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Soupe up your Excel Spreadsheets with Power BI

17th Jan 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...
Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

There is a lot of buzz out there around Microsoft Power BI, especially in the accounting world where data and figures reign supreme, and don't worry you can still use the accountant's favourite tool - Excel.

Soupe up your Excel Spreadsheets with Power BI
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I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of Power BI articles on Accounting Web alone. But how do you feel about it? Perhaps, the possibilities excite you and you’re simply looking for a way to get started, or possibly, the prospect of getting to grips with new technology and the unthinkable - giving up on your trusty Excel spreadsheets - is too much to bear. 

If that’s the case, then we’re here to deliver some good news. Power BI will not replace your Excel spreadsheets. Let’s repeat that for good measure, Power BI will not replace your Excel spreadsheets. You can, and should, integrate Power BI with your existing Excel spreadsheets for better reporting, we’ll cover what ‘better’ means in a tick. 

More good news, there are simple ways to set up the integration between your existing Excel spreadsheets and Power BI, and once your integration is set up, there are several hefty benefits to enjoy. 

Let’s look at some of these core advantages, and why Power BI isn’t a replacement spreadsheet but a souped-up bodywork that makes your Excel reporting more meaningful, complete and collaborative.

Visual Reporting

When you own an Excel spreadsheet, one you’ve painstakingly nurtured over a number of years with multiple formulas, to you it can make perfect sense. However, it’s rare that spreadsheets are produced simply for personal use. Often the purpose of recording data in a spreadsheet is to share the information with others, be this managers, colleagues, clients or the tax man. 

Data that is hidden behind rows and formulas can take a lot of lengthy explanation and even justification. Power BI takes the data within your spreadsheets and turns it into visual reports that are easier to comprehend. We’re talking tables, pie charts, bar graphs, histographs and more.  

So despite being a technical product, Power BI  makes working with complicated figures much clearer and more accessible to others within your business. This elevates collaboration with stakeholders and enables accountants to work more meaningfully with other business leaders to make the right, informed, decisions. 

And these reports are much more powerful than Excel graphs or pivot tables. Reports generated in Power BI aren’t static, they’re interactive so you can dig deeper into specific areas. It’s impressive stuff. In fact, the possibilities are so vast that we’ll cover this specific area in another article. But to give you a flavour of what your Excel data can look like within Power BI, here is an example of a Power BI report showing profit and loss information through a series of different chart types. 

Using Power BI to display profit and loss data from Excel
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Integrate data from multiple Excel Spreadsheets 

Take a quick look at how many tabs you have open on your computer right now. Quite a few, right? 
Herein lies one of the absolute key benefits of viewing your Excel data in Power BI, you can integrate data from multiple spreadsheets into one report. 

One Excel spreadsheet can be complicated enough, but digesting information across several Excel spreadsheets soon becomes a real slog. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it can take days. The manual and timely nature of integrating data in this way means that there is always a lag in reporting updates, and there’s more scope for error.

When you set up your integration between Excel and Power BI you can integrate multiple data sources and display the information in one report, and the report is automatically updated when there are changes made to your underlying spreadsheets. This integration of multiple spreadsheets with live data enables you to report on complicated scenarios immediately, so you spend less time collating data and more time on higher-value tasks. 

*It would be remiss of us not to mention that it’s crucial you set the data integration up correctly, we don’t want to oversimplify this, but there are tools and people who can help with that! 

But the benefit goes deeper than significant time-saving. Accountants often report that, due to these data integration capabilities, Power BI helps them unearth and tell the story behind the figures. It elevates the conversation from numbers alone to trends, patterns and possibilities. 

It is worth mentioning that data from other sources can also be integrated in Power BI, along with your Excel data, these include HubSpot, Xero, and Harvest. 

Data generated within Power BI doesn’t have to stay within Power BI

A fantastic feature of Power BI is that the reporting analysis you generate doesn’t have to stay within Power BI. So you aren’t reliant on everybody whom you want to share your data with, having a Power BI account or even knowing what Power BI is. 

The reports you generate can be extracted and shared via email, portals, or Microsoft Teams for example. This means that your daily, weekly or monthly reports can be set up to run automatically from Power BI and dropped straight into the relevant inboxes. You can also share your tables or your more visual graphs and pie charts this way. This automation doesn’t just mean that reports are always delivered on time, it brings consistency across what’s being reported on and how. 

Finally, let’s be honest, the whopping benefit here is that you don’t have to share your Excel spreadsheets with anyone. No more worries over version control, or that dreaded moment when you realise that someone has tampered with your formula.   

Power BI is collaborative

It’s worth reiterating that Power BI is infinitely more collaborative than a series of static Excel spreadsheets. Not only can you share reports outside of Power BI, but you can share reports, tiles and views within Power BI to aid collaboration. 

There is also scope for collaboration with other departments, clients or suppliers. Due to the data stream integration possibilities within Power BI, you can look at more holistic scenarios than just the bottom line. For example, how does price impact sales, how do sales impact delivery costs and timescales, how do delivery costs and timescales impact profit? You can view the whole business from a financial perspective, which is crucial as the finance function, including accountants, are increasingly expected to lead business strategy.  

Excel is still important

Hopefully, this article has reassured you that your trusted Excel spreadsheet is still the most vital tool in your accounting arsenal - but perhaps you’re now thinking about the extra layer that Power BI can add to bring even more meaning to your financial reporting. 

If you’re interested in using Power BI to soupe up your Excel spreadsheets, you can get support with the integration, and start enjoying your elevated reporting. This lowers the barrier to entry when it comes to engaging with business and financial data, allowing accountants to evolve from the role of gatekeeper to facilitator.

Get in touch with the team at Tugger.app to discover how we can help you get even more out of Excel.