25 Feb Accelerate – Harnessing Data to Provide Meaningful Insights
- Dashboard creation providing significant time savings
- Business insights surfaced at the push of a button
- Increased and improved data on client interaction
- Xero clean up for maximum efficiency
- Data-driven decision making
Accelerate was founded in 2010 and is an Auckland-based Financial Services advisor team helping clients with their insurance and wealth management needs. Their breadth of products and services cover insurance, Kiwisaver, wealth protection and general financial advice. Scott, Jared and Dave are the three Authorised Financial Advisors and Directors at Accelerate, and along with two other staff members the team provides advice and financial peace of mind for their clients.
Accelerate enlisted the help of 5th Green to gain some transparency and efficiencies with their business. Their end goals were air-tight compliance to ensure everyone on the team was working consistently, deep knowledge around where their business was coming from and data telling them where their valuable time was being spent. They wanted to uncover patterns and insights, and felt they needed a trusted expert to get under the hood of their business to look closely at what was going on.
They received regular reporting from their broker network, however this information came from disparate sources and was cumbersome to get meaningful insights from. The Accelerate team had numerous reports and systems they worked from, including various spreadsheets and Xero. However there was a lack of understanding regarding how the information all correlated and this was causing an impact on over business performance. The data was there, but what Accelerate needed was the insights along the way to inform them on how they should pivot, grow and improve their business.
Why 5th Green
Accelerate chose to work with Paul at 5th Green because they were familiar with the dashboards Paul had previously created about COVID19 during New Zealand’s first lockdown and they had seen the detailed example dashboard that lives on the 5th Green website. Accelerate felt they could benefit from a similar level of insight. 5th Green created dashboards in a way that the data and information was understandable and relatable. Accelerate knew the data was available to them in abundance, but wanted help to harness it in a way that brought them some tangible insights and business benefits.
“What we liked was that Paul made our data understandable; he could show us what the patterns were and what the correlations were. He was crucial in the initial phase of fact finding and developing the dashboard.” says Scott.
Having Paul do this work for the team would give them the ability to compare performance to previous periods, allow the setting of targets, and would uncover how the team was operating in real time.
The first step of the process was to sit down with the team at Accelerate and learn about their business to understand how it operated. This included understanding how they booked their income and what the source of that income was.
Accelerate received regular reporting that showed them this data, however the format was confusing and laborious which made it difficult to dissect the information. They needed a way to quickly understand what it was telling them, digest the information, and enter the data into their accounting system, Xero.
Paul’s knowledge, understanding, and the tools at his disposal allowed him to automate a data cleansing process that would give the team what they needed quickly and efficiently. Data cleansing can be time consuming for many organisations, so being able to automate the process speeds this up to allow for more time to analyse, understand and act on the information.
From here 5th Green was able to create a model that could ultimately give the Accelerate directors back their time. The solution was a series of dashboards that surfaced up key insights for the Accelerate team at the push of a button. Now, whenever a report comes in, it’s put into a central folder, and the model is refreshed which cleanses the data the same way every time and quickly updates the team with the latest numbers.
These dashboards provide transparency on customers at any given time, and Accelerate have the ability to run reports weekly, monthly or on an adhoc basis for Director meetings. From an internal perspective, Accelerate directors can see who’s been more active in the business and have more insights available for staff reviews.
“Paul finds sharper ways of doing things. He comes up with the right questions that uncovers the info we want. We didn’t want nice-to-have information, we wanted real nuggets that would inform us on how we should be running our business” says Scott.
The first dashboard was all about financials, and helped Accelerate to review business performance and their Xero data in a more user-friendly and pictorial way. This gave insights at a glance, as well as provided comparisons to prior years , budgets or as a percentage of key numbers such as revenue. This is especially useful for people who don’t have a Finance background and struggled to understand the numbers alone. The visual impact a well-constructed dashboard provides helps to bridge the knowledge gap when looking at data in areas or scenarios that are not necessarily in a person’s normal area of expertise
After showcasing the first dashboard, 5th Green was asked to build insights based on specific data. Rather than looking at data from within Xero, the team wanted to get deeper insights into the fortnightly reports they received, but didn’t have the time to look at each report separately to try to understand what it meant overall. Given each report was hundreds of lines long, trying to get these insights would create nearly a full time job for one person which they didn’t have the resources for.
5th Green took the reports and using available tools, built the model and the dashboard to collate all reports together so that Accelerate could gain insights in a multitude of different variables such as:
- Particular time periods (months, quarters etc)
- Company employees
- Insurance category
- Insurance provider
- Insurance product
- Identification of emerging key clients
The first cut of this dashboard focused on products that were providing the highest income and categories in which each employee was performing the strongest in. Accelerate reviewed the insights throughout and made suggestions on new ones they wished to see. Feedback was an important step during this process, as nobody knows a business better than its owners. So whilst 5th Green was able to provide insights, it was equally as important to have ongoing and open dialogue with the team at Accelerate to ensure that the dashboard insights were aligned to what was important to them as a business.
