January 18, 2018 Ari Vivekanandarajah

The benefits Power BI can bring to FP&A teams

Financial Planning and Analytics (FP&A) teams are a pivotal driving force behind a business’ ability to stay ahead of the curve and understand how they need to adjust and adapt to stay agile moving forward. As a result, the use of technology and the latest tools have become intrinsic to many of these teams.  Microsoft’s Power BI platform, a relatively new contender has quickly become one of the market leading platforms in the data discovery space. With a sleek and easy-to-learn interface, the widest range of connectors to connect to nearly any sources with a few clicks and a very comprehensive set of interactive analysis options it comes as no surprise that financial analytics and planning teams have taken notice.

In the sections below, we highlight a few points relevant for the use of Power BI for finance and accounting professionals and how in conjunction with Agility Planning, it can be the basis of highly effective FP&A processes today! Let’s start our deep-dive by looking at the platform’s core functionality.

Integrated approach for planning and analytics

Few things are more beneficial to financial planners than a tool that allows them to actively see their data and/or models in real-time and in a visually meaningful manner. With Power BI in place, financial professionals can create interactive dashboards, that link to all data sources required no matter if  they are located on premise or “in the cloud”. A click on a particular data item will automatically update all other items on the dashboard to reflect that choice.

Why is this significant? 

Currently we often see disparate applications for different areas of FP&A. There is the read-only enterprise data warehouse, a specialized planning application and to top it up a separate data discovery tool.

This without fail leads to extensive maintenance efforts as the data in these different disparate applications need to be integrated: you want to compare the actuals in the data warehouse with your budgets and forecasts easily without running complex ETL (Extraction Transformation & Loading) jobs. On the frontend side: the cost and hassles of having to learn and use a separate report writer for the data warehouse, the data entry form builder of the planning system and the dashboard designer in the data discovery app is rarely justifiable.

Utilizing a tool like Power BI means that you have all your data across multiple software and platforms are available from a single interface. Agility Planning, seamlessly integrates into that environment and enables users to perform budgeting, forecasting and business modeling in exactly the same environment without any friction or synchronization requirements. All Data is stored directly in the one central place using and open relational data warehouse architecture.

The added ability to write back and change data in Power BI of course needs to be carefully monitored and managed. For this Agility Planning provides an audit trail of every transactions (data entry, structure changes etc.), giving you complete visibility and enabling you to stay in control of complex planning scenarios.

One-click connectors and integration into ERP, marketing, and accounting systems  

One of the core benefits behind a Power BI tool, and any application leveraging its capabilities, is its unique ability to connect to literally hundreds of applications, data sources and data services– whether they are hosted on the cloud or on-premises. This is particularly important given that most enterprises are increasingly adopting and depending on new platforms to run their operations, each of which have their own significant data and insights-driven value. A few applications that Power BI integrates with and pulls data from are Microsoft Excel, MailChimp, Google Analytics, GitHub, and SharePoint. Agility Planning adds the integration of financial systems using an approach that -for some systems only requiring a click- creates the financial data warehouse as opposed to a live query that is for various reasons (API call limits, access to unapproved data, strain on the operational processes) not a feasible approach in most cases.

Put your business user in charge by making processes simpler

As mentioned above, expecting the finance team to be in depth technical experts in a variety of technologies is unrealistic. Still, they need to stay in control and be able to adapt the system to their needs. Power BI, and applications that leverage its capabilities, require very little engineering resources to operate it. In fact, on most occasions you would not even need an engineering team at all! Power BI’s ground breaking user interface and design, in addition to the plethora of tutorials and documentation available on how to use it, can make the adoption and implementation phase seamless for your team. This is especially true If your organization already uses Microsoft systems, like Office 365, which would make adjusting to Power BI effortless and natural. Power BI is simple to use and even your most basic users would experience a relatively short learning curve.

Power BI is constantly innovating and updating

Requirements of financial planning tools go beyond usability, user experience, and functionality – security is a key component too. After all, you and your teams would be accessing highly sensitive data that gives confidential insights into your business and its potential future operations – naturally, you would want a tool that is secure. If you look at the most successful programs and applications that have stood the test of time, one of the gold standards they set is their ability to regularly update and improve their functionality – Power BI is no different. On average, Power BI is updated monthly or, at the very least, every other month, with new features and functions – including regular updates to vital areas like data security.

Therefore, if you are looking for a tool that is highly effective, incredibly user-friendly, and constantly up-to-date, Power BI definitely worth a look.

For more information on taking your financial plannning & analytics to the next level , please reach out to us at any time!

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