Case Study: Automatic Controls Modernizes Reporting with Power BI
Automatic Controls Equipment Systems (ACES) leadership had designated their legacy financial reporting system as end-of-life. In addition to modernizing financial reporting, ACES identified a need to integrate multiple stand-alone applications into their analytics platform. Mallory Brentlinger, Operations Manager, was tasked with leading these changes with the end goal of democratizing information across the organization.
Prior to partnering with GadellNet, ACES operated from a legacy Microsoft Access database, built solely for financial reporting. Data and reporting related to other functions required individually accessing each additional application the organization used. This reporting approach presented the following challenges:
- Disjointed and difficult to correlate data points across functions
- Collaboration required sending Excel files to consumers via email
- Manual data extracts were required often, wasting valuable IT and Admin resource time
- Slow feedback cycle amongst Management team
- Minimal automation
- Mobile access was nearly non-existent due to the challenge of viewing spreadsheets on mobile devices
The first priorities were to automate the financial data pipeline and transition to Power BI as the company’s primary visualization tool. GadellNet implemented an existing data warehouse tool built specifically for their QuickBooks Pro accounting system. This tool not only automated the data pipeline via simple configurations, but hastened delivery of reporting and resulted in increased time savings ROI.
Next, we addressed the goal of integrating the additional systems to provide more robust insights. To accomplish this, we leveraged Stitch, Azure Data Factory, Logi Apps, Power Automate and Azure PostgreSQL to create a platform the entire organization would use to access trend data related to financials, job performance, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, marketing performance and more.
“Our approach added much needed automation to the data acquisition process, removing many hours per month of manual effort,” says Adam Steht, Director of Business Intelligence at GadellNet. “These technologies are accessible to everyone. What is most important is the way we implemented them. We strive to implement simple, low-maintenance data pipelines. This allows us to focus more on the value of our output – the end user facing piece of the puzzle.”
“We have reliable, updated daily, data that’s in alignment with what we need,” says Brentlinger. Adding automation allows for the time historically spent acquiring data and crunching numbers to be reallocated to other areas like getting partners out in front of their business. “We don’t have to dig and mine and scrub and export,” she says, pointing to time savings as the leading Return On Investment for the project.
Key wins include:
- Speed to insights – Financial reporting is correct and automatically refreshed daily.
- Better customer interactions – Warranty-expiration notices are sent to the sales team prior to expiration dates so contracts can be renegotiated prior to incidents.
- More proactive/less reactive – Forecasting and projecting future business became a reality.
- Self-service reporting – Team members have access to information that feeds their autonomy.
- Visibility to new information – The solution no longer contains only financial reporting.
- Improved communication across teams – Management has a new vantage point of total business.
With the bottleneck removed from data access, Brentlinger now spends time evaluating what the team wants to see and how they are going to use it. She has found that not every data request requires a new report, but instead, it requires access to and training on, Power BI, which contains already built reporting.
The project morphed into a long-term partnership between ACES and GadellNet. Our team continues to drive value by sourcing critical data and developing new insights within Power BI. Beginning with the end in mind allows for increased automation and system integration resulting in swift answers to important business questions.