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5 Reasons Accountants Use Power BI

23rd Apr 2024
Brought to you by
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With our plug-and-play Power BI reporting for Xero we support accountants and bookkeepers like you...
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5 reasons accountants use Power BI
Tugger

Many people refer to Microsoft Power BI as a data reporting tool, but at Tugger, we feel that it can more accurately be described as a tool to find insights within data. Because that’s the whole point really, Power BI doesn’t just show you your data, it helps you understand what it means - data storytelling if you like. 
 
So maybe you feel you no longer need to read on. There it is in the first paragraph, a whopping great reason that accounts use Power BI. Maybe that’s enough for you to take the plunge? But that is just aimed to whet your appetite and we encourage you to read on because we’ve got four more pretty compelling reasons why accountants in particular should use Power BI. 

One: Data Storytelling

OK, we already told you this one but what does ‘data storytelling’ mean, how is it different to data reporting, and what is it about Power BI that makes this easier? 

Before we divulge, let us ask, in your role, are you expected to simply present the numbers? Is that enough? Or are you expected to understand what these numbers mean, how these numbers were achieved, and what you need to do more, or less, of to see these numbers move in the desired direction? 

Unless, you’re just starting out or if the business you work for is being deliberately driven into the ground in the style of Buster’s Millions, then I think it’s safe to assume that you’re expected to understand, and actively drive the numbers or at the very least, it would be a bonus if you had some thoughts on this.

Not to put too fine a point on it, here is LinkedIn’s very recent thoughts on the changing role of accountants. 

Traditionally, accountants were primarily responsible for recording transactions, preparing financial statements, and ensuring compliance with regulations. However, the digital era has ushered in a new era for accountancy, redefining the expectations and responsibilities of accountants in today's dynamic business environment…The evolution of the accountant's role signifies a departure from traditional, siloed responsibilities towards a more integrated, strategic, and technologically adept profession. Accountants who embrace this change, acquire new skills, and leverage technology will not only enhance their own professional value but will also contribute significantly to the success and sustainability of the organisations they serve. As stewards of financial health and business strategy, accountants are poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of organisations in a rapidly changing business landscape.

Wow, no pressure then, only the weight of the business on your shoulders! There is a clear and seismic move away from accounts simply reporting on the figures, toward accounts telling the story behind the data and using this story to guide strategic direction making. You guessed it, this deeper dive into the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the numbers is data storytelling, 

But how does Power BI help with this? 

Power BI enables you to integrate data from multiple sources, into one complete view. You can look at historic data, cross departmental data, and data from your kit ’n’ caboodle of systems and software including Xero and Excel! So you’re not looking at data in one area and trying to manually guesstimate why that is having an impact on data in another area. 

You see your data in a way that’s just not possible when you look at individual data sets. So you can help your marketing and sales team see customer behavior trends like buying patterns or preferences. And then you can gift your operations team with ideas for improved efficiency. While your finance colleagues can focus on those revenue growth ideas. It’s basically a real-life business utopia. 

Two: Collaboration with colleagues and stakeholders

We lied, the entire weight of the business doesn’t lie solely on your shoulders. Collaboration is essential for meaningful financial reporting and it’s therefore, likely that you do need to collaborate with other strategic business leaders such as department heads, board members, clients, partners etc. 

One beautiful thing about Power BI is that you can share your data reports and views with anyone you choose. They don’t even have to have a Power BI license themselves, in fact they need never have heard of Power BI, or Microsoft! You can share your reports embedded in a email, a presentation, a spreadsheet, a Teams chat, a portal, the intranet, the internet, within Power BI itself. You get the picture, reports, charts and tables generated within Power BI don’t need to stay within Power BI, So everyone across the business, and anyone who is invested in the business’s strategic direction, can be guided by the same data. This makes it easier to see how everyone can best work together. 

And within your Power BI Jedi Master of a view, you can choose which bits to share. You can either only share specific tables and graphs or, if your colleagues are using Power BI, they can filter their view to see only see the bits that matter to them. This means that there is one complete master view, but within this, people see the bits they need to, to make an impact in their role day-to-day.

The visual nature of Power BI reporting also makes it accessible to everyone. It is a technical product but it spits out very user-friendly reports. In fact, often users have no idea that what they’re looking at was generated in Power BI, it looks like any other chart, table, or graph. 

