The Advantages of Power BI (Business Intelligence)

Given the rapid growth in the sheer volumes of data to be analyzed, coupled with the need for automation, customization and accessibility, FP&A professionals have increasingly found it burdensome to perform their functions on an Excel worksheet. This pain point especially comes into sharp focus in the context of ongoing M&A transactions, where Interim FP&A teams have to manage an ever-increasing number of new businesses and their attendant data sources. Recognizing this challenge, Sapling works with buy-side FP&A professionals in these situations to streamline their business processes by leveraging Power BI platform.

Against the growing market of business intelligence products, Power BI especially stands out thanks to its strong integration with other Microsoft products, such as Excel and Azure, which can be useful for organizations that already use these tools. More importantly, it offers a rich suite of data connectors to popular data sources and a robust ability to customize the report and manage access to data.

Power BI allows FP&A professionals to integrate data from a wide variety of sources, including databases, Excel files, CSV files, and cloud-based data sources such as Google Analytics and Salesforce. Once connected to a data source, Power BI can be used to shape and transform the data as needed, involving powerful functionalities like data modeling features to create relationships between different data sources, creating custom calculations and measures, and turning these insights into dynamic and interactive visualizations. Thus, instead of losing time on repetitive tasks like data processing and analysis, Power BI’s multi-channel integration empowers FP&A professionals to quickly identify trends, patterns, and anomalies in operational and financial data and spot opportunities and potential areas for improvement.

Power BI allows users to customize their dashboards and reports to meet their specific needs and preferences. This can help FP&A professionals tailor their analysis to the unique characteristics of their organization and make it easier to share information with others. Consider, for instance, the task of tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) that is the bread and butter of an FP&A team. Practitioners would be all too familiar with the task’s perennial challenges: access management and customization.

Access management refers to the scope of data that is available in a report, as different users desire or indeed, should be given access to, only a certain level of data. Similarly, the contents of the report should be customized to the specific needs of the organization’s division. Meeting this demand can be a headache with common spreadsheet applications, such as Excel, as the report author would be required to maintain multiple versions of the same report with ever-so-slightly different security configurations for each. Further, as the firm expands and increases in organizational complexity, it would become more burdensome to manage the reporting apparatus in a piecemeal manner.

Power BI addresses this problem of scale by providing a streamlined toolkit for report customization and access management, including filters and slicers, pages and sections, and buttons and interactive elements. Filters and slicers allow the user to control which data is displayed in your report. He or she can add filters and slicers to the report and customize them to only show the data that he or she is interested in. By the same token, by enabling or disabling the filters and slicers, the report author can control who has access to which data. This function can be further streamlined by implementing Row Level Security (RLS), in which the scope of data being made available can be defined by what division of the organization the user is in. For example, with RLS-enabled report, a team member based in Europe will not have access to the filter/slicer items available to the same based in North America.

Interactive elements of the report can be leveraged to provide bespoke insights to different user segments. For example, by setting bookmarks and bookmark toggles, the report author can enable the users to switch between various presentations of the data within the same interface without navigating to another “tab”. The author can also design mobile applications interface for the report so that users can have access to view their dashboards and reports in real-time, as well as access and interact with their data on the go, even to download reports as PDF files to their mobile devices. In the FP&A world, these features are particularly invaluable as different stakeholders are empowered not only to track and view their own KPIs at any time but also to place their metrics in relation to others in the organization, thereby improving coherence and synergy across the value chain.

By and large, while legacy spreadsheet applications like Excel still maintain their hold on the day-to-day tasks of FP&A professionals, the increasing velocity, volume, and complexity of data and business systems simply require that a more robust solution be adopted to reduce drag on workflow and meet the different needs of different stakeholders. In this context, Sapling has extensive experience in working with sponsors and leveraging our expertise in both financial acumen and technical expertise to deliver high-quality Interim FP&A service in all stages of your transactions.

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