QuickBooks is a good product for capturing business data, but if you want to be successful and grow a business, you need to take your business data and analyze it – not just “print reports.” You have to dig into the depths of your QuickBooks data and pull out detailed analyses of your financial and sales data. Let’s take a look at an interesting product that does that for QuickBooks desktop users, BizTools Analytics.
BizTools Analytics works with QuickBooks Desktop data to provide you with complex financial and sales analytics, helping you gain insights that will improve your business performance.
If you’re a business owner, you need a tool like this to go beyond the basic financial statements and sales reports that QuickBooks provides. QuickBooks by itself gathers data and generates your basic reports, but it doesn’t really provide you with any insight into where your business is headed.
If you’re an accounting professional, this can be a key tool to help you become a “trusted advisor” to your clients, growing beyond basic bookkeeping and accounting tasks. Your clients need this kind of business intelligence, and you can help them grow by using BizTools Analytics to provide insights.
BizTools Analytics leverages the power of Microsoft SQL Server 2012 (STD edition) to provide business intelligence/analytics technologies typically used by enterprise-scale organizations, accessing data from your QuickBooks Desktop database. In addition to working with individual QuickBooks files, it has an excellent consolidation feature to work with multiple QuickBooks company files. It includes over 25 financial Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and sales metrics and provides native Excel integration to help you prepare ad hoc financial analysis of your business or your client’s business.
Installation and Setup
I won’t go into all of the details on the installation process – it’s lengthy and complicated if you haven’t worked with this kind of product before. Note that BizTools provides an installation service for a very reasonable fee, and I highly recommend you consider paying for this. BizTools also has done a lot to automate the process as much as possible, but there’s only so much they can do when you consider the tools they’re using.
Please note that this is a desktop product, working with QuickBooks Desktop data. Your data stays local on your computer system (or local network); it isn’t being copied into a cloud server.
A lot of the power in BizTools Analytics comes from its use of Microsoft SQL Server 2012 – and this is a full version, not an Express or simplified version. While that provides power, it leads to a more technical installation. As much as possible, BizTools tries to automate the process or lead you through step-by-step. The majority of the installation process was handled automatically, although the process does take a long time. The installation process starts with the BizTools Analytics Install Checklist shown in Figure 1. There were some steps in the process that didn’t seem all that obvious to me, as I don’t have experience with Microsoft SQL Server installation. In my case, the installation was handled by a BizTools representative, which worked very well. Unless you’re on a tight budget, the low fee BizTools charges for installation is a great option.
Figure 1: BizTools Analytics Preinstall Checklist
One of the key features of BizTools Analytics is the ability to create a “consolidated group,” which is a way to analyze information from multiple QuickBooks company files together. One problem you run into with some analytics/reporting products is that to do this, you need a uniform chart of accounts so that the information from each company file can be compared on the same basis. BizTools has addressed this in a very flexible way, with a standard “account categories” structure your data is imported into, which makes consolidation extremely simple. Figure 2 shows an example of their account category structure and how it maps out to QuickBooks.
Figure 2: BizTools Account Categories
In the setup process, BizTools will take care of most of the mapping of your QuickBooks Chart of Accounts to the Account Categories automatically for you. There are some accounts that can’t be automatically mapped, so you’ll do that manually, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: Mapping BizTools Analytics Account Categories to your Chart of Accounts
The program will periodically import your QuickBooks data into the analytics database. This means that your data might not be completely up to date, but I think this is the best approach because Intuit’s programming interface is inefficient and slow. All QuickBooks analytics products I’ve worked with handle this the same way, by periodically going to the QuickBooks database and bringing your information over to the add-on’s database. BizTools lets you schedule this so that the refresh can be run overnight, which can be particularly useful if you’re an accounting advisor working with files for multiple clients.
QuickBooks Business Analytics with BizTools
Let’s take a look at some examples. I’m working with a sample QuickBooks database that has data set to a future date.
You’ll start off working through Internet Explorer. This is required by Microsoft SQL Server, but you’re accessing your data on your local system, not in the “cloud.” Figure 4 shows your “home” page.
Figure 4: BizTools Home page
If you look at the Glossary folder, you’ll see a list of the ratios that are provided to you out of the box (Figure 5). This is a great resource, as it explains what kind of calculation is being performed. A Mixed Source type combines your Profit & Loss report with your Balance Sheet.
