Founded in 2003, Alfatech is a Dutch electrical engineering and telecom business with a global customer base. Alfatech prides itself on high-quality work across many sectors: from retail to automotive and from banks to defense. Alfatech employs a people-centric, personal service and seeks to feel what technical needs exist in its clients’ workspaces. It responds to this with concrete, pragmatic, and sustainable solutions.
Bas Verweij has been the CFO at Alfatech for the last 10 years. Verweij and his team are responsible for all the financial processes and reporting, working closely with Microsoft Business Central ERP data. But as the company has experienced consistent growth, its scope has expanded to support more management reports and dashboarding to improve data oversight.
“Alfatech has two main branches, building-related installations and telecom infrastructural projects,” said Verweij. “On the install side, we work with clients like ABN AMRO, government defense, and the police force where we focus on visual projects for security systems, IP data and security. Our telecom work focuses on indoor and outdoor installations of telecom equipment for the three major national service providers.”
All the Data, No Way to Use It
The telecom industry is characterized by the number of projects running concurrently, with a big variance in project scope. Alfatech has hundreds of projects on the go at any one time, each with its own stream of data. Verweij’s team was flooded with data they didn’t have the tools to process or analyze in an efficient way.
“Currently, we have more than 1000 active projects we are managing,” said Verweij. “Consolidating this data in a meaningful way was a big challenge for us. Security and compliance were also a big focus for us. We had to carefully consider how we would guard all this data.”
Alfatech had successfully used Jet Reports for years, but as it grew, so did its revenue data needs. With so many projects in progress, Verweij was struggling to make the monthly figures in time and forecast Alfatech’s revenue. Administrative delays and slow data extraction from multiple data sources meant that it might take weeks for Verweij to gather accurate data on the progress and forecast of all projects .
“We would have projects sitting in our system with invoices out, that were still waiting for approval. We had no overall view to tell us the progress of these projects. That is just one example. If we had a question, there was no easy way to find the answer. We’d have to go into Excel and extract the information manually to check the data quality and find the source of any discrepancies. That takes time and often we didn’t end up doing it. We would settle with analyzing the processed items. We were always working behind our data, which is not a good look for any finance team.”
Without a purpose-built analytics tool, Verweij’s team were not able to use data around invoices out or unbooked amounts to get the depth of insight required to act quickly.
There was a real need for a set of standard analyses to allow project managers to monitor the progress of their projects. Previously, it was only possible to monitor the projects through a set of standardized lists. Now Verweij’s team can merge and prepare the data in such a way that project managers can see top-down into their projects, offering strong overview of their projects and easy access to zoom in on the details.
A Partner in Need
Verweij consulted with implementation and BI partner Dynamics4Business to find a solution that would fit his needs. He needed a solution that could:
- Give his team control and consistency over all data streams
- Offer easy self-service of analysis, even for non-technical users
- Report across multiple data sources
- Store data in a pre-built data warehouse
- Boost the depth and accuracy of Power BI visualizations
- Reduce his team’s reliance on IT
Dynamics4Business (D4B) is a fast-growing Microsoft Gold Partner in the Netherlands, delivering software solutions based on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central. Hans Schepers, a Senior BC and BI Consultant at D4B with 17 years of Jet experience, was ready to help Alfatech find the data answers it sought. A hands-on partner, D4B takes a pragmatic and goal-focused approach to helping its clients. Its project methodology revolved around regular contact, equipping end-users with the knowledge for long-term success.
Given Alfatech’s experience with Jet Reports, D4B suggested Jet Analytics, a solution that would allow staff to remain within a familiar Jet interface, while adding new functionality. D4B was confident in the suggestion as they had implemented it successfully with numerous other clients with similar data woes.
“I was quickly convinced that Jet Analytics was the right solution for us,” said Verweij. “D4B pulled together a proof of concept, showed us how it all worked, and I was sold. I enjoyed that I could see ‘not yet booked’ and ‘not yet responsible’ projects, alongside approved work. It also seemed like it would be an easy installation process and our team could get up and running quickly.”
