Role of Data Visualization Tools in Business Operations

By Mark Pritchard, CFO, Data-Mail

Mark Pritchard, CFO, Data-Mail

Emergence of Data Visualization Tools

At Data-Mail, we handle significant amounts of data related to our client’s customers to enable appropriate direct marketing. The last two years were spent on modernizing and systematizing many manual and repetitive processes related to finance. Microsoft Power BI, a data visualization tool along with other additional software has allowed us to handle data in a more systematic manner than previously possible. Traditionally we relied on paper-based financials that had to be printed and distributed physically across all the departments in the company, which was a time-consuming process. Power BI in conjunction with LucaNet’s solution for financial consolidation& data restructuring has provided our data to us in a more manageable form. Consequently, paper-based financials have transformed into digital reports, allowing managers faster access to information.

"LucaNet’s solution for financial consolidation has structured our data in a moremanageable form; Power BI has enabled us to maximize visualization of that data"

Identifying the Right Partners for Technological Needs

At Data-Mail, we have many disparate systems, including an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that has always proved a challenge to interrogate for non-standard reporting. To manage the underlying tables and extract data from the ERP system, we are leveraging LucaNet’s solution to format data into a structure that makes more sense. The data is analyzed to improve business for the company. ERP systems require constant renewal and place a huge risk and drain on company resources. We have leveraged Power BI and LucaNet’s solutions to extend the lifetime of our ERP system. When the question arose about why one of our areas was suffering from high overtime costs, we were able to pull up a dashboard, containing information of individual employees. These new solutions provide comprehensive information that helps divisional managers to resolve issues quickly.

Replacing Microsoft Excel with Microsoft Power BI

An article published in 1984, stated that business leaders who displayed the ability to use Excel and other spreadsheets would have the power to become business leaders in the future, because they would have the knowledge to analyze data. Similarly, dashboards and other software are beginning to replace financial spreadsheets, due to their organization capability and visualizations to deliver better insights. Traditionally, we took data from multiple sources, entered it into Excel, analyzed it and then presented reports. With Power BI, everything is integrated into one system, resulting in significant time and resource savings.

Ongoing Projects and Initiatives

Recently, our accounts payable department was facing difficulty managing our FedEx invoices. The department would take weeks to match paper invoices to reports, as it was done manually. We worked with our FedEx representative (who proved to be an excellent partner) to introduce a system that took five minutes to complete billing analysis & posting. We also applied the system to our warehouse management and financing departments to increase efficiency and save resources.

Leadership Strategy at Data-Mail

At Data-Mail, we want everybody to reach his/her true potential. To achieve that, we try to provide opportunities where the person can recognize their abilities and talents. For example, we had an employee who excelled at handling information and understanding system processes properly. Therefore, we transferred him to business analytics and in the past six months, he has become an expert in building Power BI dashboards. His motivation is apparent from his performance and that is something we try to do for everyone in the organization.

Advice for CFOs Embarking on a Similar Journey

The role of a CFO is about driving operational efficiency, which requires a strong technological background. Force yourself to be comfortable with handling data because that is what the CFOs job consists of. Along with the technical skill of data handling, you require the ability to lead your team and guide them.