Figure 5: BizTools Glossary
Figure 6 shows an example of one of the reports. You see the Account Categories down the left side, and you can expand them to see the underlying QuickBooks accounts.
Figure 6: BizTools Balance Sheet Detail
If you click on the Account Category you can drill down into the details. Figure 7 shows the detail for the Cash or Equivalent line from the report shown in Figure 6. The information is provided both in graphical and tabular format.
Figure 7: Financial metric detail
Some of the analysis reports are quite complex, as you can see in Figure 8.
Figure 8: BizTools Analytics Financial Ratio Detail
You can easily choose the Ratio to examine from the drop-down list at the top of this report.
Figure 9: Financial Ratio options
Inventory Days and Inventory Turns reports are something that many people would like to see in QuickBooks. Figure 10 shows an example. You don’t have to customize reports or do difficult extractions, the report is built in to BizTools Analytics.
Figure 10: Inventory Days analysis
Figure 11 shows a more complex analysis – the Current Ratio. Note that the trend is down, indicating that the business will run out of cash if this continues. There’s a red alert status to warn you.
Figure 11: Current Ratio
The Company Status report is customizable and can be exported to Microsoft Word, which provides a great way for an accounting professional to give detailed analytic reports to a client. I’m only showing a portion of this document – there are 20 pages. Figure 12 shows the customization section at the top of the report.
Figure 12: Company Status customization header
Figure 13 shows one of the pages that’s included in the Company Status report. Note the Status and Trend columns.
Figure 13: Company Status report
BizTools Microsoft Excel Integration
BizTools has an Excel dashboard template that provides you with online analytical processing (OLAP) “cubes” that you can work with to create complex reports using pivot tables and more. If you understand Excel pivot tables, this provides you with a lot of power.
I’m not going to go into detail on this feature in this article since pivot tables take a lot of explanation. If you understand them, you’ll love BizTools Analytics. If you don’t understand them, there’s a lot of power in the standard reports, but you won’t be getting the full value of the product.
I’ll provide some examples of what you can see in Excel, aided by BizTools Analytics.
Figure 14: BizTools Excel Pivot Table
Figure 15: Chart from BizTools in Excel
Figure 16: Tabular report in Excel
Trusted Advisors Helping Clients
As I watched a demo of BizTools Analytics, and as I later worked with it myself, it was clear to me this would be an excellent tool for an accounting professional to use to assist clients. This is the kind of work that Doug Sleeter talks about in his series of articles about Becoming the Most Trusted Advisor – shifting from just “doing the books” to becoming an advisor who can provide detailed analyses of clients’ financial data.
I have several reasons for this conclusion:
- I don’t think many businesses have the time or expertise to truly use an analytics product like this to the full extent. Sure, BizTools includes many “off-the-shelf” reports and dashboards, but those by themselves don’t provide the full power of the product. Business owners/managers need to focus on running their business, and the accounting advisor can take the time to work out the detailed analytics the business needs. Besides, once the accounting advisor works out a set of specialized analytics reports, that expertise can be applied easily to multiple clients.
- While BizTools has gone a long way to simplify and automate the process, installation isn’t all that simple, and the program takes a lot of resources. I have clients who could benefit from the reports this can create, but they don’t have a computer system that’s going to provide enough power to run this efficiently. It makes sense to me to have the accounting advisor take care of the installation on his or her own system to be used for multiple clients, rather than to put the product on each client’s system.
- BizTools has a pricing structure that favors the accounting advisor, as we’ll discuss later. The Professional version has no limit to the number of QuickBooks company files it can be used with, so one installation for an accounting advisor can be used with any number of clients.
Certainly, if a business is large enough to have its own CFO, BizTools Analytics would be an important tool for the business to use on its own. However, an accounting professional who works with the product and becomes proficient in its use can provide this kind of analytics to businesses that just don’t have the resources to manage this on their own.
Pricing and Requirements
It’s important to pay attention to the system requirements for this product, as they are more stringent than what Intuit requires for QuickBooks itself. For the most up-to-date information, see the BizTools Analytics system requirements page. Let me point out a few important points:
- This works with US editions of QuickBooks Pro, Premier, or Enterprise from the 2006 version through current releases. There’s no support for the UK and Canadian versions at this time. For information on the Australian version, you should contact the company.
- At this time, the program will not work if you have the QuickBooks multicurrency feature enabled.
- You must have Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 (no Home editions), or Windows Server 2008/2012. There’s no support for Windows XP.
