to reside in different places. The system enables the management team to combine all its key performance indicators (KPIs) to gain a comprehensive look at the company’s sales data, customer preferences, and profitability. Thirty regional managers can access the performance data on mobile devices to view results by region, area, and individual restaurant.

As Pizza Express IT director Siobhan Fagan noted, having precise information on demand means the company can be agile, decisive, and respond much better to its customers.

Better Management Through Power BI

The use of Power BI by Howell-Jones, a law firm in the UK, shows how not only law firms, but many types of agencies, can benefit from Power BI. As Howell-Jones operations director Chris Cato notes, personalized dashboards with complex data could be spun up in minutes by non-IT staff to deliver insights throughout the firm. Team leaders could use Power BI to manage caseloads across entire teams, distributing work to maximize collective output.

The Howell-Jones management team was able to generate high-level visual reports that were updated in real-time, which they could drill down into to analyze all aspects of the business, such as lawyer’s workloads, fees vs. targets, billable hours vs. targets, time from enquiry to billing, cross-department work referrals, and more. In addition, financial insights that previously were available exclusively to the management team could be surfaced and shared around the business.

The marketing team could see real-time inquiries and divert spending to take advantage of opportunities as they arose. The marketers also could drill into the data to refine their strategy based on the results of individual campaigns, how initiatives converted to new clients, and the lifetime value of marketing investments.

New Doors Open  

As these case studies show, Power BI is a game changer, making possible analyses and visualizations that had previously been too difficult and too expensive for most businesses. While the examples above involve the hospitality and legal sectors, the same techniques can be applied to any type of business to realize similar benefits.

We’ll continue looking at how Power BI is unlocking new possibilities across various industries in future posts.

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.

 

 


4 Ways the Cloud Improves Supply Chain Planning

Supply chain planning used to be more of a guessing game, relying on intuitive managers that, basically, had the inventory and sales data in their heads or on spreadsheets. Advancing technologies have been changing how business processes are: managed, planned, and accomplished – shifting thinking patterns from managing inventory and sales to managing functions and tools within ERP systems. 2017 seems to be the year when a balance will emerge more distinctly; let’s discuss this more by examining 4 ways the cloud improves supply chain planning.

#1. Automation:

Manufacturers and distributors have many working parts to manage within their enterprise systems, including supply chain planning. The real-time functionality of cloud based software brings continuous adjustments, and specified filters determine automated functions to streamline purchasing and order management.

Automatic updates to SaaS, IaaS, PaaS systems also help managers and IT departments focus on strategy, rather than managing systems and tools. Effective supply chain planning depends on real-time numbers from a continuously updated system, including: historical business intelligence, special projects, discounts, engineered to order products, vendor costs, and more.

#2. Enhanced Integration:

Cloud based subscription software is easier to integrate into enterprise systems and gives more functionality with add-ons. This enhanced integration brings more flexibility to businesses with supply chain planning. For instance, if there’s a need for an order management add-on or a custom software solution for a project.

There’s no one size fits all solution for manufacturers and distributors; each business has unique supply chain planning needs according to their: clients, products, systems, and compliance/regulation requirements. Enhanced integration capabilities with cloud based software helps businesses adopt necessary tools and functions with more agility.

#3. Predictive Business Intelligence:

Again, the cloud provides real-time automation, enhancing a business’s ability to predict supply chain patterns and needs. Human intelligence augmented with predictive business intelligence, brings the best of both worlds for supply chain planning.

Planning and strategy have always needed business intelligence from data analysis. User defined formulas combining: past history, present demand, material specifics, and customized options – give managers actionable insights into: inventory, sales, times, costs, and needs, with real-time availability and updates. This streamlines supply chain planning with more precise predictions.

#4. Enhanced Collaboration:

Supply chain planning is a team effort for nearly all manufacturers and distributors, involving: sales teams, warehouse teams, executives, vendors, clients, accounting departments, etc. Cloud based software enhances collaboration between team members anytime, anywhere, and with any digital device. This expands remote capabilities, creates continuous planning development, and gives more tools for collaboration methods.

Modern businesses are using mobile devices to their advantage, at home and at the work place. Remote accessibility is a distinct advantage businesses have when using cloud based software solutions, creating efficiency and flexibility in the supply chain planning process, which is often time sensitive.