Rapid, Low-cost Implementation
A plug-n-play solution, Jet Analytics was integrated quickly, combining data sources and boosting reporting efficiency for Verweij’s team.
“Implementation of Jet Analytics was quick and efficient,” said Verweij. “Within three weeks, our team could easily do the basics. Then we spent some time building custom tables and tailoring the system to our specific needs. Now we have a robust data warehousing system and real-time oversight of business actuals.”
“I’d go as far as to say that the process was even pleasant,” said Verweij. “Some of the technology is complicated for me. But I didn’t have to worry with Dynamics4Business and insightsoftware in my corner. We’d look at the whole structure together and they would help me build reports. Slowly I took over and now I feel completely in control.”
Exponential Value: Jet Report plus Analytics
Comprehensive Vision of the Future
The number one advantage of Jet Analytics for Verweij was the ability to combine and streamline multiple data sources. With so much data flowing in from all over the business, Jet Analytics could ensure the data was clean and correctly formatted. His team saved two weeks off the monthly reporting process with accurate, current data from across the business.
“On a high level, a big priority for my team is steering the business on costs,” said Verweij. “With Jet Analytics, we don’t have to wait for customers or IT to update our reporting, we have a clear vision of the future. Now we can generate the insights to help business leaders take early action, before the consequences escalate. The real advantage is that we can now create reports that we couldn’t before. Combining and defining data offers insights and gives us the opportunity to respond much faster, almost in real time, to the current figures.”
Untainted Cash Flow Data
With hundreds of projects on the go at any one time, Verweij’s team struggled with an inconsistent view of working capital. Reliant on customers and staff for data administration, the team was uncertain of the state of each project. This, combined with a manual ERP data extraction process, meant that cash flow reporting and forecasting suffered greatly and was only done once a month.
“My team’s reporting work would begin once a month when all projects had been checked and assessed. We would discuss portfolios with project managers and update our reporting accordingly. We would have incomplete bookings floating in our system that we could only investigate with very tedious manual processes.”
Before Jet Analytics’ data warehouse, Alfatechs data was clogged with uncertainties. Now, discrepancies are highlighted and dealt with quickly. Verweij’s team can see which project managers or customers are causing data delays and have productive, informed conversations to rectify the problem.
Easier Customization of Power BI has Boosted Staff Engagement
Up to date, accurate data has also boosted staff engagement with Power BI. They start to see the value in more consistent performance insight. Jet Analytics is so simple that with just a bit of training, even non-technical staff can confidently perform their own analysis. Alfatech’s business leaders love Power BI and get even more value from the visualizations now that they are connected to real-time data.
“It took a while to get users excited, but I would just ask them questions about what they wanted to see more of,” said Verweij. “Once I had identified their needs, I could solve their problems with Jet Analytics and Power BI. Slowly they started to realize the potential of this technology. Jet Analytics is so easy to use that now I have several users generating their own analysis. They can re-use the same reports for many purposes. You can make multiple cubes with different cross-sections from the same source of data. All without really having to do a lot of tinkering in Power BI.”
“Up-to-date information, refreshed twice daily, is invaluable to our project leaders, who used to only get these insights once a month. They can immediately see what has been booked and what is still out. They can assess those differences and act on them with confidence.”
Jet Analytics Supercharges Finance Tooling for Alfatech
Having spent many years successfully utilizing Jet Reports, it was an easy decision for Alfatech to add the capabilities of Jet Analytics to its toolbelt. Armed with accurate, streamlined data, Verweij’s team can effortlessly report across the business’s full portfolio of projects.
Jet Analytics is a complete data preparation, automation and modeling solution that is five times faster than hand coded solutions and can be managed in-house. It adapts quickly to changing business needs, to ensure you always have consistent, timely, accurate data that you can trust, making it easy to deploy your front-end visualization tool (Power BI, for example) or reporting tool of choice.