Paul sums it up in another way “there is little value producing and showing key analytics for a business that will help them design a better red truck if they happen to have a stated goal of making green boats! It is important to align metrics and analytics to the client’s goals and business plan. Failure to do so will result in a client receiving a good-looking piece of work that tells them nothing about what they actually need or want to know”.
Tracking Engagements and Pipeline
It was important for Accelerate to have a deeper understanding of their client engagements; a snapshot of their work in progress that covered all client interactions.
Accelerate operated off a simple yet effective model called a lodgements tool where all engagements with clients were tracked by all staff, and this was used as their CRM. However, over time the spreadsheet began to develop inconsistencies from data input. Furthermore, after using it for a number of years, the team wanted to be able to change it to track additional data points.
After gaining that understanding of requirements and how the data would be used both day-to-day by staff and for management reporting insights, 5th Green proposed a number of changes to the model. These were designed to ensure consistency of data entry regardless of who was entering it and would provide the additional insights that Accelerate were looking for from a client perspective so they could understand their customers better.
A third dashboard was then created once the engagements model was completed and had been used for a few months. The aim of this was to provide insights into the data that was being captured to get a real picture of who Accelerate’s customers were so they could put a plan together on how to better serve them.
Data points that 5th Green built into this dashboard were by:
- Time period
- Client age group
- Engagement type (letter, email, call, meeting etc)
- Existing client v New prospect
As always, further enhancements were made to refine and ensure it was adding value, and in time Accelerate will use this data to build personas, refine their target market and maximise repeat business.
Finding a Few Quick Wins
During this entire project, 5th Green made recommendations on some of the ways Accelerate was using Xero and implemented some key changes that would enhance effectiveness. As Xero experts, 5th Green quickly identified that categorising their revenue by product type within Xero would immediately help with their reporting. Paul cleaned up their accounts within Xero and gave them more granular classifications to ensure they got more meaningful data out of it on the other side.
Accelerate also didn’t have an annual budget to compare their actual performance against so the team agreed some budget parameters that were aligned to their new set up as well as business goals for the year. Paul created a budget based on the assumptions and targets provided, which now allows them to compare actual performance with their expected performance each month.
Upon digging a little deeper into how they were currently booking expenses into their accounts, Paul introduced them to Xero software Hubdoc which saved time by coding expenses automatically. This meant that any future invoices from the same supplier could be emailed to Hubdoc for the software to automatically code them, again creating time savings for the team.
What the Accelerate team has gained from the creation of these dashboards and the other work 5th Green has done is clarity and transparency. Important insights were uncovered. They can measure performance against goals and have access to a higher level of detail that didn’t exist before.
Accelerate is uncovering learnings about their business that they had previously been unaware of and have had assumptions confirmed through the emergence of robust data. As the new financial year approaches, this data will also give them comparisons to previous years for better benchmarking.
Revenue has grown for Accelerate in part due to a third person coming on board, however these decisions were enabled by the deeper insight and planning that came from 5th Green’s work. Data they had access to was not as efficient and streamlined and needed a high level of manipulation before it could glean anything meaningful. Now they can track key data which reveals more insights much faster. Plus their reporting now has consistency; they are experiencing greater buy-in from the team who can understand the data through interactive graphs and as a result are more invested in the outcomes of their work.
The benefits for Scott, Jared and the team as business managers is clear. They now have a clearer and data-driven path to increasing the success of their business with less effort. They can now see at a glance how they are working and how the business is tracking and comparisons from prior periods are clearer, giving them a platform of results to plan from. They can set goals knowing where they’ve come from in terms of costs, revenue and many other metrics, and what is possible going forward.
“5th Green has given us the financial and operational transparency on a visually dynamic platform that we needed as a team to move confidently into the new Financial regulatory framework. Paul has delivered us business intelligence we can actually put into action. We see our relationship with 5th Green as more of a partnership. We look forward to building a stronger relationship and can confidently plan for the future” Scott Campbell, Accelerate
What might a dashboard look like for your business? The possibilities are endless. 5th Green works with business owners and management to determine what’s important and then creates reports and dashboards to uncover those insights. Take a look here at a sample dashboard or if you prefer, read about why we’re so passionate about data here.
5th Green are specialists in Virtual CFO work, Business Planning, Bookkeeping and Business Insights. As they’ve done with Accelerate, they can help your business thrive with sound advice and greater insights. Make the first step to understanding your business on a deeper level – contact 5th Green now for a free strategy session