Using the expanded capabilities of the Microsoft Dynamics platform, including CRM software, businesses will have multiple methods of collaborating during the supply chain planning process. Cloud capabilities will enhance these tools with remote and real-time functionality, enhancing collaboration methods and planning effectiveness.

Summary

Cloud based subscription software is simplifying business processes and adding functionality with centralized integration. For businesses and organizations with many moving parts and large fluctuating inventories to manage, this is streamlining day-to-day tasks, including supply chain planning.

 

Through automation, integration, BI, and mobile computing, managers now have optimal organizational tools with cloud based software solutions.

Max Q Technologies has certified expertise with Microsoft Dynamics and Acumatics products and can help manufacturers and distributors to: choose, implement, and manage the right software solutions for their unique business’s needs.

We also develop custom software solutions with top developers and industry expertise across all fields. We’re offering to be a comprehensive technology partner with nearly 30 years experience, for businesses that want to take advantage of cloud software for supply chain planning and more. If interested in learning more please contact us today.

 

 


Business Intelligence Software: Benefits to Combining Internal and External Data

Business Intelligence

Finding business intelligence software that gives you a complete picture of everything in your business isn’t always easy to find. It’s one reason maybe you’ve waited to invest in BI software, even though you’re realizing doing too much guesswork about business reality isn’t smart.

In today’s more competitive business climate, not knowing everything about your business can end up hurting you in the long run. All it takes is overlooking one tiny piece of information, and it could snowball into a bigger problem financially.

Going with a “gut feel” about your company should never be a way to envision the future. More so, when customers demand quicker responses in services you provide, you have to make quicker decisions.

BI brings all of this to you, frequently using real-time technology. The problem is that while you may have insight into internal issues, should you also look externally?

When you integrate an internal and external view of your company, you get a wider view since outside situations could directly affect what happens internally.

The Online World as an Outside Source

Placing the Internet into the business intelligence equation, you have a vast digital world to explore in how it affects your business. The challenge behind this is far too much BI software out there ignores data from the Internet.

So much is happening online you need to explore, including your own role in marketing. Social media alone has many areas to explore, including how your content performs there and how people interact during conversations. More so, you can get an idea of which social media channel works the best with your content so you eliminate the ones not working as well.

One danger about social media is spreading yourself too thin and not properly targeting the right demographics. BI can study metrics there, plus other places where you’re not directly involved. For instance, BI could scan industry message boards to see what people are talking about and if they happen to mention your company.

Exploring outside databases from financial or marketing research companies could bring deeper insights as well, though it’s not always easy to gather this or put in a readable form.

Remember, offline environments are just as valuable. Looking at variables out in the real world could end up shaping things more than anything you find online.

Using BI to Understand Nature

You may not think something as simple as the weather could apply to your business, and yet it can when it comes to something like logistics. Getting products delivered on time matters when related to weather.

Studying BI on weather patterns and other acts of nature gives you a better idea of how to prepare and the best days for deliveries.

Metrics on Populations in Specific Regions

As part of your marketing efforts, you want to know what regions to target if doing offline advertising. Looking at the analytics behind the populace you sell to gives you more variables on the neighborhoods they live in, what their incomes are, and even what crime statistics are.

All of these potentially give you deeper insight into the people you market to and how your products help them solve problems.

Socioeconomic Factors in Determining Business Success

If you own a brick-and-mortar business depending on in-person visitors, analyzing socioeconomic factors about your area determines what kind of customers you’ll attract.

Studying this before you even open your business doors gives you insight into where you should locate, or if you need to move to a different region.

Contact us at MaxQ Technologies, Inc. so we can help you with reliable business intelligence software in finding thorough data.


The Superb Combination of Power BI, IoT, and Azure Stream Analytics.

Power BI

If John Greenough, who is a Senior Research Analyst for BI (Business Insider) Intelligence is to be believed, there will be an astounding 24 billion devices comprising the IoT by the year 2020, according to an article by John Greenough and Jonathan Camhi titled How the ‘Internet of Things’ will affect the world.  This monumental development now in play is being called the next Industrial Revolution and is expected to generate $6 trillion worth of spending over the next 5 years.

