Farhan Qamar ACCA, founder and business finance partner, Valuefinex

Advances in technology have been disrupting traditional roles in finance. From the digitalisation of tax filing, to the automation of expense receipts and purchase invoices, these solutions have revolutionised the way finance teams operate.

But despite these advancements, many businesses continue to rely on manual processes for tasks that senior finance roles are expected to perform. These are not only time-consuming, but are also prone to errors and lack real-time insights. This makes it difficult to assess the company’s performance, identify trends and discover potential growth opportunities.

Implementing Power BI can be more cost-effective than setting up a new system from scratch

In addition, the volume of data needed to produce financial statements has grown exponentially in recent years, creating a significant burden on finance teams.

Transformative software

But help is at hand. The reporting process can be automated simply and cheaply with Microsoft Power BI. In fact its use by the finance function can be transformative – in a number of ways:

  • Disruption to processes and the risk of data loss or errors during a transition can be minimised because Power BI can be connected to existing datasets – including enterprise resource planning systems, accounting software and customer relationship management systems.
  • Implementing Power BI can be more cost-effective than setting up a new system from scratch. There is a minimal licence-per-user fee or even no additional cost (as Power BI Pro is included in the Microsoft 365 E5 licence).
  • The software can be customised to meet the specific financial reporting and analytics needs of the business.
  • Users can create visually impressive reports using the interactive data visualisations.
  • Power BI is cloud-based and therefore accessible from anywhere.
Time factor

Additional features include ‘time intelligence’ functions, which enable you to analyse and compare data over periods and make it easier to identify trends and patterns. This allows you to perform calculations based on specific dates or time periods, such as calculating a rolling average, year-over-year growth or month-to-date sales.

You can create a live and dynamic PowerPoint presentation directly connected to your Power BI report

For example, plotting year-on-year revenue trends with the percentage variance over the period requires a few DAX coding extracts that your analyst will only be required to code once. By combining three of the most used DAX functions such as CALCULATE, DIVIDE and DATEADD, Power BI will be able to help you generate a visual representation of the period-over-period revenue trend in chart column, alongside the percentage variance trend as a line, providing a clear and comprehensive horizontal financial analysis of your revenue.

Share the data

Power BI also allows the user to share, embed or export reports easily – with senior management, team members or clients through a link or an email.

The time investment is front-loaded, with the analyst creating the initial report model

The reports can also be embedded on your portal or website. And you can create a live and dynamic PowerPoint presentation directly connected to your Power BI report, export it as a multi-page PDF or distribute it via multiple channels within your organisation, such as Teams or Sharepoint.

Additional features

  • Natural language querying makes it easier for non-technical users to access and analyse data.
  • Data security and compliance features ensure that sensitive data is protected and that regulatory requirements are met.
  • Built-in AI and machine learning capabilities allow users to perform advanced analytics tasks such as forecasting, sentiment analysis and anomaly detection.
Upfront effort

Let’s consider the scenario where you are responsible for creating the management reporting. In Excel, you would need to spend a significant amount of time manually extracting data from your ERP or accounting software, creating charts and calculations, and formatting the report for presentation purposes. This can take hours or even days, and any changes to the data (like new invoices or accounting transactions) would require you to start again.

With Power BI, the time investment is front-loaded, with the BI analyst creating the initial report model. This process is performed only once; after it’s completed, the dashboard is designed to adapt to any changes in the raw data (eg new sales pipeline, invoices or accounting entries). Regardless of data updates, Power BI refreshes the entire dataset and updates your pre-configured dashboard in seconds. See a live dashboard result illustrating how Power BI can interpret data including p&l analysis, sales performance and forecasts.

The options are almost endless and totally customisable based on your needs, saving countless hours of manual slicing and dicing of data to get the insights you need.

More information

Earn free CPD units by watching on demand the AB webinar, ‘Power BI basics for finance professionals

See also the AB article on the new technology driving the audit revolution, part of our special edition on big tech