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Financial Reporting and Accounting Blog

How Much Does Business Intelligence Cost?

Adam Jacobson July 30,2015

As a small business owner, I know the importance of understanding costs before starting projects. For example, you may have the best marketing system since sliced bread, but I’m still not going to spend $15K in one go. The risk is too high.

My clients, on the other hand, are all much larger than my company. They generally range between $50 million and $500 million in revenue. (Although we’ve done a lot of departmental level work for multi-billion dollar companies—and their finance folks.) But even they want to know what a business intelligence project is going to cost before they invest. (Finance executives tend to be risk averse. They hope for a return, but mostly they want to know the size of the hit if it doesn’t work out).

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Tags: Business Intelligence Costs

How Much Does a Data Mart Cost?

Adam Jacobson July 28,2015

You’ve undoubtedly heard of data marts and data warehouses. And perhaps you’ve wondered about building one or both for your own company. But you haven’t looked into it yet because you have no idea how much they would cost.

In this post, I’ll walk you through a project we recently completed for a client, where we built a simple data mart. At the end, I’ll include estimates of what you could expect to pay for a similar data mart project.

Data Mart vs. Data Warehouse

Before we start, let’s clarify the difference between a data mart and a data warehouse:

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Tags: Data Mart Infor SunSystems

Calculating Business Intelligence ROI: Four Examples

Adam Jacobson July 7,2015

Research the topic of business intelligence ROI, and you’ll find a huge range of estimates. Some promise a whopping 1300-percent return (!), while others vaguely promise “soft benefits,” which means they have no idea.

We can only speak to the issue based on our experience as a small firm of business intelligence consultants. The cost side is fairly straightforward to calculate, and we’re working on a series of posts on how much everything we do costs. (If you’re interested, sign up for the newsletter (see the box to the right), and we’ll keep you posted.)  

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Tags: Business Intelligence ROI

More Financial Data Visualization Options

Adam Jacobson June 29,2015

After reading our latest posts on data visualization, Russ Davidson from www.findaccountingsoftware.com pointed me to a post on various kinds of visualizations by Adam Bluemner, 7 Alternatives to the Bar Graph and When to Use Them in BI Reporting, and asked for my comments. 

Bluemner gives a good overview. Indeed, I’m probably the audience for the post as I probably use bar charts and line charts excessively. That’s not necessarily bad—my customers are financial folks after all. Many are just getting started with visualization so it’s best to keep things simple.

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Tags: Data Visualization

Financial Data Visualization Key #3—Argue Against Yourself

Adam Jacobson June 24,2015

Having read so far in this series on financial data visualization, you’ve learned not to put too much data into your charts and to beware of false variances. So, you may have created some good data visualizations and hopefully sparked the interest of your users. They may even have started asking questions. But our job as business intelligence consultants isn’t done. Indeed, just when you think you’ve spotted a meaningful trend, you need to push further and ask—is this really as meaningful as it seems?

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Tags: Data Visualization

Financial Data Visualization Key #2—Beware of False Variances

Adam Jacobson June 19,2015

I hope after my previous post, Financial Data Visualization Key #1—One Chart Can't Tell the Whole Story, you’ll know better than to cram too much data into a single chart. But that’s not the only problem you’ll face.

Data Visualization Mistake #1—Choosing Incomparable Time Periods

The following is a true story. To protect the guilty, I’ve changed the scenario to hotel bookings, instead of what we were actually measuring.

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Tags: Data Visualization

Financial Data Visualization Key #1—One Chart Can't Tell the Whole Story

Adam Jacobson June 9,2015

As I mentioned in an earlier introductory blog post, as business intelligence consultants, our clients often ask us to go beyond numbers to create charts, graphs and other visualizations. Our clients recognize that sales folks and executives (and others outside of finance) do better with charts than pages of numbers.

As we work with our clients to create these visual tools, it becomes apparent that those who’re accustomed to creating reports struggle when it comes to designing charts. And here’s one reason why: They try to tell the whole story.

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Tags: Data Visualization

From Reports to Visuals: 4 Keys to Financial Data Visualization

Adam Jacobson May 21,2015

A friend commented on a recent LinkedIn update about our series of posts on cost effective business intelligence. His comment specifically pertained to Part 5—Think Reports First. He wrote:

Nice piece, Adam. But the visualization part is what gets everyone engaged....

That’s true, and I believe strongly a picture is worth a thousand numbers. But at the same time, to be cost effective, we still spend MOST of our time writing reports. Therefore, when choosing a tool, it’s best to start with “reports first.” And if you do want to “go visual,” you can start with the tools that come with SSRS or Excel.

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Tags: Business Intelligence ROI

Following up on Building a Sample Data Warehouse

Adam Jacobson May 19,2015

Some time ago, we wrote about building a simple data warehouse to replace Lawson’s HR170. As our experience grows, we’ve learned a few additional lessons we thought we should share:

1. For your initial build, start with your current data and role backwards

Recently, a client “remembered”—once we began testing—that they’d turned off the “create history” flag during initial conversion. Therefore, the simple “look at HRHISTORY’ logic wouldn’t work. We tried various workarounds and ended up with a very complex program, without the exact results we would have liked. So, in the future, we'll take the approach of “start with today" (which should be clean) and role backwards through time. When you lose a value, you can remove it from your database for that time period.

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Tags: Data Mart

SSRS vs. Crystal Comparison

Adam Jacobson May 18,2015

In reviewing our website, we found that this post was getting lots of hits. The problem is the information is no longer up to date and, therefore, not very useful.

Over the past several years, we’ve migrated our business more and more to supporting Microsoft Stack. While we still write comparison posts (e.g. PDF vs. Excel—Does a PDF Really Secure Your Data?), we spend most of our time creating content that relates to our current business focus.

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Tags: SSRS

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