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Unleashing (more) Power with Alchemy and Microsoft Power BI

Boris Stricky
July 28, 2020

The Situation

More and more companies are recognizing the importance of making data driven decisions. Instead of relying on pure managerial intuition, these companies use data generated and collected in their everyday work to predict future trends, analyze them, and make decisions that would perform well in the forecasted future. This method of combining intuition with data brings consistency and continual growth as each decision serves as a “training loop”, with each new data point helping to improve the next iteration of the process.

It is commonly understood that leading consumer companies like Samsung, Google and Apple leverage these techniques to optimize and even shape the future of their products and services. Interestingly, Alchemy has observed this trend taking root in the chemical industry as well, with many of our customers leveraging our platform to enable this change. By managing their lab operations and data capture in Alchemy, they are able to access any of the data teams collect in the lab - think application testing or characterization analysis on a new formulation - and couple it with the equally valuable information regarding their idea selection processes, project progress and daily task execution.


But what happens when you want to compare data from different sources at the same time? Sure, Alchemy is able to integrate with a large number of software tools used in the chemical industry, such as, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Salesforce.com, SAP ERP and many others. In some cases, a team manager would like to combine data quickly for visualization without a full fledged integration. Remember the idea from earlier: people are looking for insights to make better business decisions, not necessarily for 6 month long IT projects!

This was exactly the case when we recently met with one of our long standing customers. One of their lab leaders, who is also an Alchemy Subject Matter Expert within the firm, asked how he could bring his Alchemy Views (analytics) into Microsoft Power BI. His aim was to combine pertinent lab operation metrics with existing dashboards composed of various data sources from financials in SAP to sales data living in Salesforce.com. After a short and very interesting call with him, we showed how our Views can be easily exported in CSV format and thus be directly imported into Power BI. 

Problem solved, right? It certainly seemed so, but we like to go the extra mile. Rather than having a “good enough” solution, we wanted to make this entire process seamless, because honestly, who wants to export/import CSVs every time they need to do a dashboard refresh?

The Solution

As already mentioned, Alchemy integrates with a large number of software. This was one of the founding principles our development team instilled from the very beginning of our software’s architecture, which is fully implemented following REST API guidelines (read more on Alchemy’s unique architecture here). What does this mean for those of us that are not developers? As a non-developer myself, it means that with the right support, it is possible to quickly and seamlessly connect Alchemy to external services, like Power BI in this case, with nearly no code whatsoever.

On the other hand, Power BI uses a very powerful data query language to import and transform the data coming into the tool. This allows developers to define their own connectors, and thus enables others to access their resources.

With both in mind, we have developed our own Alchemy Views <> Power BI connector that is easy to install, and which most importantly allows our users (in a secure way) to access their Alchemy Analytics directly from Power BI. With this data stream live, users can  transform, combine and analyze their lab data from Alchemy alongside various other other data sets in one familiar tool.


The Alchemy Effect

We know the importance of data driven decision making and believe Alchemy enables firms to leverage their lab operation data alongside information from other core business operations. Recognizing that everyone has their personal preferences when it comes to analysis, we developed a custom Power BI data connector which allows our customers to:

  • Quickly and securely access Alchemy Views from Power BI and use them as a new data source
  • Analyze lab and project management data from Alchemy in Power BI, adding it to existing (or new) dashboards as needed
  • Share Alchemy analytics in Microsoft Teams, through their Power BI dashboards, including with colleagues that are not Alchemy users
  • Recognize the way their input directly impacts our ever-evolving product capabilities.

“Easy to understand system with tremendous flexibility and industry-specific workflows - the upside here is undeniable.”

- Coatings R&D Director

“Seeing that materials created in the system can be dynamically linked to create TDS/SDSs is a game changer.”

- Additives QC Technician

“The best experience was how detailed the live demos were. I rarely see such quality in a full rollout, much less a trial.”

-  Cosmetics IT Vice President

“Translating what was learned during the one-on-one sessions and actually doing it in Alchemy was awesome.”

-  Coatings Application Expert
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