To succeed in today’s business landscape, accounting firms need to master self-service analytics and business intelligence (BI).
In doing so, they are able to help their clients uncover valuable insights about their financials, enhance processes, improve risk management, understand market trends, and even predict regulatory reactions.
Additionally, robust reporting on internal workflows and performance can help CPA firms gain timely insights to improve operational efficiency and get more done in less time.
But creating a single source of truth so the entire firm can leverage data-driven insights isn’t a walk in the park. Mainly, because these teams are dealing with data from disparate sources without a scalable solution.
You Don’t Have to Build Everything On Your Own
Let’s look at some numbers: Building a data warehouse from scratch can cost at least $60,000. Then, you must add a visualization tool (i.e. Microsoft Power BI) on top to support self-service analytics and reporting.
You may wonder, “I have a practice management system that stores all the data…Why can’t I just run reports from there?”
Running large and complex reports via your production database will negatively impact its performance—blocking application transactions and slowing down the system for everyone. That’s why having a data warehouse and data stack is imperative for firms that want to maximize the benefits of data analytics.
The good news is that you don’t have to build your data warehouse and reporting capabilities from the ground up. We have partnered with IRIS Practice Engine (PE)—an ERP platform for accounting firms—and created a free Power BI starter kit for its Practice Engine Data Warehouse (PEDW) customers.
Even if you’re not a PE customer, read on! You can apply the insights from this post to other practice management tools you use to run your CPA firm.
Self-Service Data Analytics with Practice Engine Data Warehouse
Practice Engine helps accounting firms manage time tracking, billing, scheduling, reporting, client relationships, and expenses all in one place.
PEDW takes the main PE database and creates a simplified version optimized for running large and complex reports via multiple business intelligence tools without impacting the performance of the PE platform or creating conflict with active users.
With the aid of BI tools, you can investigate datasets and communicate insights through charts, graphs, maps, reports, and dashboards to understand the state of the business and leverage data-driven insights to make timely and accurate decisions.
BI tools also help you democratize the use of data throughout the organization with self-service and business intelligence reporting capabilities. Non-technical users can get answers to their questions in real-time without waiting for IT assistance.
In particular, Power BI is our go-to tool for this purpose. The full-suite platform enables business users to connect multiple data sources, transform, clean, and prepare the data, and create dynamic visualization in one place (no other tool can do all those things in one fell swoop!).
A data warehouse sets the foundation for BI and visualization software. It streamlines data preparation, enabling firms to build reports and track critical business metrics efficiently. PEDW takes it a step further with its built-in data modeling capabilities specific to accounting firms so you can easily prepare data for visualization using various BI tools in the ecosystem.
When you combine PEDW with a BI tool, you can explore data, design hypotheses, and get data-driven answers to your business-critical questions cost-efficiently.
The Benefits of Integrating Power BI With Your Data Warehouse
Power BI goes beyond data visualization and pretty pictures. It helps you enable self-service analytics, cultivate a data-driven culture, and stay relevant and competitive with data-driven insights now and in the future.
We have helped many CPA firms integrate Power BI with PEDW to:
- Assess, develop, and execute a Power BI enterprise deployment strategy and support a data-driven business culture.
- Consolidate data administration and governance into a single layer within Power BI to streamline operations.
- Combine PE data with other sources, such as CRM, sales, and IT, to create a single source of truth.
- Ensure data integrity and build trust in data throughout the organization to support a data-driven culture.
- Comply with data privacy regulations while leveraging Active Directory security and Microsoft 365 groups for streamlined report distribution.
- Document data transformation, models, and measures to ensure business continuity and simplify ad-hoc reporting.
- Implement the Agile Data Warehousing methodology to reduce complexity, shorten time to value, and improve risk management.
- Mash up PEDW data with missing data from the main database on a nightly refresh schedule to avoid PE performance issues.
- Implement out-of-the-box and customized Power BI training to drive adoption and increase ROI.
- Enable outside organizations, clients, or board members to access reports to enhance communication and transparency.
Power BI and PEDW: Integration Made Simple
While PEDW can support different BI tools, it works best with Power BI—thanks to its affinity to Star Schema data modeling.
Power BI’s capabilities stretch as wide as they do deep. While it’s great to have a Swiss army knife at your disposal, there’s also the danger of sliding back into the same “Excel hell” you try to escape if you have a proliferation of workspaces, reports, and data models without a cohesive data governance framework.
So how do you set up and administer Power BI to meet your organization’s needs?
SkyPoint CSG has deep experience working with the PE main database and PEDW to help Practice Engine clients implement anything from an efficient kick-start to a full-fledged Power BI platform.
Power BI Reports Starter Kit for PEDW Customers
As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we’ve partnered with Practice Engine to create a set of out-of-the-box template reports that allow its customers to connect and instantiate within their Power BI accounts.
This starter kit is available for free in the Power BI Apps marketplace for existing PEDW customers and includes reports most frequently used by accounting firms:
- YOY Comparison
- Invoicing by Service Type
- Rolling 12 Month Invoices
- Hours, Budget to Actuals
- WIP/AR Aging
- Customer Acquisition
- Staff Reporting
What if We Need More Customized Reports?
Well, this is where SkyPoint CSG, our professional services team, comes in to help you build Power BI reports and visualizations for Practice Engine.
Given our expertise in Power BI and the unique nature of the integration, we can maximize the value of Power BI’s integration with PEDW. We know all the nuances and have worked with the PE folks so the two platforms can work together as seamlessly as possible.
Whether you need customized report solutions or want to leverage other data sources to create a “single source of truth” with organizational data, SkyPoint is the perfect partner.
If you have tried our free starter kit and want to build customized reports, get in touch to see how we can help.
Do We Have to Switch to PE to Integrate With Power BI?
No, you don’t. While PE and PEDW offer a cost-efficient way for most accounting firms to access ERP and data warehousing capabilities at a fraction of the cost, it’s not the only way to leverage Power BI.
We have extensive experience working with accounting firms, and some of them choose to build the entire data infrastructure from the ground up in Power BI to meet their unique requirements. Besides customized reporting, we can also support you with:
- Power BI Data Governance and Strategy
- Power BI data model, DAX, and report development
- Power BI training, mentoring, and custom training content
- Managed BI solutions and services
No matter where you are in your data journey and how you choose to set up your data warehouse and reporting, contact us to see how we can help you find the best way to get the most from your data.