The Heart Research Institute (HRI) have begun to use the Business Intelligence tool Power BI to simplify financial reporting for their scientists.
The internationally recognised medical research institute is based in Sydney but collaborates with 120 international teams and shares its results and findings globally. With Cardiovascular disease (CVD) being the number one cause of death in the world, HRI has a mission to prevent death and suffering from cardiovascular disease.
HRI have two campuses within Sydney, with 250 personnel including visiting scientists, those completing PHD’s, and mainstream scientists. The institute has a major short-term focus for their research, and four long-term objectives, all being achieved via scientific and clinical research work. You can read more about these objectives here. One aspect of this research work that is key to its continued progression is the managing of grants and budgets allocated to the scientists and their work. This is the area in which Power BI is offering advanced solutions.
HRI have been working with Professional Advantage (PA) for the past five years, with PA being their chosen partner for their use of Microsoft Dynamics GP and Paramount Workplace. Critical to the Dynamics GP and Workplace systems is the shared Analytical Accounting (AA) module which enables HRI to assign revenue and expense to each specific grant. Within the last six months, the relationship has developed as PA works with HRI as they become familiar with, implement, and use Power BI.
Power BI is a business intelligence and analytics solution from Microsoft that allows for data to be visualised and for insights to be shared across an organisation. It is fast developing within the medical research field as it offers scientists the ability to monitor their spending and their grant, and therefore their available funds for continued work.
Tim Pinnock, Head of IT at HRI, began his Power BI journey with PA’s training Power BI to the People.
“I initially found out about the training through an email from PA. PA highlighted a connection between GP and Power BI and it was the pushing of this message that convinced me to look in to Power BI further.”
Attending the training with a fellow employee, they were introduced to the tool, covering the basics, and getting the opportunity to ask questions and engage with peers, all without being too specific. It was at the hack day (the next step on from training that allows users to connect with and work on their own data) that the specifics about how Power BI and Dynamics GP could work together were focussed upon.
At this hack day the HRI team worked with the trainer and were able to produce the majority of a report within two hours that would normally take far longer to produce. The significance of this was that it showed the potential to build the report once and then deliver it every month, in contrast to the current process of building the report each month.
There were two main goals for HRI with the use of Power BI:
- To produce financial reports from the data with the Analytical Accounting module in Dynamics GP that make it quick and easy for scientists to understand their progression concerning the financial management of their projects.
- To reduce the administrative burden on the finance team of producing these reports.
“Another goal of the project is to ensure that reports are quick and easy for scientists to understand. The way that a financial person might read and understand a report is very different to how a scientist would. As such, we are consulting with scientists during the build process.”
Once Power BI is fully functional within HRI, the rollout process will be staggered, beginning with a small selection of scientists that can then provide feedback, before moving on to further scientists, and then management.
Currently the process for producing reports involves the finance team drawing them from Dynamics GP and Excel. These reports are monthly, and subsequently quickly go out of date. With Power BI expected to become a key tool for scientists, they will be looking at the ability to draw immediate reports. If you are a scientist and wish to see where you are in your to date grant spending, you can simply sign in to a system that is automatically updated and see your status.
Power BI goes beyond providing scientists with real-time data on their budgets; it is also being used within the fundraising department of HRI. Here they can write reports around new donors, average gifts, and data quality. Whilst only used by one team member in fundraising at the moment, there are plans to roll it out to additional members of the team.
Seeing the potential uses of Power BI throughout the institute is something Tim has been considering.
“We can see lots of application for Power BI in many different places: potentially around grants and contracts management and looking at how successful we are in various areas of obtaining grants.”
There is also consideration about how Power BI may be useful across IT; how it may be used more broadly within their fundraising, with the potential to pick up trends in donations for example; and acknowledging the potential for it within a scientific context.
Professional Advantage look forward to continuing to work with Heart Research Institute to roll out Power BI. We are proud to work with such an important organisation. You can learn more about what Heart Research Institute does here.
For more information about how Power BI can assist the work of medical research institutes, read our blog: Power BI for medical research institutes.