Analyzing Business Processes with Visio in Power BI

Flawed business plans have claimed many victims over the course of history. Think of dotcom bubble companies such as pets.com, which had many ideas to attract attention but none to make money, or Clairol’s milk-infused shampoo, which many customers mistook for just milk (and a terribly disgusting kind of milk at that). One particularly famous ‘bad’ business plan in popular culture is the ‘Underpants Collection’ plan of the Gnomes in South Park’s Season 2 episode Gnomes.  Can we do better with state-of-the-art technologies?

27 juni 2017 by

The Gnomes in the eponymous South Park episode use a simple three-phase business plan in order to achieve their goals. Phase one ‘Collect underpants’ sounds promising and has even been adopted into Elon Musk’s plans to colonize Mars. There cannot be too much wrong with phase three ‘Profit’ either. Clearly, Phase 2 is the weakest link, as it has not even been defined yet.

Luckily, I know my way around business economics and so I decided to take up the gauntlet in defining this phase. In order to do this I’m using Microsoft Visio, as it is perfect for creating flowcharts and diagrams and thus for creating a visual representation of business plans. After some soul-searching, I came up with the following chart. Of course, I am not claiming to do any justice to the rich amount of uses of underpants.

Making things interactive in Power BI

A flowchart like this is nice and all, but how do we know whether the plan is effective once it is implemented? Enter Power BI. Effective since Microsoft’s blog post of last week, the Visio visual for Power Bi is available in preview mode. For it to work, we first need a data set that uniquely lists each step in the business plan. To keep things simple, we use a basic key-value combination table in order to model the data. This model will come in handy once we map multiple days of data to each step.

Of course, we also need data about the execution of the plan. The dataset I gratefully received from the gnomes contains the Step ID and the amount of underpants processed during this step, the budgeted cost / revenue of this step, the actual cost/ revenue, the Actual vs Budget (Gap), and other dimensions such as Day Number and the Team of Gnomes that executed the step.

Now, in Power Bi we map the Visio steps to the database fields and add data to the process boxes: The amount of underpants processed in each step represented as a simple number, and the actual vs budget as color-coding of the box. This way, we can easily see which processes are not performing up to expectations.

And voilá! A Visio visual within Power Bi that is fully interactive with the filters and other visuals within the report. Alas, the Visio visual only works for people with access to the underlying OneDrive that hosts the Visio diagram. Therefore, we made a short video that shows the Visio visual interactions with other visuals. As the video shows, it’s easy to see each team’s respective strengths or to determine whether there has been any progress in optimizing the steps in the plan by clicking through the respective filters.


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