For the business management or high-tech professional in the line of decision making the question naturally becomes, how is value generated from the use of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of sensors, from automated and internet-enabled machinery on assembly lines, in supply chains and throughout transportation networks, from continuous video feeds emanating from countless intelligent devices, etc.  A big part of the answer lies in turning all of this data into a form that the human mind can readily comprehend.  Herein lies the genius of Microsoft Power BI.

Power BI has about 5 million users and features excellent graphic visuals that turn live data into rich displays.  And Power BI just received an extremely useful and powerful update with the addition of Azure Stream Analytics, which acts as a bridge between Power BI and the IoT.  “By integrating Power BI, Microsoft’s business intelligence and analytics product, and Microsoft’s Azure Stream Analytics, it is now possible to create interactive, live dashboards that offer users an up-to-the-minute overview of their IoT device deployments,” according to a blog by apacciooutlook.com titled Azure Stream Analytics Integrates with Power BI; Converts IoT Data into Real-time Insights.

“Devices are becoming smarter and more connected, and the expectation of what can be done with the data generated and collected from these devices continues to evolve both in the commercial and consumer spaces. Whether you are doing health monitoring, building or home automation, social media analytics, application monitoring, energy management, manufacturing, etc., there are millions of events or messages being generated from devices from which you need to gain real-time insights,” according to comments derived from a speech by Dipanjan Banik, Bryan Hollar, Richard McCormack, Clemens Szyperski, and Todd Van Nurden titled Gaining Real-Time IoT Insights using Azure Stream Analytics, AzureML and PowerBI.  The devices which generate events or messages can include things like internet-intelligent sensors, tracking devices, and alerts in appliances and in machinery, to name but a few of the myriad possibilities.  Of course, there are intelligent cars, airplanes, and even entire ‘smart cities’ currently under development, with an untold number of internet-intelligent devices built-in.

One of the things that makes all of this up-to-the-minute information rendered in the graphical format of Power BI so great is that oftentimes problems can be spotted immediately, greatly shortening the response time.  Ryan CrawCour, a program manager at Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics, states:  “This (adding the power of Azure Stream Analytics to Power BI) will dramatically reduce the latency and time to action on your most important business metrics,” from an article by Pedro Hernandez titledMicrosoft Power BI Visualizes IoT Data From Azure Stream Analytics.  A good implementation can conceivably upload, process, analyse and display all manufacturing and other procedural data instantaneously, regardless of physical location.  So “Intelligent systems enable users to parse vast quantities of data from multiple disparate sources and then display the data visually in a way that helps business trends to stand out,” according to Brien Posey in an article titled Microsoft’s Power BI puts business users at forefront.

In the world of software development, APIs that feed data into Power BI are being built left and right, because “data is exploding and the ability to take that and do interesting things with it so you can provide more productive apps is the opportunity everyone wants to embrace,” according to James Phillips, here quoted in an article by Mary Branscombe titled Embedded Power BI Microsoft cloud apps could all turn into platforms.  Software developers like Carl de Souza, writing in an article titled Why I Love Power BI, Top 10 Reasons, love Power BI because of its ability to easily create great visualizations, share reports, run on a wide variety of mobile devices, refresh data according to schedule, and pull data from many different sources, among other great advantages.

The future is shaping up to be an amazing arena of great challenge as more billions of intelligent devices come online and the data continues to flood in at volumes that are so vast and from so many disparate sources that it boggles the human imagination.  Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics will continue to be right in the thick of this intense and unprecedented wave of development that’s poised to change the world forever.

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Power BI embedded to offer greater compatibility, accessibility

Power BI

Microsoft’s youngest member of the company’s collection of programs for businesses, Power Business Intelligence (BI) will allow for integration into mobile applications.

Microsoft made this announcement during its build conference in San Francisco earlier this month. With the introduction of its embedded capable version of the software, the company hopes that more people, particularly application developers, will be able to use the software. This version will utilize the company’s Azure Stream Cloud service and it is targeted toward independent software vendors.

“You can now take the Power BI data visualization and reporting functionality, and directly integrate it within your own applications,” Scott Guthrie, executive VP of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise business, said during the conference.

Power BI Embedded through the Azure Cloud would be priced in line with other applications that are currently available on the platform.

