Last Updated: February 19, 2018
by Ryan Wilson
As new fiscal years begin, many clients begin to think of new ways to track and measure their information. For many, the thought and expense of finding the right solution, along with the right consultant, can seem to be a harrowing task. Ultimately, most end up attempting to modify existing procedures instead of embarking on the journey of implementing a new solution. Unfortunately, these new procedures are fraught with trials and errors and oftentimes end up being more expensive than the software solutions that were initially researched. Thankfully, there is Power BI.
Power BI is a suite of Microsoft business analytics tools that can be used to analyze data and generate visual dashboards across a variety of device platforms, from a variety of different sources. Those familiar with these types of software suites are probably most familiar with competing software such as Tableau or Budgeta. This article will review the overall Power BI system and address some high-level questions such as “Why are these systems so important?”, “How does it work?”, “Will it work for me?”, and most importantly, “How much does it cost?”
“How much is it?” & “How does Power BI work?”
In order to address the question of cost, one first needs to understand how Power BI works.
Power BI is set up as 2 different products, Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service.
Power BI Desktop
A locally hosted desktop application, just like Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel. A lot of work takes place within this application. Within this application, you have the ability to connect to a wide variety of data sources and structure your data in a way to use in your custom dashboard.
Power BI Service
A remote connection to your Power BI Desktop dashboards by utilizing your Office 365 account or by logging in directly to the Power BI app. Power BI Service allows you to create new dashboards as well as modifying existing dashboards remotely. Additionally, Power BI Service allows you to share your reports and communications amongst your team, publish results directly to your company’s website, and even view your dashboards on your mobile device. The cost of Power BI Pro Service is $9.99 per user, per month. It is important to note that each individual you would like to share a Power BI dashboard with must have a Power BI Service Pro subscription. Additionally, you cannot use Power BI Service without also having Power BI Desktop. Fortunately, Microsoft acknowledges this and allows you to download Power BI Desktop for free!
To find out if Power BI can work with you budget, multiply the number of subscriptions you may need by $120 ($10 x 12 months). For example, three users would be a total cost of $360 a year. A low price for such a powerful tool
“Why are these types of software important?”
Unfortunately, it is all too common for decision makers to require analytics from numerous different sources and departments before they can even begin to formulate a plan of action. This back and forth takes time and resources, both of which can make a big difference when it comes to success or failure. Power BI and other analytic software allow you to obtain all the data from your department heads and combine it into a visual and interactive dashboard, allowing you to identify trends and relationships immediately. Consider the following comparisons.
Here is an example of the revenue segment from a standard income statement:
While this is good information to have, most income statements only give 2-3 years of comparable data, making it difficult to examine trends in the industry and measure long-term company performance. Consider complementing the income statement with a simple dashboard to wow your board and provide additional insights.
Each of these visuals is 100% interactive, meaning you have drill down capabilities to view revenue and expenses each by type, by program, and by a specified date range.
Pros and Cons
Power BI has a lot of great advantages, but this doesn’t mean it is perfect. Consider the below table as a reference point for some of the areas where this system performs well, and some of the areas in which it is lacking:
|Easy-to-use visuals||No “What if” Analysis|
|Easy to manipulate data||Unable to manipulate data remotely|
|Wide variety of data connections||Auto-sync of data “Might cause unexpected errors”|
|Automatic syncing of data|
“Will Power BI work for me”
Power BI’s robust connections allow it to retrieve information in a variety of ways. These include some of the most common systems and tools in the accounting industry:
- Great Plains
- Microsoft SQL
- Microsoft Excel
- Microsoft Access
- Sage Intacct
- Intuit Quickbooks
- And many more!
Unfortunately, there is no direct answer to the question of will it work for you. With such a variety of connection options, it’s easy to see that Power BI has the ability to connect to your data, but it will take a review of your current workflow process before you are able to confirm if Power BI will integrate well into that process. If you are interested in Power BI and how it might benefit you, please contact Ryan Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.