As companies grow, the planning and forecasting processes inevitably become more complicated. Although widely used across organizations for a variety of tasks, Microsoft Excel can no longer effectively satisfy the new growing needs of users.
As analysts try to use Excel for large-scale planning tasks, including collaboration, version control, different access rights, management and consolidation, for all of which the software was not really designed for, a number of problems arise. Therefore, more sophisticated solutions should be sought.
Where Excel falls short
A lot of manually entered spreadsheets in Excel end up having errors that subsequently result in incorrect reporting. On top of that consider merging several spreadsheets, which can easily break formulas, causing more mistakes and further manual re-entry of data. This means extra time spent and unnecessary work done.
As the number of data increases Excel becomes slower, especially if worksheets contain formulas. This happens due to the software’s limited calculation power. Simply put, it was not designed to work with big data.
Excel cannot update information in real-time, as changes to data are happening. By the time an analyst is finished work a report could already be old news.
As companies grow larger they rely on the collaboration of multiple individuals or even departments to plan a budget or complete a forecast report. Using Excel means that either each analyst works on his or her own version of an entire report or the work is divided between a team. In both cases, one has to go through the headache of putting together all the data into one report, risking to miss some parts of the report, duplicating or accidentally overwriting other parts.
Lastly, when it comes to security Excel also has one significant drawback. A user can, of course, protect a spreadsheet with a password; however, this would be a single password for everyone using that document. As the number of people using the document grows, the security of that password reduces.
Although it may seem a little overwhelming at first to switch from Excel to a new product, such as Power BI, the advantages would be far greater in the long run. Finance professionals involved in modeling, budget planning and forecasting will benefits from advanced analytics, visualization tools and reporting capabilities based on the use of big data that Power BI brings to the table.
Having effective compression algorithms, Power BI can easily store, view and analyze massive quantities of data that would be very hard to open in Excel. With Power BI users no longer need to create numerous smaller spreadsheets and try to combine them later into one report; instead, this can be done effortlessly in one file.
Power BI has an incredibly flexible data transformation and editing tool, Power Query. At the heart of this is the M code language, which helps users to quickly filter, delete or merge large collections of data, transpose tables, add relationships between different sets of data and link datasets together. All of these steps are automatically remembered by the software and users do not have to repeat the process manually again in the future.
Sharing data with Power BI has become an easy and straightforward process. Once an analyst finishes a report he or she can then publish it onto the Power BI cloud service. All published reports will be available on the Power BI portal and everyone who has access rights can see the reports in real-time. This means no more uploading files on Google Drive and sharing links, all the reports are now available in one secure location and they are always up-to-date.
Each Power BI user within a team has a separate account. As the accounts can be set up with different access rights, users can contribute and see only the data that is relevant to their respective departments or a geographic location. For example, a company’s UK-based analysts can have access only to a UK sales report without having to dig through the company’s sales in Mexico. This provides additional usability and security, keeping different departments in larger companies separated if necessary.
Overall, Power BI is a great tool, which besides flexible data transformation capabilities, excellent collaborative functionality and security, offers in-depth analytics and reporting options. With an instant visualization capability, statistical functions and calculations across different sets of data, Power BI can provide strategic insights about an organization’s performance in real time.
Naturally, it may seem daunting to launch a large-scale technological change within an organization. Choosing a right partner is an important success factor. Here at Centida, our experts with over 15-years of experience in finance and management will provide you with a full guidance all the way from the initial stage, throughout the implementation phase and eventually take you through an organizational change.