Naunghton Williams
Naunghton Williams Analyst

How you can make an awesome dashboard without data warehouse infrastructure

Data analytics tools are now more accessible than ever to new users without a data analytics background. Analytics tools assess business metics like turnaround times, churn, website hits, patients, and marketing reach, in addition to classical financial reporting. Various small to medium size businesses can benefit from modern analytic tools to transform and accelerate their activities.

 

Power BI is a business analytics service by Microsoft that provides interactive visualisations and BI capabilities with a simple interface. I have chosen this tool for this demonstration because of its low barrier to entry. Power BI has a free desktop application with no credit card or sign up required. New users are able to take advantage of the tool before committing to licenses. Therefore, small businesses are immediately able to start exploring their data and make visualisations as simple or complex as they need.

 

With a background in data analytics, I will demonstrate how to make an awesome dashboard without data warehouse infrastructure. Using Power BI, I will share three levels of experimentation with increasing levels of complexity.

Level 1: Loading and visualising information from other software systems

Do you currently use spreadsheet reporting? Power BI migrates Excel reports to dynamic Power BI reports that can easily be shared with your business. Microsoft explains here how to connect to extracts that you pull out of a source system.

Level 1 is primarily focused on data visualisation for increased visibility for the whole business. An example of this is showing all your sales data out of a sales management system. Here’s how you can get started with charting your data.

At this level, it may be daunting to learn how to build visualisations in Power BI once your extract is connected. Power BI has a useful Q&A feature that allows you to ask simple plain language questions and it will attempt to answer your question with a chart. This means that if you are a small business and you have reports run out of Excel or your current systems allow for Excel or csv extract, you can use Power BI to automate a lot of manual steps to get your reports in a readable format. 

Level 2: Combining two or more data sources from different systems.

Power BI also makes it easy to bring data from different places and join them together without the need for a data warehousing system. At Level 2, we are talking about one sales table and one customer table. This allows you to not only show information from a system but also enrich it with other information that is stored in another system. At this stage, it would be good to have an idea of how data joins together and the benefits that can come from it. Here’s how you can start creating relationships between tables. 

We’ve seen businesses like hospital entertainment providers load and visualise their business data from their ordinary business tools and systems like Xero, Microsoft excel, and Hubspot CRM to perform simple analysis such as understanding their real-time ops performance, and patient engagement and impact performance.

This means that now, instead of just looking at what your accounting or CRM systems outputs, you can now start creating real-world problems with your data and identify the next points of improvement for your business. 

Level 3: Complex analytics models that show multiple business insights on a page. 

By now, it would be worth building a data warehouse. However, these tasks can mostly still be done in Power BI. We are not just combining datasets from systems but also manipulating it to display your data in a variety of ways. Microsoft explains how you can start transforming your data with Power BI. The final demonstration linked here, is one we have done for a business in the retail industry. On our overview page we have manipulated the data to allow metrics from different areas of the business to be comparable on similar scales. 

At this stage, the more complex manipulations you want to perform, the more experience you will need in data manipulations and translating a world problem into a data model. It is possible to perform all the transformations in Power BI if you choose to, but you will need to create a pseudo-pipeline for manipulating your reporting dataset. This can become messy and only the output data model is reusable. For this reason, it is normally preferred to use purpose-built pipelining/data warehousing tools for large scale manipulations as some intermediary steps can be reused by other business units.

Instead of answering general questions about your business and receiving answers that need to be interpreted, you can now build your own company’s business logic into your dynamic reports. This saves time, limits the number of potential mistakes that could arise when processes were done manually in the past, and allows you to answer very targeted questions or stories you want to tell about your company. 

Voila!: Here’s how we can help 

If you feel like you are at any of these levels and you want help optimising your business processes at your current level or, you want help integrating your systems to then move to a higher level, feel free to reach out to us! We’re always happy to discuss your requirements and help find the right solution for you

If you’d like to explore other live demos, feel free to visit our ‘Aginic Playground’, a free demo portal highlighting some awesome projects we’ve delivered across different technology stacks. 

Until next time..happy dashboarding!

Get in touch with Naunghton Williams

Business graduate now data analyst. Born in England and raised in South Africa. Passionate about working collaboratively to solve complex problems and also eating until I fall into a coma. I enjoy working at Aginic because of the emphasis on learning and being very friendly and inclusive.

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