Practice Management QuickBooks Small Business

QuickBooks Business Analytics with BizTools

Written by Charlie Russell

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

QuickBooks Analytics with BizTools

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.

BizTools Analytics preinstall

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.

BizTools account categories

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.

Mapping BizTools Analytics account categories to your Chart of Accounts

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.

QuickBooks Business Analytics with BizTools

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.

BizTools glossary

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.

BizTools Balance Sheet Detail

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.

Financial metric detail

Figure 7: Financial metric detail

Some of the analysis reports are quite complex, as you can see in Figure 8.

BizTools financial ratio detail

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.

Ratio options

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.

BizTools Inventory Days

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.

Current Ratio

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.

Company Status customization

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.

Company Status report

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.

BizTools Excel Pivot Table

Figure 14: BizTools Excel Pivot Table

BizTools chart in Excel

Figure 15: Chart from BizTools in Excel

Biztools tabular report

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

System 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

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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.


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About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been writing for the Accountex Report (formerly the Sleeter Report) since 2011. He retired from accounting and QuickBooks activities in early 2018.

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.

13 Comments

  • …geez louise…as if Xero-mania was not enough, now we got BizTools
    presented as the best thing since sliced bread? What’s next Charlie? Vegamite sandwiches for all? During the middle of the Olympics to boot? I may use Indian host servers, but my software is American!

    • Well, Thomas, I went back to the article to look, but I don’t see anything about sliced bread? I’m a bit confused by your comment.

      And you think that paying one offshore company for services you can get in the US is any different than my paying a different offshore company for software? That has me confused further still.

      You can have the vegamite (I’ve tried it, nasty stuff), I’ll continue to enjoy watching the Olympics on TV (wish I didn’t have to stay up so late at night). As far as business software, the source isn’t the first thing that I am concerned with. I look at the product and what it can do, and at the price and support policies, and make a business decision on the important facts. Just because it comes from Australia has no bearing on anything other than perhaps support, which I found to be very good in this case.

      You didn’t make the same comment on my article about Transfermate the other day – they are based in Ireland. Or are you only unhappy with software developers from the Southern Hemisphere? Then, too, with your generic email address I can’t tell where YOU are located, either…

      I pay attention to the business purposes of a product, the facts that are important.

    • Thomas, if you’d care to provide contact details or contact me via Sleeter Group, I’d be happy to send you a large jar of Vegemite – though I would say its an acquired taste. FYI, this 90 year old iconic Aussie brand though produced locally is now owned by an American food giant.

  • Charlie,
    Thanks for taking the time and digging in to produce a comprehensive and accurate overview of what is a fairly sophisticated product. You make writing look easy but as I well know from past attempts myself – many hours to author translates into just minutes to read.

    A few minor clarifications for your readers if I may.

    – Both products work with Pro/Premier & Enterprise.
    – Both products will run on Win 8 (the base “Home” edition”) but not Win 7 Home (Pro or higher is required), we’ll make this clearer in our system requirements online.
    – Dropping support for XP was necessary as the version of SQL Server we use is not supported on XP.
    – On 32 bit systems the maximum addressable memory of 4GB is what we recommend for practical use. The more RAM the better and we recommend 64 bit systems with 8 GB or more where possible for this reason.
    – You are quite correct in saying that BizTools is not a “Cloud” type solution in the SaaS sense and is generally installed on-premise. That said, many customers choose to run the software on a dedicated hosted machine “in the cloud”. This can bring the best of both worlds for some and provides lots of flexibility.

    Many readers may have been discouraged in the past after trying to work with pivot tables – for good reason as you suggest – regular pivot tables are difficult to work with without the right backend supplying the data. That’s where OLAP Cubes really provide huge value. The Cubes “understand” hierarchies and have built in “financial intelligence” to handle non-additive measures such as balances and ratios. Bottom line – the software does the heavy lifting and makes very complex ad-hoc analytics drag & drop easy for non- technical users.

    Your conclusion about the relative value for Accountants vs. SMBs was interesting and also fairly astute.

    Here’s what we see in terms of market fit.

    – Most micro business are not ready for or need analytics or BizTools.
    – Most smaller SMBs are best served getting their accountants or advisors to provide this kind of content and the relevant interpretation. This is the majority of the market by volume.
    – Larger SMBs (for example running QB Enterprise) benefit most by doing this in-house with a focus on a few key metrics/KPIs along with regular sales analytics. Some will periodically review with their CPA.

    Most of our direct SMB customers fall into the latter group – we see a broad range from HVAC contractors, Cell phone retailers, Funeral homes and others. Typically they are using QBES and either using Classes or multiple QuickBooks company data files.

    Cheers
    John

    • Thank you, John.

      My mentioning that it doesn’t support Windows XP wasn’t meant as a criticism, it is just important that people know. As I’ve said in https://www.sleeter.com/blog/2013/12/windows-xp-retirement/, I think people should be moving off of XP anyways.

      While your implementation of OLAP Cubes simplifies working with pivot tables, you still have to understand how to work with pivot tables. If you are a novice, you won’t get the full power of the system. The same can be said of other analytics tools like QQube. This isn’t meant to scare people away, there are lots of ways to learn about pivot tables. You can just fool around with BizTools and the OLAP cubes and get some amazing results. But, to really take advantage of the system, you need at least a basic understanding of pivot tables.

      • I agree on all counts Charlie, no criticism taken and all feedback is valuable in any case.
        We’ve often been asked why we don’t support XP and aside from the SQL Server issue, people really need to get off XP for a host of reasons as your article described.
        We’re planning to release free video training materials for supported customers much of which will focus on getting up to speed with and getting the most out of our OLAP cubes and Pivot Tables…there is a definite need.

        Cheers
        John

  • Please be advised of a short delay in the transition to our new pricing structure referred to above. We now expect that our website will be updated to include monthly payments as an option by March 8th – sorry for an inconvenience.

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