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Analytics via Power BI: The key to FP&A teams not getting left behind

Before I was heavily involved in working with Power BI and financial teams of various businesses, I used to assume that analytics and data played a critical role in the financial planning process. How else would businesses be able to make data-driven decisions that would prepare them for future demands and opportunities? It only made sense that analytics and data helped this process along. However, after working with many clients, I now know that this is not always true. Many financial planning and analytics teams still depend heavily on their “intuition” and “experience” – 61 of executive responders to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey confirmed this sentiment.

In fact, I was surprised to learn that in a survey by the US-based Association for Financial Professionals (AFP), only 30 of respondents highlighted FP&A as an area where accessing information and analytics capabilities was important. Naturally, these are important traits, but they fail to keep up with the evolving function of FP&A teams.

Financial planning teams are increasingly being perceived as the forecasters and trend-predictors that give businesses valuable insights into how they need to be operating, what changes they need to consider, among many other things. Intuition and experience, therefore, simply will not cut it. Businesses that leverage the right BI and analytics tools, like Power BI, are gaining access to insights that their traditional competitors do not have.

As the technology continues to evolve, what I tell our clients on a regular basis is that these tools are no longer optional – they are essential. They are not just for companies to stay ahead of the pack, rather, they are to help them survive in an evolving business climate.

Other business entities are using analytics, so why isn’t your finance team?

I am a proponent of analytics and its value to businesses, therefore, the more it is utilized by businesses, the better! From marketing teams, to research teams, all the way to human resources teams, there has been significant adoption data analytics in the decision-making processes of these entities.

If teams whose core success indicators are less dependent on analytics are utilising analytics technology so much, why is the usage rate among financial teams so low? FP&A teams, and the CFOs who oversee them, need to recognise the value of analytics – especially when leveraged through a tool that runs on Microsoft’s Power BI suite.

With the ability to connect to hundreds of financial and accounting data sources, combined with the ability to produce stunning and insightful reports, accessible via a wide array of devices, Power BI gives financial teams the ability to streamline their planning operations seamlessly.

You do not need to involve IT experts for every process

One big concern businesses leaders I have worked with have had when it comes to trying out a new tool is how easily it can be implemented and adopted by their staff. Many tools in the past were complex and had difficult-to-learn functions that warranted the presence of an IT expert. Fortunately, today, cloud-based tools, like Power BI, offer users self-service functionality that helps finance teams run their own queries without having to involve anyone from IT.

This helps in two ways. On one front, it saves businesses time and money from not having to maintain a large IT staff to help with every technical query, given that tools that run on Power BI have this self-help functionality. On the other hand, the level of user-friendliness means that onboarding new finance and planning employees becomes significantly easier. The system is much easier to learn, which in hand makes the transferring of knowledge between staff less complicated.

If you are still not convinced, here are some numbers for you…

Recent studies and my own personal experience in working with finance teams has shown a clear slant towards organizations and companies that invest in technology, as opposed to those that do not, when it comes to overall process efficiency. Within months of completely implementing our Agility Planning application, a tool built on Power BI’s capabilities, many of our clients have pointed out to me just how simplified and efficient their overall operations have become. The facts back it up too!

In several recent studies, results have confirmed this correlation between technology investment and efficiency. The survey by the AFP identified how full-time employees who worked in companies that invested less than 10 of their total budget on technology spent an average of 384 days or more on handing financial data. On the flipside of this, full-time employees who worked in companies that invested up to 49 of their total budget on technology spent only an average of about 62 days doing the exact same financial data-handling. The difference is staggering.

With tools and applications only continuing to improve and evolve over time as more users and businesses adopt them, analytics revolution is not going to end any time soon. Power BI is the leading analytics and BI tool that many businesses across the world have chosen to implement. If you are looking for a new and powerful data analytics tool, check out our effective Agility Planning application, which has helped provide all our customers with valuable and intelligent insights. Please feel to reach out to us at any time if you have any additional questions.