Optimizing Power BI Sales Dashboards for a Cheese Manufacturing & FMCG Leader - Hochland's Transformation Journey
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Optimizing Power BI Sales Dashboards for a Cheese Manufacturing & FMCG Leader - Hochland's Transformation Journey

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There is almost no successful business in the world that does not have a robust data analytics and business intelligence practice. As a business owner or a manager when trying to introduce new functionalities, new products, or new processes you highly rely on data. 

When making a business decision, relying on your intuition instead of clear and actionable data can prove to be a mistake in the longer term, especially when going through a period of slow economic growth. 

To transform data into readable insight, you need a business intelligence tool or system.

If 7 years ago, your BI specialists would choose Tableau, Qlik or Looker as their go to business intelligence tool, nowadays, after over almost a decade of monthly updates Power BI stands out as one of the most, if not the most powerful data reporting and visualization tools out there. 

From financial forecasts and sales dashboards to machine maintenance and waste reduction, Power BI has plenty of practical applications. 

Business Intelligence in the Manufacturing & FMCG Industry

Oftentimes, manufacturing and FMCG companies spend a lot of money, time, and effort upgrading their machines, reducing waste, cutting costs, increasing productivity, maintaining equipment, and making the supply chain more efficient. Yet, most of the time, they use simple and limited BI tools like Excel for data processing.

Yes, it's important to manage all operational and production capacities, but to ensure you're moving in the right direction, you can’t overlook data management. Handling data, creating reports, and visualizing information for the entire company should work seamlessly to reduce costs and increase revenue.

Think about it—what if you had the ability to predict next quarter's revenue based on past performance? Or what if, instead of launching a new product, you allocated some of your budget to waste reduction to decrease costs and improve your ESG score for better loan conditions? All these tasks are challenging, especially when managing a large company and trying to figure out how to increase margins and please shareholders.

With Power BI, you have access to intuitive sales dashboards, AI-based reporting, forecasting, and easy reporting capabilities. Pair this with a talented business intelligence department, and you can reduce costs and increase revenue through sheer data and an accurate understanding of your company.

Hochland’s BI Challenge

Hochland is a leader in the European cheese manufacturing market, focusing on conducting business ecologically and with social responsibility. With offices in Poland, Germany, France, Spain, Romania, Russia, and the USA, and a wide range of products, Hochland employs over 5,843 people and generates more than 1.5 billion euros in annual revenue. 

Main Objectives

Introducing a new business intelligence tool or moving on from legacy tools such as Excel has its own challenges. It is very important before starting to set up clear objectives and add new ones on the go. This helps the development team to better understand the big picture and tailor the implementation to the company’s needs.

When we started working with Hochland, setting clear goals helped us understand exactly what they needed from a business intelligence system. 

We held workshops with team members from various departments including sales, marketing, supply chain, and finance. These weren’t just meetings, but rather open discussions where we listened closely to each department's specific challenges and expectations.

Here are the main goals we shaped together based on what we learned:

  • As Hochland grows, their data needs will change and expand. We aimed to make it simple for them to integrate new data sources into the BI system. This flexibility helps ensure that the system remains useful and relevant as their business evolves.
  • We looked at how to improve existing reports and add new ones that could provide deeper insights into different parts of the business. This would help Hochland’s teams make informed decisions by having a better overview and more detailed data at their fingertips.
  • We wanted to ensure that the insights generated by our BI system reached the right people at Hochland quickly. Faster access to data means quicker decisions and a more agile response to market changes.
  • Our goal was to design reports that everyone in Hochland could easily understand, regardless of their technical knowledge. Making data clear and accessible helps everyone feel more confident in using this information to make everyday business decisions.

Requirements Gathering

After our initial workshops with Hochland’s teams, we compiled everything we learned into a High-Level Design (HLD) document. 

This document wasn't just a formality—it was used as a tool to guide the entire project. By laying out our plans and confirming details with Hochland, we ensured that our understanding matched their expectations and needs across various aspects of the project.

