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Will Power BI replace Excel as the go to analytics tool for Treasurers?

Treasurers can spend quite some time analysing and reporting on core treasury data.

Extracting data from different sources, converting to a format that can be loaded into excel, structure the data to gather relevant insights and then export it into a readable format for different stakeholders or transform it into a management summary in PowerPoint can be a long and painful process.

Part of this pain can be resolved by using integrated Treasury Management Systems, ERP systems or data warehouses. However, these options are often costly to implement and maintain and usually offer no, or only limited, data integration.

A number of years ago, Power BI was introduced by Microsoft as part of their Office Suite Solutions. Power BI is a data extraction, transformation and visualization tool and highlights the following key features:

  • enterprise wide self service BI

  • automatically combine raw data from multiple sources

  • find and share real-time insights through built in AI capabilities and visualization

  • data security

One of Power BI’s most important features is its ability to easily integrate with Excel. Other benefits include its ease of use, especially if you are already familiar with Microsoft products, and a friendly price structure.

What can Power BI do to reduce the treasurer’s work load?

Advanced customizable dashboards making use of the same data for the whole organization in a variety of formats allow Treasurers to deliver visually advanced reports to executive boards and CFO’s without requiring programming skills.

With Power BI’s slicing and dicing capabilities, Treasurers can adapt to the different needs of the organization’s various stakeholders. Once set-up, dashboards are updated automatically, saving the Treasurer precious time whilst strongly reducing the risk of error. Because of its extensive publication options, there often is no more need for sharing reports via e-mails or file folder structures.

Power BI has proven to be an excellent tool for supporting treasurers in making the right decisions in a timely fashion. E.g.:

  • Cash Flow Forecasting with graphical representation based upon live ERP data

  • Continuously updated FX positions deriving from A/P and A/R

  • Continuously updated FX gains and losses on open FX positions

  • Cash variances to budget / forecast and forecast/forecast comparisons

  • Debt covenant monitoring and headroom analysis

  • Bank wallet sizing

It is furthermore easy to drill down the data into geographical regions, countries or business units.

The data extraction and transformation capabilities from multiple data sources allow for quick, continuously updated, integrated and even predictive insights that used to be unattainable so far, or only at high investments in time and money.

To conclude, Power BI will probably not replace excel, which is still the most flexible tool for data analytics that almost all of us are very proficient in. However, in many circumstances its benefits for Treasury are obvious when it comes to analysing large amounts of data and creating dashboards. Combining both tools to do what they do best seems sensible. In that context: several data extraction and transformation options available in Power BI have over the years been integrated in Excel as well.

Depending on the software set-up in your organisation, tools like Tableau and Qlik are frequently used alternatives for Power BI. Both also integrate easily with Excel and other data sources and also provide advanced data analytics and visualizations in its solution suite.

How are you dealing with the growing availability of data, what tool(s) do you use? Let us know in the comments or through a direct message.

Our consultants at Orchard Finance have a strong interest in and knowledge of analytics and Treasury solutions and are happy to further discuss the options for your organisation.

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