Business Intelligence – get better business insights

We are living in a digitalized era when data within corporations gets generated at a faster rate than ever before. Companies are using more and more IT systems that are supposed to help them with operations as well as strategic decision-making processes.

However, much of these systems are used as so-called “silos” without any interaction between them and more often than not can create a lot of confusion.

Indeed, companies find it hard to combine different datasets and make full use of the data available.

That is when Business Intelligence (BI) systems come into the picture, by having the ability to harmonize data from different sources. And while there are many available solutions out there, according to research by Gartner, it seems that Microsoft’s Power BI is taking the prime spot in terms of solution’s completeness of vision as well as ability to execute.

Figure 1: Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence platforms (Source: Gartner.com)

What does Power BI offer?

Microsoft has a long track record with key building blocks of Power BI which were first integrated with Excel, namely the PowerQuery, PowerPivot and DAX tools. Power Excel and Power BI are indeed built on the exact same engine. On top of that, Power BI adds a Report View, Custom Visualization Tools and Publishing & Collaboration Options, which makes the tool perfectly suitable for reporting on many levels to different stakeholders.

The main functionalities of Power BI are therefore to shape/clean the data, build a relational data model via establishing relationships between different tables, ability to program calculated fields via collections of functions, operators, and constants and finally to visualize the data and generate reports that can be then shared within the organization.

Enhancing financial management function

With its functionalities, Power BI enables us to get a closer look at financial (as well as operational and commercial) KPIs and metrics that help drive informed decisions. Reports and dashboards can help with:

  • Tracking revenue performance across different units and geographical locations,
  • Cost management,
  • Cash management (cash conversion cycle) and up-to-date liquidity status,
  • Deep dive into performance of various projects,
  • Working capital management with an overview of account payables and account receivables and their aging lists,
  • Constructing KPIs combined from different sources, such as finance and HR – e.g. Revenue/FTE, Utilization rates and similar,
  • And much more

Possibilities are endless and depend on nature and dynamics of the business. This brings us to another big advantage of Power BI which is its flexibility to create truly unique solutions that are tailored to each company’s needs.

One example of Power BI usage within the financial management function would be P&L reporting. The tool enables us to build P&L reports with custom structure. After initial structure build-up, all we need to do on a recurring basis would be to collect the data, which could, in this case be a single data dump of all General Ledger postings.

Slicing and dicing that one data dump can create multiple reports for different business departments (or projects) and locations, through which we can simply navigate via filters. Visualizations then offer us to quickly get a grasp of the trend in reported figures.

Figure 2: Simple financial dashboard in Power BI

In addition, reports can also be flexible so that we can instantaneously drill down to the deepest level (e.g. a single GL posting) to identify the root cause behind reported figures in each report.

In standardized Excel-based reports getting insights immediately on such a scale is never the case and the closest thing to it is navigating through pivot tables or filtering through rows of a table that underlies the report.

This, however, can become a messy process that takes time and focus away from initial goal of reporting business results.

Figure 3: A detailed step-in view into P&L report

Obviously, the example above is only one of many where Power BI can help your organization, but one that, as we have found out, can greatly improve reporting to senior management.

C-suite executives usually do not have much time for very detailed reports and prefer to obtain a high-level view, but would at the same time like to be able to discover underlying causes of reported performance.

Future outlook

We see BI as it is today playing a greater and greater role in enabling users make better use of the data that is generated within an organization, helping retain control over a growing business, increase collaboration and assign accountability to different stakeholders, thereby creating the right incentive structures, and help overall visibility of the business performance that leads to a more informed decision-making process.

Furthermore, there is a potential for deeper insights generation through integration with scripting languages such as Python (as well as R), which enables us to import Python libraries such as Pandas, Numpy, Scikit-learn, etc. for more advanced statistical modelling and Machine Learning. But more on that perhaps in another article.


Figure 4: Running Python scripts within Power BI’s PowerQuery

Mimir Consulting has the relevant experience when it comes to Business Intelligence solutions through working on projects with private as well as listed companies in different verticals. We are offering holistic end-to-end solutions, from understanding the needs of stakeholders, initial designs and to actual implementation. If you think that Business Intelligence is something that can improve the way you are doing business today, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be more than happy to discuss potential solutions tailored to your needs.

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