Most, if not all, of the routine reports you rely on today to understand how your business is performing take time and effort. You wait for updated data to be sent to you from various sources and then you manually update primary Excel files to refresh your KPIs and charts. It’s an ongoing task that repeats continually. Often, the complexity of these reports is difficult to maintain.
At last count, there are at least 20 National Programs profit centers using Power BI to help them slice and dice their data to gain a better understanding of their business. The team is finalizing a Power BI playbook that will help streamline the process and help our companies’ leadership get onboard faster with deeper and better analytics. Recently we sat down with the various teams who work together to launch Power BI to learn what it is and how it’s used in National Programs.
First, what’s Power BI?
BI Architect Chris Kirkman: Power BI is a suite of Microsoft technologies that were combined to allow executives and other decision-makers to gain access to source data in a way that’s interactive and easily digestible.
Director of Data Science Daren Eiri: Power BI provides the data and actionable insights you need without having to manually update and regenerate your reports. More importantly, it takes your reporting needs to a more comprehensive level by easily connecting disparate data systems. It also provides visualization tools to help you more quickly understand trends (or anomalies) and track KPIs. Power BI eliminates complex Excel workbooks and the need to share data insights by email and exchanging multiple file versions.
Data Visualization Engineer Mike McCord: Managing a huge amount of data, Power BI helps you create a story with your data to figure out what’s going on with your business, why it’s happening and what actions you need to take. It also helps you examine “what if” scenarios in your data. The data is updated in near real-time to help with forecasting, to ensure your business is on the right track.
Kelly Spies, Director of Project Management: Power BI lets you visualize all your data it in a different way. So even if you don’t have a financial background, the dashboard makes it easier to digest and see the story of what’s happening. These dashboards are very storyteller focused.
Williams: I’ve also talked with other program leaders who are using Power BI. Here’s what they had to say:
- Power BI liberates your critical business data to be more easily accessible and relatable to the business metrics you need to drive the plan.
- We built a portfolio report dashboard that measures new and renewal business production trends, profitability through various policy characteristics, account history, agency, product sales performance, underwriting rule triggers and policy characteristic segmentation.
- Data can be shared simply and easily throughout your team. It can be easily redirected into charts, presentations, and spreadsheets.
- It provided a platform to dive deeper into root causes and patterns, that we translated into more effective marketing messages. Imagine taking every data point that you capture through quote and rate, policy administration and claims data sets and linking them together.
- Designing early alerts and warning signs into dashboards for our teammates became much simpler, which empowered them to be more strategic in their engagement with agents. We could now tell what products were truly performing and what did not.
How is Power BI being used at Wright Specialty?
Kevin Beer, Wright Specialty Program Leader: Power BI puts the data in the users’ and the business decision makers’ hands. The structure that this talented team has set up gives us access to a lot of data that we knew was out there, but we hadn’t been able to tap into. Now it rolls up into one dashboard. From a very high-level perspective we can now see our KPIs – whether weekly, monthly or annually – to closely monitor how the business is performing. It’s like Excel pivot tables on steroids, with a lot more depth.
Having multiple systems and sources of data made it more difficult in the past to get the kind of accurate metrics and manage the business like we now have with Power BI. At Wright, we have multiple policy admin systems and a separate billing system, which we were able to pull together into one concise report so we can see again how the business is performing.
The dashboard is more of a visual tool, giving you the ability to see things in graphical charts. When you’re trying to monitor the business at a high level, it makes a world of difference.
Before we integrated Power BI, we had to first define the key drivers of the business and what my team and I need to see monthly to know how we’re performing. The team made the dashboard look the way we want it to, so we can see the data and analysis we need, just by hitting a button.
The process also gave us insight into some data and reporting issues we had. Some formulas that worked well for us in the beginning were no longer the best way to view that particular metric. In other words, going through the process of setting up Power BI helps you unearth and solve some of those legacy issues that you’d never know about otherwise.
How does the process to build a tailor-made Power BI tool start?
Kirkman: We offer three levels of Power BI help to our program leaders. Level 1 involves our team doing everything, A-to-Z: build the reports and the handling the underlying data sources. Levels 2 and 3 still involve our team, but the business users are more involved, handling the reporting while we work with the underlying data sets. It just depends on what the business leaders are comfortable with.
Director of Data Science Daren Eiri: This isn’t a one-size-fits-all effort, but each is tailored to that profit center. Depending on how complex your data is and what your data needs are, there are different ways we can tackle the project and allocate teams to ensure we deliver the solution that’s most appropriate.
Kirkman: To start the process, the program leader needs to know what data they’ve been gathering. Having a pre-inventory of their data sources starts us off farther down the path. Then our business system analysts get involved with a pre-analysis. From there we start the final analysis, data warehousing and data modeling to prevent surprises later.
You’ll need to take an inventory of the data that you currently have access to, however insignificant or irrelevant you think it might be. It’s almost like the program leader is providing us with all the ingredients, and our team works to make it into something tasty.
Data Visualization Engineer Mike McCord: Yes, an integral part of the process is the storyboarding sessions where we discuss
- The KPIs essential to the business.
- How the business would like to see the reports.
- Actions the business is expected to take after reviewing Power BI reports.
This helps us structure the report like a story and tailor the report to the business’s needs.
Workers’ Compensation President Becky Pinto: Power BI has allowed us to customize data points of interest and slice data rea-time. It allows for agility in developing reports and enhancing them once developed. And it offers a wide array of layout options at our fingertips.