And one of the best parts of the collaborative reporting, is that it can be automated so you can pre-set who you want to get what, and when. Pretty nifty, hey! 

Three: Power BI, and Co-Pilot can help you identify patterns 

Not to dumb down the required and natural, super-human maths intelligence skills and years of study required to become an accountant but…it all just boils down to patterns, right? Do X and get Y.  

OK, OK it’s not quite that easy. If it were we’d all be doing it. The reality is that Identifying pattens that are buried deep within data, and sometimes lack of data, can feel like you need to be  John Nash - yes, Russell Crowe’s character in a Beautiful Mind. But this is something that Power BI can help with, and not only in the sense that the multi-data set reporting and the way data is reported makes visualising pattens infinitely easier. 

Power BI and Microsoft’s AI offering, Co-Pilot can actually offer you suggestions, highlighting anomalies, and suggesting where you should dig a little deeper. And all you have to do is ask! 

Power BI supports ‘natural language queries’, which means that you can ask questions in normal human language as opposed to a programming language which would require you to be able to code. So if you spot an area of interest, perhaps a slight increase in margin, you can ask Power BI to show you data relating to this. 

We’ll be honest, you might not get a pitch perfect answer every time as this is AI. But, you’re likely to get a whopping great head start as to where you should start looking, and you should be alerted to anything you’ve overlooked.

So fear not, Power BI doesn’t want your job, think of it more as a trusted friend who’s great at giving advice. That friend who always poses the right questions to enable you to come to your own conclusion. Or if the answer is really obvious, but you’re too closely involved to see it, they’ll outright tell you - dump them! I mean errr, look at this data!

Four: Improve accuracy

Simply put, there is just so much room for human error in accountancy and finance roles. These errors can be the result of a simple typo or they can stem from a genuine misunderstanding of the data. Power BI can help prevent both these wildly different types of errors. 

We’ve mentioned that Power BI can join together data from multiple systems but we’ve perhaps not stressed that it can pull this data in automatically, so there is no manual data input. Once you’ve done your data modelling, your data is transferred across in the same way every time. There are even tools that will handle the data transfer process for you. (We know a fair amount about this because Tugger is one of them.) We mention this because talk of data modelling can have people running for the hills. If you don’t know what data modelling is, or if you do and hate it, fear not! If you use Tugger to transfer your data from Xero for example, into Power BI, you need not give data modelling a second thought. And transferring your data from one system to another in this way avoids Chinese Whispers-related errors where your figures subtly change as they re-entered from one system to another. 

The second, more complicated element to this is when there is a fundamental lack of clarity or understanding of the data, and you guessed it, this is where you tend to see far more serious errors. 

Power BI helps dramatically reduce these much deeper errors because your date reporting is presented in very visual, easy-to-digest reports. If there is wildly inaccurate data it would stand out, and if you’re using Co-pilot, this would likely be brought to your attention. 

But also, when you’re in the swing of using Power BI, you’re looking at your cross system or cross department data much more frequently, you become much more familiar with how it looks in one coherent report. So when you notice anomalies, you can usually very quickly identify if something dramatic has happened in your business, or if someone has accidentally used divide instead of minus. 

Five: You’ll save a heap of time

We hear you, this should have been number one but some would say we’ve saved the best for last. For all the reasons above, Power BI has the potential to save you some serious time. 

None of the things in this article can be described as admin. Cross referencing data streams or looking for data pattens is not something that you can get a summer temp in to do for a couple of weeks in the school holidays. But to an experienced accountant, some of this sort-of is admin. It’s what you need to get through, in order to get to a point where you can start to do the strategic direction making part of your role. Power BI can really help you make a dent in these more laborious and error-prone tasks, helping you get straight to the good bits.   

Summary

So there we have it, why accounts use Power BI in a nutshell. 

If you’re sold, but still don’t really have that much of a clue what Power BI is outside of the thing everyone is talking about, then check out our profile on Accounting Web or our website. We chat extensively about Power Bi in articles, webinars, events and any other medium we can get our hands on so you may find something helpful. 

In the meantime, we hope this article succeeded in its goal of wetting your appetite, because if you’re working in finance, we really do believe that Power BI can help you. 

Keen to find out more? Get in touch with the team here at Tugger to find out more about how you can get the best out of Power BI for you and your clients.