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Expand data driven advisory services with Power BI

10th May 2016
Practice Editor AccountingWEB
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“Professional services only exist because of the human condition of limited knowledge,” says James Akrigg, Microsoft’s head of technology. “You bring your accounting skills to help with that business. What if that knowledge is expanded and so creating better value?”

Akrigg’s message for accountants at the recent Accountex event highlighted how trusty old Excel could help them harness and interpret data to expand their advisory services using Microsoft’s Power BI tools.

Speaking with AccountingWEB, Akrigg wanted people to be more data driven in the way they manage their businesses.

“Excel is still the go-to tool for most accountants,” he said. But the speed of development as a cloud product changed the pace at which Microsoft could deliver new enhancements - such as the ability to build forecasts interactively from data pulled into Excel from other systems.

Power BI featured prominently in Akrigg’s Accountex presentations as the means to step into data-driven analytics. Since Power BI was integrated into the core Excel 2016, rather than working as an add-on, Microsoft has been building integration packs for cloud accounting applications, first with Quickbooks, and then with Xero, as we heard at Xerocon earlier this year.

During his talks, Akrigg explained how Power BI can be used to connect data sources and generate reports to help monitor business performance measures.

Akrigg also revealed how Excel is being enhanced with new business tools to complement cloud and mobile technology. “One of them is called Power App. If you know Excel and you know PowerPoint, you can create very simple yet effective line of business applications.

“One of the points where I can store that data will be straight into that Excel file so I can then analyse that data at a later stage,” he said.

Microsoft’s Power BI evangelism is not limited to the UK profession. Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) has gone into a partnership with the Excel developer to launch a “predictive accounting” initiative called Kairos.

Based on Microsoft’s Azure cloud applications platform and the Power BI tools, the subscription service is designed for accountants to feed data into the analytic engine and turn it into dashboards, forecasts and business models to guide their clients.

It may be ironic for the professional body of accountants in the heartland of Xero and associated analytic add-ons like Spotlight Reporting and Fathom chose to throw its lot in with the American king of desktop productivity tools, but enthusiasts for the project emphasise that Power BI can plug into the application programming interfaces (APIs) that transfer data between cloud applications - including Xero, QuickBooks, Sage and their associated add-ons.

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