- You really need at least 4GB of RAM. You can install with 2GB, but performance is going to suffer.
As I’ve mentioned, the product uses a powerful version of Microsoft SQL Server. BizTools Analytics is doing a lot of complicated calculations, and that requires power. You’ll have it on your local computer or network (not in the cloud). This means you need a reasonably powerful computer system if you don’t want to be waiting around for your reports.
Pricing for products like this are complicated. You have the product itself, maintenance, and more. I’m not going to go into all of the variations of pricing for BizTools Analytics, but let me point out a few things.
There are two versions, Enterprise and Professional. These generate the same kinds of reports, but Enterprise has some limitations.
- BizTools Enterprise Analytics is aimed at a company that’s using this for itself. It limits you to three QuickBooks company files and one consolidated group.
- BizTools Professional Analytics is aimed at the accounting professional who works with multiple clients. There’s no limit to the number of QuickBooks company files or consolidated groups you can work with.
Note that BizTools is changing its pricing structure – the information that I’m showing you here will be available starting on March 1, 2014.
For the product itself, there are two options:
- Full payment: You can purchase the full product, which includes a one-year contract for support. For the Enterprise version, the fee is $1,199.00 for a single user. The Professional version costs $1,499.00 for a single user.
- Monthly payments: If you want to spread out your payments over time, you can get a 24-month plan. This includes a two-year contract for ongoing support. The Enterprise version is $75.00 a month (for a total of $1,800.00) for a single user. For the Professional version, the fee is $99.00 per month (for a total of $2,376.00) for a single user.
You are charged per user, but there are discounts for additional users.
Installation and basic training are available for a fixed fee of $190.00. While BizTools has done a lot to make the installation as straightforward as possible, and the company is developing a comprehensive set of installation/training aids, I believe that unless you have a lot of experience with Microsoft SQL Server, you would be better off using BizTools’ services. The cost is very reasonable.
After the initial term, there’s a maintenance/support contract. For the full payment plan, the ongoing contract is $339.00 for Enterprise and $429.00 for Professional. If you use the monthly payment plan, the fee is $29.00 a month for Enterprise and $39.00 a month for Professional. Again, these are for a single-user installation; the fee will be higher if you have multiple users.
It’s important to note that these fees include the license for Microsoft SQL Server 2012 STD Edition (fully functional, but limited for use only with BizTools Analytics), and that if you don’t pay for ongoing maintenance, you can continue using the product.
Special Discount for Sleeter Group Members
If you’re a member of the Sleeter Group Consultants Network, there’s a special discount available to you for a single-user Professional license of BizTools Analytics for a limited time. If you’re a member, log in and check your My Account page.
BizTools Analytics Is a Powerful Product
BizTools is a powerful business analytics product that will provide you with important insight into how your business is functioning. The built-in reports and dashboards are very easy to use, but if you need special reports, the Excel integration gives you great tools for custom reports if you’re familiar with pivot tables. This product goes far beyond what you get from a simple reporting tool or exports of raw data to Excel. I’m particularly impressed with how this works with consolidating information from multiple QuickBooks files.
If you’re an accounting professional, it’s worth your time to invest in this product, since you can use it (with the Professional version) for all your clients if they send you a copy of their QuickBooks file. This is a great way to move beyond basic accounting help – to move your clients into the world of business analytics.
Additional Options for Business Analytics and Reporting
No general accounting system is going to be able to provide you with good, detailed business analytics/intelligence. These products cover the most common denominator, the most general of business, and your particular business probably has some special function unique to your situation. Accounting products handle the entry of data and they provide your basic financial reports: profit and loss, balance sheet, and possibly some sales reports. The most common requests I see in forums that discuss accounting programs are for flexibility in reports and help for analyzing all the data that has been gathered. You have the data, but can you get help understanding it? There are a number of good options.
We’ve talked about key concepts in QuickBooks and Beyond, with business analytics articles by my friend Chuck Vigeant and our series on KPIs. This year I hope to provide reviews of several of the outstanding reporting/analytics that are available. Each of these provide unique features, each has a different approach to providing you what you need.
- BizTools Analytics (the product reviewed in this article)
- QQube (reviewed in this article, although there have been many advances since it was written)
These products have overlapping capabilities, and you may find you want to use several of them. I believe that all accounting professionals should understand each of these and what they can do for their clients.
BizTools was recognized as a Sleeter Group Awesome Application Award winner for 2014.