Power BI was introduced to the Office 365 platform in 2014. It supplies data analytics capabilities and users can create visualizations and data reports across their organization. Guthrie also noted during the conference that application developers can utilize the embedded version without having to require end users to be aware of the software as a part of their application experience.

According to Microsoft, there are approximately five million Power BI subscribers as of March of this year. With this announcement, the company anticipates that user base will grow as access increases.

MaxQ Technologies, Inc. specializes in reselling technological solutions for multiple industries including manufacturing, distribution, consumer goods and professional services. I Feel free to contact us for your business technology needs.

 


Power BI: Fixing Problems

Power BI

If you’re new to Power BI from Microsoft, then chances are good that you’re going to encounter some issues with using the program exactly the way you want. Here are some problems you may encounter as you make your way through the program, including some solutions as to how you can potentially solve them.

Lack of Access to Reports While on the Go

Power BI has been often thought of as primarily a desktop application. In general, the reports that Power BI generated was being read in a thoroughly immobile situation like at your office or in a conference room. But if you need to view reports on the go for whatever reason, the service has recently updated to allow for mobile reading.

It’s available in the Windows 10 mobile app as well as the app for iPhone and reports are that it will shortly appear in the Android app as well. In the app, this is accessible from the menu icon with three lines in the top left corner next to where it says “My workspace,” for example. This involves opening the tile when you’re in focus mode and then hitting the option to open the report you want.

Trouble Forecasting Sales

Using modern computing technology such as Microsoft BI to predict and manage sales is one of the more popular ways to use it. You can do this in Power BI using something called Cortana Analytics. According to the site, this gives you 95% accuracy when it comes to reporting. Once you activate the prediction you gain access to a number of different visualizations such as predictions per person in terms of money earnings so you can see a comparison.

Trouble Comparing Groups in Graphic Detail

There are plenty of tools for doing a very basic comparison between two groups, but if you want a visualization that has a significant amount of specificity. One option is to use the gap analysis visualization that was recently announced from Microsoft. The tool specifically helps show how two groups are different when it comes to multiple different traits and categorizations. That way, you can see instantly whether one group performed better in one particular category over another group, how much better the first group did in terms of the gap in performance, and so on.

This also includes the ability to organizing the gaps however you want, such as showing which category gap between the two groups was the largest.

PowerBI gap analysisDifficulty with Showing Shopping Behavior

Obviously, the crux of just about any business is going to be the shoppers or clients. In the case where shopping is done online or in another information-rich environment, it’s important to focus on the possibility of accurately depicting the behavior of the consumers of your products in visual form. After all, this is often useful for both intra-company external use. One option for doing this inside of Power BI is called the Sankey Bar Chart. The chart makes it easy to show important aspects of the process such as drop-off.

So, when you’re trying to figure out exactly where a major drop-off for your product is, this chart is useful. It works through a bar chart that quickly shows the difference between various stages of any process like your shopper’s user experience. Each of the bars will be connected since each of them represents a different part in the process. The connections between the bars will show what exactly is dropping off. That way, viewers can figure out what the problem is in their process and immediately put effort into correcting the issue. Creating value for viewers is the important thing in the process, after all.

PowerBI Sankey Bar Chart

Data integration Issues

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to easily get all of your data or the data of viewers into the program, one thing that you can now do as of approximately a year ago is combine Excel BI and Power BI Designer. Essentially, Excel is a program you can integrate with Power BI. If you have the 2013 version of the program, you can use Excel Workbooks to publish whatever you want right into Power BI. This also lets you share any analysis, data, or other types of visualizations with other people also using Power BI.

If it so happens that you don’t’ have a version of Excel such as Excel 2013, this doesn’t mean that you’re completely out of luck, however. You can instead use a similar reporter-creating tool inside of the software. It’s possible to import data from other sources this way directly and then model it and publish it straight to the service that Power BI provides.

Lack of Universal Data Access

Power BI now has the ability to allow you to access cloud services directly from it. So, if you previously had difficulty with importing and streaming data due to using a different program or a version of Power BI that didn’t work well with this, you will be able to use these new capabilities

Falling Behind Competitors Due to Time Lapse

Many options for metrics often have a lapse between when you first activate them and when they portray the metric. This is one of the advantages of Power BI, specifically that you can portray everything in real-time on your dashboard. It means that you can fix any issues that come up in your business exactly as they occur without a delay.

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