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Business Intelligence ( BI ) for QuickBooks



Data Explorer Suite is positioned as Business Intelligence software for use with QuickBooks. But what is Business Intelligence software?  Doesn’t QuickBooks provide reporting to satisfy business needs?  What makes Business Intelligence different from the reporting function that QuickBooks provides?

Let us begin with a basic premise – with a better understanding of the metrics of a business, one can make better, smarter, more effective decisions more efficiently. The key then is to provide the wherewithal for business managers and owners to gain that understanding.

Metrics of your business – these are the various measures or key performance indicators (KPIs) of your business such as sales dollars, units sold, profit, number of customers, average sales per customer, sales per employee, etc. The basic data collection of the data used to calculate these measures occurs in your QuickBooks accounting system.

Better understanding – this comes about by having a system that provides an easy to use, easy to learn, easy to understand ability to arrange, filter, query, analyze and report data. Current technology for doing this is called On-Line Analytical Processing (OLAP). Most OLAP systems provide for both tabular (spreadsheet like) and graphical (graphs and charts) representations for reporting and analysis. These systems have a capability for viewing data at a high level (say the entire company) with the ability to drill down to a more detailed level (product category, product, customer, employee, month, week, etc.) with a simple click of the mouse – this is often called Slicing and Dicing.

Efficiently – many smaller organizations have limited staff and therefore feel that they do not have the resources or the time to analyze their business. Counter to that is the adage that you often have time to make the wrong decisions that cause your business to fail.  Isn't a better approach to take the time to make the correct decisions. Of course, resource limitation are real and that is why BI tools for smaller organizations need to be focused on providing the best technology available so that business manager can be efficient as well as effective.

The Wherewithal -
Business Intelligence Defined:
"Business intelligence (BI) is a broad category of applications and technologies for gathering, storing, analyzing, and providing access to data to help enterprise users make better business decisions. BI applications include the activities of decision support systems, query and reporting, online analytical processing (OLAP), statistical analysis, forecasting, and data mining."

To effectively implement Business Intelligence in an organization, each of the four functions named first in the definition are critical – gathering => storing => providing access => analyzing.  A breakdown in any of those steps will limit the ability to perform the subsequent step(s).

Gathering: Fortunately, while QuickBooks has been primarily designed to provide 1) financial recording (bookkeeping), 2) financial account management (bank account, credit account) and 3) financial reporting (tax reporting, etc.), with a certain amount of preparation and care, the transaction recording (sales, deposits, purchase orders, etc.) provided by QuickBooks records the basic data needed for analysis and reporting of a business.

Storing and Accessing: QuickBooks does provide a variety of reports, but the basic organization of the data recorded has not been designed to implement Business Intelligence. So, while the basic components of the important data are being recorded by QuickBooks, the data are not organized or stored in a way to provide the kind of access that makes for efficient and effective use. Fortunately, Business Intelligence technology has evolved to the point where we can access and organize the data using OLAP concepts with PC technology.

Analyzing: Since most business managers are familiar with the basic spreadsheet concepts, implementing BI reporting and analysis using a spreadsheet metaphor makes reporting and analysis quick and easy to learn and to use. BI provides a super set of spreadsheet functionality. Where a spreadsheet is basically cell oriented with a row or a column providing the coordinates for the intersection of a cell, a Business Intelligence approach makes the rows and columns more meaningful and correlates them with the various dimension of an OLAP cube such as Measures, Customers, Employees, Products (Items), Time Periods. While the cells are still very meaningful as the intersection of the dimensions such as Sales Measure for Customer A – Sales for Customer A, the ability to swap or nest the various dimension as rows or columns provides amazing ability for analysis and understanding of the data.

Data Explorer Suite: For use with QuickBooks provides all these Business Intelligence capabilities with the goal of providing a tool for business managers and owners to gain the understanding of the measures of their business - mesures of their products and services, their customers, their employees and their previous decisions - in order to more effectively and efficiently create strategy, create tactics and implement them.