QuickBooks is a great core accounting tool, but it has major shortcomings when you look at its reporting and analysis tools. You have basic reports and a few graphs, but they’re inflexible and don’t provide the kinds of insights that a business owner or an accounting professional needs. To solve this, you can turn to a variety of excellent add-on reporting and analytics tools. In this article we’ll look at webKPI.
This will be a quick overview because the product has many features and options that I haven’t had the time to explore. To get the full benefit of a product like this, you have to jump into the training options, work with it, and spend time understanding all of the details. I haven’t had the opportunity to do that yet. From what I’ve seen so far, this is a very interesting and useful product.
Although I’m an analytical person, I’m also impatient. I can sit down with a report and analyze it, look for trends, and so forth, but I’m usually in too much of a rush to do that. I like a graphic representation of the data, I like to be able to see summaries that let me decide if I need to dig deeper.
webKPI works with QuickBooks desktop data (as well as Excel) to provide business analytics dashboards, such as the sample shown in Figure 1. This is a web-based tool that provides over 50 dashboards and over 150 reports, graphs, and charts (depending on your subscription level).
Figure 1: Sample webKPI Dashboard
These dashboards provide easy access to analysis of your QuickBooks data through financial reports and a number of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Navigation is simple, although it can take some getting used to as there are different elements tucked in different places. Since this is a SaaS (software as a service) product (other than the sync engine), you don’t have to worry about software updates or revisions.
A few key points:
- At this time, webKPI works with QuickBooks for Windows only. QuickBooks Online support isn’t currently available. It should work with just about any U.S. version of QuickBooks, from 2006 to the current release. I’m not sure about non-U.S. versions.
- webKPI leverages the power of Bitam, a global provider of Business Intelligence (BI) software solutions. This is a company that provides analytics tools to companies like Coca-Cola, Black & Decker, and Home Depot.
- Data analysis is done on a copy of your data that is sent to the webKPI cloud system. This is a one-way flow of data, so webKPI users you set up won’t have the ability to change any of the data in QuickBooks (important for data security/accuracy).
- You can combine multiple QuickBooks company databases into a single report/dashboard.
- Additional information can be pulled in from other business sources. At this time, this primarily would be an Excel import, but there are plans to expand the options in the future.
- There’s a process for customization of the dashboards. This provides an excellent opportunity for accounting professionals to offer customization services to clients.
Installation and Setup
There are two aspects of using webKPI with QuickBooks: getting your data into the product and then generating your reports and analyses.
As I mentioned, webKPI itself is a SaaS product. You log in through a browser, and you access your data in the browser. This provides you with all of the benefits of a SaaS product, including no installation and your product is always up to date.
However, QuickBooks on a Windows system doesn’t make it easy to get your data into any SaaS product. Your data is on your desktop (or server), webKPI wants it on ITS server, and you have to get your data into webKPI. Intuit offers a “web connector” that helps web-based applications access the QuickBooks desktop data, but it can be tricky to work with and can be unreliable. The QuickBooks API (formerly “IPP” interface) is no longer an option, since Intuit is not accepting new applications for that method when working with QuickBooks desktop versions (and that used “Intuit Sync Manager,” which I don’t care for). To get around this, webKPI has developed its own database sync engine. This is a one-way transfer of data, just from the desktop up to the webKPI cloud.
Setup for this is a bit complicated if you aren’t comfortable with working with database connection tools like this. I’ve seen other database sync engines from other products (such as Tallie) that are much easier to install. However, the instructions webKPI provides are very detailed and lead you through the process step-by-step. Once you get it set up, you shouldn’t have to think about it much.
- You can set the schedule for how often this updates webKPI with your latest QuickBooks data. Once a night would make sense for most businesses that would be using this product.
- The sync tool is using the QuickBooks SDK to access data, which is the simplest and most reliable way to get QuickBooks desktop data.
- “Sync” is my term, and perhaps a bit misleading. This is a one-way transfer of data, from your QuickBooks file up to webKPI. That makes it very safe as far as your financial database; no chances of things being changed incorrectly.
- After the initial upload, the program will do a bulk upload of a subset of your data to keep the online store up to date. Let’s say you’ve done the initial upload, and on the next day, you want to get the latest data up to webKPI. Rather than go through a complicated process of trying to find each transaction that has changed, the sync tool will delete a block of data from webKPI (for instance, the last 30 days) and then just upload all of the QuickBooks data from that period of time. That is simple and expedient. You can select the number of days it will look back. The only issue would be if you’re going back further than that to make changes in QuickBooks, which, for the most part, you shouldn’t be doing.
QuickBooks Business Analytics with webKPI
Once you have your data uploaded, you’ll log in to webKPI through your browser. Figure 2 shows the default dashboard you’ll see if you haven’t reconfigured the system to show a different one.
Figure 2: Default webKPI dashboard
There are several navigational elements that you can use, some of them aren’t obvious at first, but you’ll learn quickly (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Navigation/configuration
1 – Fly-Out Menu: See that faint gray outline in the very upper-left corner? This is where you’ll find a very important navigation aid (Figure 4). I’ll talk about the Dashboard Explorer (the fourth icon from the left) later on.