Laying out our plans and confirming details with Hochland and adding everything in a HLD ensured that we had a similar vision for the implementation which matched their expectations and needs. 

Here’s what we included in the HLD:

  1. We detailed the specific functionalities and features that Hochland needed from the BI system. These user stories helped us prioritize tasks and create a backlog of developments to ensure we were addressing the most important needs first.
  2. We understood exactly what data was necessary, where it would come from, and how it needed to be processed, and layed all the information in the document.  We outlined the types of data Hochland required, including sales figures, supply chain metrics, and financial performance, to ensure our system could handle and integrate these seamlessly.
  3. We discussed and decided on the best ways to visualize and present the data. This included selecting the types of charts, graphs, and dashboards that would make the most sense for the various users at Hochland.
  4. It was important to determine how reports and insights would be delivered to users. Whether through automated emails, direct access dashboards, or mobile-friendly views, we made sure the data delivery matched Hochland’s workflow and access needs.
  5. The document outlined the proposed architecture of the BI system, ensuring it was scalable, secure, and capable of integrating with existing systems at Hochland. This helped us avoid any technical limitations or surprises during the implementation phase.
  6. Finally, we made sure to align the BI tool’s capabilities with Hochland’s broader business objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). This alignment ensures that the BI system supports strategic decision-making and drives measurable improvements.

Creating this HLD was a step that brought us and Hochland onto the same page, setting a clear, agreed-upon path for the project. It served as a blueprint, helping everyone involved stay focused and aligned with the project’s goals.

Data Management and Integration

In our collaboration with Hochland, effective data management and integration were central to developing a robust business intelligence (BI) system. Managing data effectively means more than just collecting it; it involves ensuring that data from diverse sources is integrated smoothly, maintained accurately, and utilized effectively across the organization.

Data Sources

For Hochland, the data necessary to meet their reporting needs was scattered across a range of sources, both within their own internal systems and from external providers. To create a unified and effective business intelligence system, it was essential to first identify all these varied data sources and then integrate them smoothly.

Here’s how we approached managing and integrating Hochland's data:

  1. We started by mapping out every source of data that could potentially feed into the BI system. This included internal databases like their CRM and ERP systems. Identifying these sources helped us understand the breadth of data we would need to handle.
  2. With the data sources identified, the next step was to develop an Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) process capable of handling and standardizing data from these diverse sources. This process needed to be robust to manage large volumes of data and scalable to accommodate future data sources.
  3. The ETL process was designed not just to handle the data but to transform it into a consistent format that could be stored in a centralized data warehouse. This warehouse would act as the single source of truth for the organization, where all data is available in a standardized, accessible format.
  4. As part of integrating these data sources, it was crucial to ensure that the data remained consistent and reliable. This meant implementing checks and balances within the ETL process to verify data integrity as it moved from source to warehouse.

By carefully managing these steps, we helped Hochland overcome the challenge of fragmented data sources. 

The result was a cohesive data environment where information from various sources could be accessed and analyzed in a unified manner, greatly enhancing the power and usability of their BI system.

Data Quality

Our team encountered several challenges while tackling Data Management and Integration. The first challenge was ensuring the data was accurate and consistent. ITMAGINATION’s team introduced several processes and used Power BI reports to visualize potential outliers and missing data.

Another challenge involved maintaining data quality over time. To address this, our team established a set of policies to move ambiguous records from different data sources into a dedicated pipeline and report them to the data steward team.

Then, the people responsible for data governance decided on the records' final shape. After their confirmation, these records were merged into our reporting platform.

Technical Infrastructure

Scalable Architecture

As demand fluctuates and production scales, choosing the right technology is key to managing growth effectively. We selected Azure Analysis Services for its strong data modeling capabilities, ensuring smooth integration and expansion alongside other systems. 

To complement this, we utilized Power BI service, enabling dynamic adjustments in BI reporting and dashboard capacities to keep pace with increasing queries and user interactions. 

