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How to Do Write Back & Planning in Power BI?

Data entry, planning and Wrte-back are key aspects of the performance management process not covered out of the box in Power BI.
Acterys as developed to address that by offering a comprehensive ecosystem for enterprise grade business modelling, planning and consolidation that seamlessly integrates with the market leading data discovery solution Power BI and Excel/Excel Online. The heart of system is an OLAP engine which runs on a relational database (SQL Server on premise or on Azure) that enables in-memory processing of the relational tables. A typical standard relational, disk based approach used by other tools on the market can’t cater for processing large scale multi user write back.

What is Write Back in Power BI?

Write-back allows changes in the analytical system to be reflected on the database in real-time. Power BI is an analytical BI tool and doesn’t allow Writeback functionality out-of-the-box. However, tools like Acterys Apps allow it to writeback data to the database cache.

Writeback is a crucial concept for analyzing and forecasting data. It allows the end-user to easily update the database without getting out of the analytical system.

Why Writebacks are Important for Power BI?

Write-back tools allow users to input and update data from the Power BI tool to the database. This improves the performance of the BI application as the same data can be visualized in real-time.

A few reasons writebacks are important for Power BI include:

  • They improve the data forecasting and visualizations
  • They increase data management
  • They save time and provide accurate reporting

The Acterys engine automatically generates optimal data warehouse structures either based on a variety of connectors (cloud-based accounting systems like Xero, QuickBooks, WorkflowMax, Dear Inventory, Hubspot, Salesforce, Saasu etc.) or completely from scratch when users build their own dimensions and cubes as required using the Acterys Cube Wizard, Web Modeller, copy and paste from Excel or by importing data via nearly any ETL tool ( e.g. SQL Server Integration Services, Azure Data Factory, etc.).

How do the different planning options with Power BI compare?

Let’s compare different planning options available on Power BI platform.

Power BI Edit Table

The simplest option is “Data Entry” which enables users to create simple new tables in Power BI. This is only available to report admins on the backend and doesn’t really cater for planning requirements as it is based on entering single records. Good for adding a new mapping for a few Power BI items but not usable for planning where you require multi-dimensional data (row/column/filters) entry not to mention more advanced options like top down/bottom, allocations etc.

PowerApps

PowerApps is another option -for users happy with a cloud setup- to collect a few specific numbers/KPI’s on the base level and add records to a database. If that’s all you require perfect. Our customers frequently use it alongside Acterys, but it is unsuitable for matrix based, planning and forecasting requirements. PowerApps also requires licenses that are available at a similar investment level to Acterys. Finally PowerApps do not support guest users outside your domain. In Acterys you can add any user with their email address or Microsoft Account.

In the planning process, users are dealing with complex data models that include among others: financials, sales, HR details , etc. as well as sophisticated calculation logic. Working with these requires effective (including the support of special financial report structures) tabular entry and the option of entering data on any hierarchy levels with the respective distribution and allocation processing. All this is not supported in PowerApps and that is not what it is built for.

In the following table we are outlining how the different options to enter data in Power BI compare:

Write-back, Planning for Power BI Comparison

Feature

Acterys

PowerApps

Other Write Back Tools (Power on, ValQ)

Getting Started

Initiation

Cloud based self-service sign on/ billing Download of an App or web service Manual purchase (Power on) from vendor (no self-service checkout)

Back end

Automatically generating optimal data warehouse structures

ü ×

×

Processing write back/model changes in memory

ü

×

×

Connectors to cloud-based accounting systems and SaaS

ü ×

×

Audit trail and edit history that tracks all changes (who, what, when) for exact monitoring & control as well as simple undo.

ü

×

Limited

AAD B2B support, single sign on

ü ü ~

Front end

Modelling

  • Web browser-based modeller for business users to build and maintain models.
  • No install required.
  • Complete flexibility with dimensions: As many dimensions and hierarchy levels as required.
  • Cube Wizard Tool to support business users building new write-back models from any source
  • Copy & Paste from Excel. (Modelling in Acterys)

Limited to table edits (Power on), Power BI visual only (ValQ)

Instant Link (Option to avoid ETL and link parts of the data model as opposed to physically moving data but still read/write enabled) ü ×   ×

Planning / Writeback

Data Entry on Pivot Tables and Power BI visual

ü ×

ü

“Splashing”/data entry on any level of the dimensional hierarchy

ü ×

ü

Copy Wizard for data manipulation in Power BI & Excel

ü

×

~

Write back on Excel report formulas in addition to Pivot Table

ü ×

×

Comments

ü

×

ü

Acterys Offers Writeback with Power BI

Acterys allows users to writeback Power BI data to database or to SQL servers. For further details on how the solutions compare and how Acterys can assist your business modelling and planning processes please contact us.

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