Figure 4: Fly-out menu
2 – Common Dashboards: These are some pre-configured dashboards that webKPI has set up for you, accessed from the links at the top of this page. For example, under the Top 10 option, you can see your Top Products Sold.
Figure 5: Top Products Sold
3 – Company Selection: This button provides you with a drop-down list of the QuickBooks company files you have uploaded to webKPI. You can select the company to work with, you can select multiple companies if you want a combined report. It’s very easy to combine companies this way, which is a powerful feature.
Figure 6: Company selection
4 – QuickBooks Class Selection: If you’re using the Class feature in QuickBooks, you can filter the dashboards by Class. As with Company selection, Class selection lets you pick several classes to include in the dashboard (Figure 7). I’m glad to see that this kind of QuickBooks-specific feature is included.
Figure 7: QuickBooks Class selection
An important navigation aid that’s hidden (perhaps a bit more hidden that I’d like) is the Dashboard Explorer. If you open the fly-out menu (Figure 4), the Dashboard Explorer is one of the options. This provides you with a list of all of the available dashboards in webKPI, divided into functional groups. Use this to explore your options.
The dashboard in Figure 8 shows some additional examples of the types of charts and tables that are available.
Figure 8: webKPI Dashboard Explorer
When you’re working with tables, you can drill down to see details. Let’s start with the Income Statement, as shown in Figure 9.
Figure 9: webKPI Income Statement
If I click on the “Income” label in the first column, I get a pop-up menu (Figure 10).
Figure 10: Customizing a webKPI table
Selecting Dimensions and then Fiscal Quarter alters the table to show more detail (Figure 11).
Figure 11: Expanding Income
Drilling in further, I can expand any section down to the QuickBooks transaction level. Figure 12 shows the transactions for the fourth quarter.
Figure 12: webKPI table drill-down to QuickBooks transaction
As I see it, webKPI works on two levels. There’s the “just give me the information quickly” level, and the “I want to do it my way” level. You can use the Dashboard Explorer to poke about and find the particular analysis you want from the list that’s provided. This is simple and quick. webKPI includes a large number of ready-made dashboards.
You can also do quite a bit of customization. I’m going to admit that at this point, I’m a novice at what you can do – webKPI offers classes on customization and dashboard design that I haven’t had the opportunity to take yet. One example is that if you hover your mouse over a chart or table, you get a customization toolbar, as you can see in Figure 13.
Figure 13: webKPI customization toolbar
You also have pop-up menus in tables that let you make significant changes to the format of the information that’s displayed (Figure 14).
Figure 14: Table customization
Chart Properties can be edited as well, as shown in Figure 15.
Figure 15: webKPI Chart Properties
A Binder is a set of dashboards and reports that you want to send, print, or export all in a single document (Figure 16). You choose the elements you want to include; select the export options (PDF, PowerPoint, print); and optionally set up a schedule where it will be be created automatically and send to a list of email addresses.
Figure 16: webKPI Binder Management
This is a very powerful automation tool that can be of great value to financial officers and advisors.
Trusted Advisors Helping Clients
I brought this up before when I discussed another business analytics tool, BizTools Analytics, and it’s a topic Doug Sleeter talks about in his series of articles about “Becoming the Most Trusted Advisor.” I see these kinds of tools as a great way for an accounting professional to provide added services to clients, with comprehensive analysis of the client’s data.
With webKPI, the client can have the data sync tool installed to move the data into the cloud. The accounting professional can set up customized dashboards for the client to see the important KPIs for that particular business. In addition, using Binders, the accountant can receive periodic reports based on the client’s data for review so that they can keep tabs on how the business is performing.
Pricing and Requirements
webKPI has multiple levels of product pricing. Following is my understanding of the current price structure, but you should contact webKPI directly for details:
- webKPI 101 – $30/month: This is the base system, for 1 to 3 users, which includes just 7 dashboards. This only works with Excel; it does not include QuickBooks integration.
- webKPI Accounting – $50/month: This is probably the most commonly used level. This includes QuickBooks integration, supports up to 3 users, and includes 26 dashboards.
- webKPI BizMgmt – $100/month: Building on webKPI Accounting, this expands the list to 52 dashboards.
There are additional features for an additional cost:
- Budget Analysis is a business intelligence add-on for an additional $35/month.
- Additional users can be added at $5/month per user.
- Dashboard Designer is $10/month.
webKPI has a partner program with multiple levels, starting with a basic referral program and working up to a consulting partner, with varying degrees of training and certification. Contact webKPI for details.
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 by itself. 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 written by my friend Chuck Vigeant and our series on KPIs. There are many tools that provide you with this kind of analysis in a variety of ways. Each of these provides unique features, and each has a different approach to providing you what you need. For example:
- BizTools Analytics (reviewed in this article).
- webKPI (the product reviewed here 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 the products can do for their clients.
webKPI was recognized as a Sleeter Group Awesome Application Award winner for 2011.