Harmonizing and automating reporting structures of different entities within a holding
These days everything is about automating processes and simplifying our lives with the help of technology. Manual work is replaced by automations, and human skills and resources are being used for more than the monotonous tasks. This is how we evolve, from one phase to the other.
In business intelligence evolution is not linear. Automating reports and outputs, visualising data in an automated way is more than merely replacing manual processes by automated ones. It is reinventing the processes, to reduce or eliminate the risk of manual errors. It is finding other, smarter ways to get to the same results. It is not stopping at achieving the same results, but going even further – expecting more transparency, creating better processes, saving more time, getting more effective with every change we implement.
In our work with our client, we looked at their existing manual processes, we observed and analysed the ways of working they used to have and figured out a way how to automate their reporting systems to serve them. We helped data to help them achieve more.
Our client looks back on decades of successful track record of developing IT administrative services, specifically in the healthcare industry. Its organisational setup, due to the complexity of the various interconnected companies and business entities of the group was making the high-level reporting time-consuming and clumsy. The different needs, the differently implemented reporting systems, the lack of real-time aggregation of the available data caused unnecessary extra work for the top management when it came to displaying and interpreting group-level financial data.
What we achieved
The ultimate purpose of the project was to create transparency among the different business entities’ reporting and financial systems of our client so that we can replace the time-consuming and at times differently interpreted data sets coming from various legacy systems and reporting concepts.
The biggest challenge of the project was to make sure that we create a solution that saves time for the management without creating extra work for the employees. As our client operates as a holding, the diversity and complexity of the different entities also leave their mark on the reporting. By default, the entities of the group operate separately with their own management, own ERP and reporting – but at times they provide services in a joint way, and they share resources as well.
The cross-company internal reporting was time-consuming and inefficient, done in a manual way, leaving a lot of room for human errors and misinterpretation. It used to take valuable time away from the management, and the results were lacking precision, transparency, and clarity. Each data source – coming from a different entity – had their own logic and clarity, but the aggregated data couldn’t show the required consolidated results. As the data sets were prepared for the regular monthly overviews, there was no way of checking consolidated data at any other point of the month – thus the management had to always rely on single snapshots instead of near real-time or comparable data sets. Due to the lack of data actualisation the perspective of historical data, comparison of different periods and viewing trends were not part of the reporting and planning process.
In the project we used Microsoft Power BI and Power Query, from data coming from the entities’ own ERPs and backend SQL servers – with similar structure but different source.
During the process we first observed and analysed how the current reporting structure is done – to pinpoint the weak links and the possible sources of failure. Within this period of consultancy, we recognized what parts need to be automated and where the manual inputs need to be challenged to deliver the right results. Eliminating the human errors and recreating an algorithm that serves the management needs was our goal – that we managed to do in several rounds of iteration.
As a result of the implementation, we load the data sets directly from the individual ERPs’ SQL server directly into the POWER BI platform. We concatenated the different transactional data coming from the individual ERP systems and consolidated the base data elements to create a unified data model for all entities and all reports. According to the required accounting practices we enriched the invoicing item lines with the billing information. The invoicing information used to be created by a variety of complex rules and calculations. When displaying the data, we created a space for the overview of periodic accounting, but we also delivered reporting views with raw data and data altered with corrections.
The monthly reporting is now done in a transparent and easy to handle way. By this, the members of the management spend significantly less time with the preparation of the reports and with controlling and approving them. The reporting became more precise and efficient, allowing all actions and trends to be observed without distortions, free from various interpretations – even in the case of more business entities being involved. Moreover, as it is usual with BI projects, we managed to create several side-effects to facilitate the overall handling of the business and created a development idea pipeline for further reporting projects.