However, while our scalable architecture has set the stage for handling growth, it was important to also focus on performance optimization to ensure that Hochland enjoys seamless and rapid data access as they use the solution. 

Performance Optimization

We aimed to create an efficient data model to optimize the performance of BI reporting.

To enhance report loading speeds, we implemented several techniques: indexing, partitioning, and data aggregation. These methods are very important when aiming to retrieve data fast and accurately and it helped with improving the user experience by reducing wait time for insights.

Additionally, we considered the challenges of connecting to on-premises data sources, such as potential limitations and instability in gateway connections. To circumvent these issues, we opted to host our data model on a cloud service—Azure Analysis Services. 

This setup ensures that Hochland's BI system operates smoothly, with high availability and swift data processing capabilities.

Schematic of How Power BI Works
"Behind the Scenes" of Hochland's Power BI Solution

Power BI Expertise

At ITMAGINATION, our team of Power BI experts brought their experience and guidance to support Hochland’s technical team with the BI project. 

More than just fulfilling requests for specific reports, our role extended to acting as ongoing consultants. 

We assisted Hochland in navigating the complex decisions surrounding visualization techniques, ensuring data quality, and enhancing user experience.

Skilled Team

Our experts leveraged their deep knowledge of Power BI to advise on the best practices in data presentation, helping to transform raw data into clear, actionable insights. 

We emphasized the importance of user-friendly designs that make it easy for all levels of users to interact with and derive value from the BI system. This consultative approach ensured that the solutions we implemented were not only technically sound but also aligned with Hochland’s operational needs and goals, maximizing the impact of their BI investment.

User Adoption

After each report was successfully deployed, an important aspect was ensuring that Hochland’s business users understood how to fully leverage the capabilities of these new tools. 

We didn't just hand over the reports; we made sure to equip the users with the necessary knowledge and skills.

To facilitate this, we conducted comprehensive training sessions for end-users, tailored to cover the specific features and functionalities of each report. These sessions were designed to ensure that users felt confident navigating the new system and could effectively utilize the reports to extract meaningful insights.

Beyond training, our commitment to fostering user adoption included ongoing support and monitoring. We kept a close eye on report performance and were proactive in addressing any user queries. Our team was readily available to troubleshoot issues, ensuring that any potential disruptions were swiftly managed.

Report Design

Designing Power BI reports for our project with Hochland involved focusing on several key elements that enhance the usability and effectiveness of the reports. Here’s how we approached this task to meet the specific needs of their business:

  1. Alignment with Company Standards: We made sure the reports' visual themes matched Hochland's branding. 
  2. User-Friendly Interface: The reports were designed to be intuitive. We organized information clearly and made sure that users could navigate easily without getting lost in complex data or visuals.
  3. Ease of Navigation and Usability: Smooth navigation within the reports helps users find the information they need quickly, making their interactions more efficient and less frustrating.
  4. Report Distribution Strategy: We planned out how the reports would be distributed, ensuring that the right people received the relevant reports when they needed them. This helps streamline the decision-making process across different levels of the organization.
  5. Delivering Actionable Insights: Instead of just presenting data, we designed the reports to highlight actionable insights. This approach directs focus to what’s most important for driving business decisions.
  6. Availability Across Devices: We ensured the reports work well on all devices, supporting a flexible and mobile workforce. This accessibility is essential for staff who need insights on the go and those working from different locations.

The goal of these features was to make the most out of the BI solution. We created a tool that is as practical and accessible as it is informative.

Sales Dashboard in Power BI
Sales Report in Power BI
Sales Insights and Decision-Making Made Easy with Power BI

Continuous Improvement

Keeping a business intelligence system effective over time is all about continuous improvement through a solid post-implementation strategy.

It’s about being responsive and adaptive to changing business needs and finding ways to continually enhance the system’s capabilities.

In our work with Hochland, we dedicated ourselves to setting up strong feedback and maintenance processes. 

This wasn't just about tweaking a few features here and there; it was about creating a cycle of consistent growth and improvement that keeps the system aligned with the company’s goals.

