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.


Cannabis Packaging Gets Sophisticated

As cannabis products and user tastes become more sophisticated,  cannabis package design is following suit. With exotic names and novel products now an integral part of cannabis manufacturers’ retail and marketing strategies, creative packaging has become a way for producers to distinguish their brands.

The packages seen in dispensaries today are a far cry from the plastic sandwich bags that were the common way of distributing marijuana in the days before cannabis became legalized. Legalization also has brought new laws that define what is required and what is disallowed in cannabis packaging.

Childproof Protection

Twenty-four states have introduced laws governing the packaging of cannabis products. While their guidelines may differ, a common factor across all the states’ laws is the requirement that cannabis packaging be tamper-proof and child-resistant. The laws also aim to prevent children from gaining access to cannabis products because of improper labeling and packaging.

The laws prohibit names and imagery on the packaging of cannabis products that would mislead children into thinking the products were intended for children. In Oregon, for example, the state’s Liquor and Control Commission (OLCC) ruled that “kid-friendly” names like “Girl Scout Cookies,” “Candyland,” “Cinderella 99,” and “Charlotte’s Web” were prohibited.

Double Standard

However, as Allie Beckett on marijuana.com points out, these naming prohibitions do not apply to alcohol, a more dangerous substance for which there are numerous childlike brand names on the market, such as “Hello Kitty.” The underlying aim of the cannabis naming laws, she suggests, could be to restrict cannabis producers from using the international trademarks of giant corporations like Disney.

Another requirement among seven states that have legalized cannabis (Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Oregon) is that cannabis packaging must be opaque, with the product unable to be seen until the container is opened. Here too, cannabis is being restricted in ways alcohol is not. Being able to see a cannabis bud’s color and texture is part of its allure, just as a liquor’s color is part of its attraction for consumers.

Creative New Designs

Despite the restrictions, innovative packaging designs are emerging as more top-tier professional package designers get involved. Award-winning designer Edward Kilduff has fielded the Pollen Gear line of cannabis containers that includes glass jars, plastic rectangles, and zipper pouches.

Kilduff said he came up with the idea for his line of marijuana packaging after he learned that many people were using his EVAK coffee container to store their marijuana. What people were looking for were containers that were airtight and childproof. He said he researched the cannabis package design space and found that “there were not any design guys who were creating solutions.”

Elegant and Artistic Designs

Another firm that has developed a distinctive styling for its cannabis brands is Canndescent, which has introduced packaging to match what it calls its “ultra-premium” product line. A guiding principle in the design was to create a clean look that would be less intimidating to new cannabis buyers and attractive enough to entice experienced connoisseurs.

Also taking an artistic approach to cannabis packaging is the 1964 Supply Co., which recruits world-renowned artists to visualize the company’s line of cannabis products that are crafted to provide “a selection of strains to suit every mood.”  The artists supply packaging imagery for products with colorful names like Train Wreck, Super Silver Haze, Blue Dream, and Strawberry Diesel.

Tuna-Style Cans Seal in Freshness

Another cannabis packaging trend that is gaining popularity is the tuna-style can. This type of packaging hermetically seals the cannabis product in nitrogen after removing the oxygen. Oxygen and light are enemies to preserving the freshness of cannabis, and oxidation will degrade the plant material and cause mold, yeast, and other potentially harmful bacteria to form.

Although the tuna-style method has been used in the food industry for many years, only recently have companies like West Coast Cure and N2 Packaging Systems begun to apply it to cannabis packaging. As N2 Packaging Systems CEO Scott Martin points out, preserving the freshness of cannabis in this manner is probably more of an asset to larger-scale producers that want to keep their product consistent as supply ramps up. That way, he noted, the consumer always experiences the product as fresh as the day it was packaged.

Environmentally Friendly Packaging

With marijuana being so closely associated with the social consciousness of the ‘60s, it is no surprise to see the green movement informing the packaging of cannabis. Reusable and biodegradable packaging is becoming more popular not only because of its environmental friendliness, but to save money as well.

Among the packaging companies providing eco-friendly cannabis packaging, Sun Grown Packaging boasts of being the first to file a patent for a recyclable, compostable, child-resistant cannabis package. A cannabis grower that exemplifies the concept of responsible farming is Lowell Herb Co., which has fully embraced the philosophy of organically grown cannabis and all-natural packaging materials.

As we can see, cannabis product packaging has taken a big leap beyond the rudimentary packaging of the counterculture days. As cannabis consumption and manufacturing continue to expand exponentially, we can expect to see a similar rise in the innovation and artistry that is transforming the packaging of cannabis products.

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