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Xero slips off Power BI menu (temporarily)

12th Jun 2019
Xero slips off Power BI menu
Power BI_Microsoft
Xero slips off Power BI menu

Microsoft has been making changes to its Power BI analysis and reporting environment but appears to have dropped Xero’s data connector from its portfolio.

Microsoft’s latest Power BI announcements heralded the arrival of shared and certified datasets in Power BI that will let IT administrators certify standard datasets for use within their organisations.

During the past week, however, Power BI users reported difficulties connecting to Xero accounting ledgers and the Xero Content Pack has disappeared from the app menu users see within the Power BI web interface.

An update note on Microsoft’s Power BI blog commented: “As of 28 May 2019 the Xero content pack is deprecated, users are advised to remove the content pack entirely.”

When AccountingWEB contacted Microsoft about the issue, a spokesperson explained: “The Power BI integration with Xero stopped working due to changes in Power BI. That said, Microsoft and Xero are working as quickly as possible on a fix and we will update as soon as this is resolved.”

Xero confirmed that Power BI was still a third-party integrator and indicated that it was working with Microsoft to restore data connections within the next week or two. Customers are being advised to raise a ticket in Xero Central help to keep abreast of the changes. [UPDATE 19 June 2019 - the Xero app is now visible and accessible from the Power BI web client via the Get data link. See further comments below.]

Microsoft has been doing internal housekeeping around its increasingly influential data analysis tool and part of this project involves switching from the previous “content pack” model to a new breed of connectors under the banner of “template apps”. While QuickBooks Online and Sage remain accessible to Power BI users, the Xero pack appears to have been left behind in the move. 

“It is not a big job to convert your existing content pack to the new form of Power BI apps, so I can only conclude that Microsoft made a decision to abandon it,” commented AccountingWEB Power BI contributor Hugh Johnson. “It was Microsoft's product, so it was their decision to make.”

The rise of Power BI

Power BI originated nearly a decade ago in the form of beefed-up Power Query enhancements in Excel 2010, but over the past year has started to live up to expectations as an Excel-compatible window into large and varied datasets. Growing interest from AccountingWEB readers in Power BI tutorials from Hugh Johnson confirms that it is gaining a following among accountants.

Power BI comes in two forms: a web client app that lets users create and view personal workspaces from data and dashboards that are made available to them, and the desktop version that is used to build the underlying reports and queries. The web app has easy-to-use filters and widgets that let you select datasets and move them around on your screen, but using the modelling back end demands more sophisticated skills such as the ability to interrogate underlying data using the structured query language (SQL).

Sage, QuickBooks and Xero as well as the main enterprise accounting software vendors all pledged their allegiance to Power BI and are able to connect into Microsoft’s analysis tool through bespoke mapping apps within the web client. 

For some observers, Power BI is the future of financial analysis and reporting, but alternative products such as Futrli, Spotlight Reporting, Float and Fathom are designed to plug directly into the big cloud accounting platforms. Those configuring Power BI have a bigger job on their hands to identify and hook up to the data tables they want to extract.

The temporary loss of the Xero connector highlights how users sometimes fall victim to the whims of software developers. A programming interface tweak here or new certification requirement there can disrupt normal service and force the customer to diagnose and adapt to the new set-up.

The content pack approach also imposes a standard reporting framework on Power BI users, who usually turn to the Excel-linked application for its flexibility.

Any disruption in the digital pipework underpinning Power BI will steer a few more prospects into the arms of specialist reporting software developers – even though they have their own dependencies on the cloud software application programming interfaces (APIs).

As managing director of Accounting Insights, Hugh Johnson lives in the hinterland between connected ecosystem apps and the free-range world of Power BI reporting.

“To my mind, the Microsoft content pack for Xero completely missed the point,” said Johnson.

“The main problem is that you cannot modify the model of a content pack, nor a Power BI app. No matter how good a Power BI app is, you probably want to modify it – even if just to add a budget spreadsheet. This is what Power BI Desktop does really well. The problem in general with Power BI apps is that they are designed to cut out Power BI Desktop.  

“You can get around this by supporting Power BI apps and Power BI Desktop with a common data feed and (ideally) providing the source code Power BI template file. I might be wrong, but I don't ever expect Microsoft to deliver this. Xero could, but I suspect they are busy enough sticking to the knitting. Hold your breath though, since this is exactly what I am working on now with a couple of UK accounting firms and selected clients.”

Replies (6)

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By sungura
13th Jun 2019 17:49

We have already created our own datasets, via API calls to Xero, to collect data from their tables into our MS SQL server database … and then use SQL as datasource for PowerBI.

Thanks (1)
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By Paulgoldstar
13th Jun 2019 18:52

There's a very good integration with Zoho analytics which is essentially the same. Check out the sample https://analytics.zoho.com/workspace/1867230000001737606/view/1867230000....

Simple to connect and simple to use.

Paul

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By HelenCockle
14th Jun 2019 12:02

Big, complex, data rich dashboards are unbeatable if you have finance or analysis skills and know what you want or need to look for. Real-time dashboarded KPIs with auto updating data is a powerful and game-changing operational tool, but if you do not have the confidence, or a finance or analyst team to support you, the question of where to start, and what to monitor often becomes overwhelming. The removal this month of the heavy weight PowerBI from the Xero ecosystem proves this.

The majority of small businesses who are often time and resource poor through no fault of their own find dashboards and the blank canvas nature of them daunting. However, they absolutely need help to understand how their business is doing, and if they are OK.

Without finance and analyst teams poring over their numbers they need an automated way of delivering them the right information at the right time. If something is on fire, they need to know about it without having to go and hunt for it - something that sadly results in small business failure as they simply don’t know where they should be looking. The new daily actionfeed in Futrli platform (our newest suite of products designed just for small businesses) has been designed to address that need.

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John Stokdyk, AccountingWEB head of insight
By John Stokdyk
19th Jun 2019 13:04

Some interesting points here - thanks. After spending a week away on holiday I tried the Power BI services menu again and found the Xero link up and running again.

Maybe it's pushing things too far to argue that Xero's temporary disappearance was due to the impracticality of Power BI dashboards. Sugura and Paulgoldstar are both doing it.

Rather than freezing Xero out of its analytic environment, the temporary absence was more likely due to a technical glitch or oversight.

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Replying to John Stokdyk:
By garyturner
24th Jun 2019 21:51

There was an issue for a brief period but we worked with Microsoft to resolve it.

Gary Turner
Managing Director, Xero
@garyturner

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By Acterys
24th Jul 2019 07:30

There are solutions out there, like https://www.acterys.com that offer a comprehensive integration with Power BI for Xero. In addition to full access via Power BI Desktop to all Xero data there are also options with custom visuals to accomplish write-back and planning directly from Power BI.

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