Business Intelligence in practice – for accountants

Welcome to our blog – a regular publication by Mantle, with a focus on business growth, business value, decision making and performance management, in other words, all things that make a business better.  Today’s edition is written by Laura Landmark. 

Business Intelligence in practice – for accountants

Picture it, you are working in a local practice, you have several clients who have heard of Power BI, they are asking about dashboards.


You want to deliver, but you are struggling to keep up with the existing workload, let alone trying to figure out how to satisfy this new hunger for more and better information.

So, one weekend you sit down and research dashboards. Microsoft has a business intelligence / dashboarding tool called Power BI. Even better –  you can download it for free. This is just what you are looking for!  And then the fun starts: you go through a few courses and work with some demo data and get a few nice-looking dashboards up and running.


That was one whole weekend gone, fun but time consuming!

So now you know there are some great tools out there, you have learnt a bit of dax (data analysis expressions – a Microsoft language), and understand the concept of time intelligence. You have made some attractive visualisations. Dax was hard, really hard, but with practice you see there will be progress. You have a keen desire to learn more, and you really want to satisfy your clients. Your colleagues also have clients that are asking for more useful and interesting reports, and dashboards seem to be in demand.

Power BI

You can see that by categorising your clients into their different branches you could create some standard dashboard packages for each branch. This would be an efficient way of creating a baseline to build on for each client.  

These packages could include some standard financial indicators, some sales related indicators and some industry specific KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Trends, benchmarks, key figures, and deviations would all be included, as well as information on the sales pipeline, work in progress & a forecast. 

Being able to provide clients with some useful management information you can drill down into together should promote some healthy discussions about where the business is headed and what opportunities or threats are out there to grab or avoid.

These are great ideas, and very relevant in today’s age of accountants expected to become tomorrow’s trusted advisors. You speak to others in the practice and get buy-in from the senior partners that you can spend a bit of time on implementing your idea.


This is where the challenges begin

You realise that if you are going to standardise and productise a set of industry specific dashboards for clients who are spread over a range of accounting systems there is a big mountain to climb.

You need to figure out how to integrate all this data from all these different systems and make a data layer (or data model) that will enable you to build some attractive and optimised dashboards.  You are not a developer, but you love working with the data, so you start looking into it.




You realise that working with this live data is much more complex than you expected


You spend a few weekends trying and testing a few things, get hold of some data but realise there is a lot of work to do in cleaning it all up and connecting it up so that it is ready for reporting. You realise that working with this live data is much more complex than you expected, there are so many end points and so much that needs to be normalised (made efficient) to get reports running quickly. This is a headache, and this is not what you signed up for! You want to work on the front end creating powerful dashboards and spending time with your clients discovering the real ‘needle movers’ in your business.

What’s more since you already have a heavy workload you are trying to figure this all out in your own spare time. You are a bit fed up now after four weekends in a row, being much wiser, but no nearer to the goal.

Even worse, you lost a client recently who went to a competitor already offering customised reporting and dashboards with a full advisory service. They were apologetic, they have been with you a while, but for a long time they have been expecting more and your practice has fallen short. They said the reporting they currently receive doesn’t give them anything to manage the business on. They don’t need to know that the heart is beating, they need to know if there is a cholesterol build-up any place that they should be acting on. Unfortunately, although the intention is right, your practice is not currently looking much beyond the compliance work, meeting deadlines, filing statutory reports, and calculating the VAT.  



How to unlock the potential of Business Intelligence?

You figure out that there are a lot of other issues too related to creating a BI platform for customised reporting in an accounting practice.  It takes all types of IT knowledge to set up appropriate security and access rights, plus build business logic into the data model, to join data from different sources, schedule jobs, and designing an elegant way of onboarding new clients. Plus figuring out the real cost of all of this.


Ahhh, headache, a can of worms you almost wish you never opened.


Then by chance one day you stumble over us at Mantle.  You realise we are a company that has felt your pain and was established to remove it!

As suppliers of ‘report ready’ data, using our integration & insights platform Uniifire®, we are building integrations configured to return the data in a usable way.  We have embedded Power BI as a reporting component in Uniifire so that you can ‘see’ your beautiful data.


Let us help you save time

Our aim is to drastically improve the speed and quality of the data made available for reporting.The Mantle team have all come from the accounting industry or accounting roles, we understand first-hand the complexities of harnessing and utilising data.  We also understand the potential locked up in all those systems.

The running costs for our platform Uniifire is low compared to employing a full time programmer, and we have a range of skills to bring to the table.  We aim to offer our customers the certainty of a smooth and streamlined experience by being very hands-on at every stage (design / execution / maintenance / wider development). 

We have heard several times over from experienced IT people that creating their own integrations is complex, messy, time consuming and a huge time suck, diverting them away from their core focus.  ‘Never again!’ I have heard many times! 


Integrations, if managed inhouse are difficult for a business

They are resource-intensive, and it takes a while before the company realizes the return on investment. Often there needs to be a decision about prioritizing time, money, and resources as integrations require specialists.  We support businesses who choose not to employ their own inhouse specialists with our team of focused BI professionals including developers – each with their own skillset which combined allows us to tackle any challenge.

We offer our software on a price plan that includes a Care Package which is a bundle of time you can use each month in whatever way you need, you will be able to access all of our specialists, our developers, project managers, BI consultants for development, training, implementation, design, or sales support.  We become YOUR BI team.

This is a unique opportunity for portfolio clients such as accounting practices to get up and running quickly with an elegant and well managed ‘back end’ so they can hit the ground running and focus all their energies on the client. Let us take care of the data and integrations so that you can go out and best serve your clients.  Mantle was born to make life easier for accountants and decisions more intuitive for business leaders.


Uniifire logo



Contact us for more information on how this can look for you.