Feedback Loop

For the post-implementation phase, one of the most important structures to be established was a feedback loop.

During the development of Hochland’s BI reports, we set up a feedback mechanism to directly capture user insights. 

Recognizing that there is always potential for enhancements and additional features post-implementation, we adopted an iterative development approach. This strategy enabled us to consistently refine and improve the reports, adapting them over time based on user feedback.

The feedback mechanism was primarily conducted in an iterative Scrum manner. If any users identified an issue, they could submit a ticket directly to our assigned team via Azure DevOps.

As best practices, we also scheduled periodic meetings, such as Sprint Reviews and workshops, where we could gather feedback for further improvements.

Our feedback loop proved to be efficient, as it helped us continuously improve the solution and further customize it to meet the organization's needs.

Monitoring and Maintenance

In our project with Hochland, we made sure to keep a close eye on how the reports and the sales dashboards were functioning and how they were being utilized across the company.

As the demands on the system increased, we made necessary adjustments to maintain speed and efficiency. This included: implementing incremental refresh, aggregations, splitting visualization across different pages, DAX improvements according to analysis in DAX Studio among others.

In addition, we scheduled periodic reviews and updates of the reports. This routine maintenance ensures that the reports remain accurate and relevant.

Project Management

At ITMAGINATION, we prioritize effective project management, integrating the Scrum Framework with Azure DevOps tools to enhance agility and ensure precise collaboration throughout our technology implementations.

Scrum Framework

For Hochland we delivered the solution using Agile methodologies, specifically leveraging the Scrum Framework. This approach is particularly effective for managing dynamic projects like Power BI implementations. 

While the basic concepts of Scrum are straightforward, applying them consistently in real-world projects can be challenging. To ensure adherence to Scrum principles, we always recommend including a Scrum Master in the team. 

In our project with Hochland, the Scrum Master guided the development process and held Scrum-oriented meetings, helping both our team and the client to navigate the solution implementation process effectively.

Scrum Methodology Schematic
How We Used Scrum For Hochland's Power BI Implementation

Effective Planning and Collaboration

A successful project requires a detailed plan with clear timelines, milestones, and deliverables. 

At ITMAGINATION, we utilize Azure DevOps to manage all aspects of project execution. This tool is invaluable for maintaining an organized approach to the project backlog, sprint planning, retrospectives, and more. 

Here are some key features we use in Azure DevOps that enhance our project management capabilities:

  • Dashboards: These provide real-time data and visualizations of the project and individual sprints, allowing us to monitor progress and adjust as necessary.
  • Wiki Pages: We compile useful information such as contact details and important links, making it easily accessible to the entire team.
  • Delivery Plans: These help us track all milestones using the project’s roadmap, ensuring we meet our objectives on schedule.
  • Custom Reports: We generate reports to update stakeholders on the project’s progress and any challenges we encounter, keeping everyone informed and engaged.
  • Project and Sprint Backlog: Managing the backlog efficiently helps us prioritize tasks and allocate resources effectively.
  • Risk Register: Identifying potential risks and developing mitigation strategies is important for minimizing project disruptions.
  • Repos: Our code repository is essential for version control and collaborative development.


As a final note, we understand that moving away from legacy reporting tools can be very tricky. Especially if not done correctly, implementing a new tool that lacks certain functionalities or important features can disrupt business continuity and have a direct impact on the activities of the entire organization.

Hochland recognized the shortcomings of their reporting capabilities, the necessity of having accurate sales dashboards and the importance of unifying their data sources. 

Together with our team, they managed to implement and maintain a reporting solution that aids in visualizing their business without interfering with their business continuity. 

This success was made possible by the experience of our team in Power BI development and implementation, and through close collaboration with Hochland in developing a viable strategy and deciding on their goals for the reporting tool.

If you are looking to replace your legacy BI tools or want to enhance your Power BI reporting, we encourage you to book a free consultation call with our team of experts and explore how we can help you achieve your BI goals.

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