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What is Microsoft Power BI, and how can it improve accounting?


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Business intelligence (BI) solutions are changing the way companies do everything from sales to operations to finance and even executive management. In fact, a report from the International Data Group predicted that 69% of businesses are planning or in the process of implementing a BI solution. If you’re not planning to use these innovative tools to drive growth for your company, you may be at a competitive disadvantage. Many smaller companies may feel that business intelligence solutions are too expensive or only designed for enterprise-level businesses. But thanks to the Microsoft Power Platform, users of Gravity Software® have access to one of the most powerful business intelligence systems out there: Microsoft Power BI. Let’s look at what Power BI is, how it works and how it can make a difference for your growing business.

What is Microsoft Power BI?

Microsoft Power BI is “a collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn your unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights,” according to Microsoft.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, a Power BI dashboard is worth 1,000 reports. 

The system aggregates your data from several different sources — including Excel spreadsheets, data warehouses, on-premise servers and cloud-based software applications— and helps you analyze and visualize that data so you can uncover key business insights. Microsoft Power BI consolidates this data into simple graphs and tables so you can quickly identify trends that would be difficult to see in complex reports. 

The system uses real-time data so you can feel confident you're making the best decisions for your company and responding as quickly as possible to the changing business landscape. Power BI is available as a desktop application, online SaaS (software as a service) or as a mobile app.

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How can you use Microsoft Power BI for accounting?

One of the biggest issues in accounting is seeing the forest for the trees. It is easy to get overwhelmed with reports, data and numbers, causing you to lose perspective on important trends and metrics. Power BI can highlight those areas that can get lost, allowing managers to see clearly how a company is performing and where the trouble spots are.

With so many business intelligence solutions on the market today, you may be wondering how Microsoft Power BI compares. The short answer is that it's an ideal solution for many organizations, especially for small to medium-sized businesses, because it seamlessly connects data from the systems you're likely already using. 

There are many benefits to using Microsoft Power BI for accounting, including: 

Affordability

Although business intelligence solutions are highly valuable, they often require purchasing a separate solution. The cost can range from a few hundred dollars per month to several thousand, depending on how many users you need, according to Software Connect. And Software Connect notes the majority of users only need to use it for a few specific purposes.

With Microsoft Power BI, you can get started for as little as $10 per month per user. 

Ease of integration 

Third-party business intelligence solutions aren’t always designed to integrate well with your accounting software, CRM, or other business-critical systems. That makes it difficult for your accounting team to access the information they need to forecast future growth, compile reports for investors and other stakeholders, and make adjustments to improve your financial outlook. 

The good news is that if you have Microsoft Outlook 365, Microsoft Power BI works right alongside the applications you already use. 

Ease of use

Traditionally, it has been difficult for small to mid-sized businesses to set up business intelligence solutions in a way that was meaningful. You needed technical resources to get your accounting database to connect to the BI software. Then, you needed to be very technically savvy to model your information in a way that actually made sense. Most small business owners and accounting professionals know the issues and how they want their dashboards presented, but you would often need the skills of an experienced programmer to actually set up the BI models. Finally, it would take a long time and a lot of money to set up a BI application. Many business intelligence systems are abandoned because by the time they’re set up, your requirements have changed.

Microsoft Power BI is different. The solution makes it easy to start making sense of your complex financial data. Setting up your first dashboard can take less than an hour for a power technical user as Power BI takes all the technical aspects away so all you need to do is model your information in an easy-to-learn interface. Power BI allows you to “find and share meaningful insights with hundreds of data visualizations, built-in AI capabilities, tight Excel integration, and prebuilt and custom data connectors.” The platform is scalable and provides industry-leading data security with “sensitivity classification and data loss prevention capabilities to help keep your data secure and compliant — even when it’s exported.” In total, the solution allows you to dive into your complex data and come out the other side with actionable insights that move your business forward.

Microsoft Power Platform

The ability to create personalized dashboards and reports

You can use Microsoft Power BI in many different ways depending on your role and your needs. For instance, if you need to see real-time inventory data, you can create a dashboard that shows the most up-to-date information on your parts in stock, pending orders and inventory costs. 

If you want to share a report on all the previous year's expenses with your executive team, you can use Microsoft Power BI to connect accounts payable invoices from different departments for a clear breakdown. This makes it easier to see trends that may not otherwise be apparent, like the fact that IT costs accounted for 15% of your total expenses this year when it was only 5% of your expenses in previous years. 

Faster insight into the metrics that matter most

An ongoing challenge of many business intelligence solutions is that they require a lot of manual effort and don't always reflect the most up-to-date information. With Microsoft Power BI, you can use the Power Automate feature, a workflow engine that makes it easy to simplify redundant processes without a developer. For instance, if you want to send BI reports to department managers at the end of each month, you can set up an automated workflow to make that happen. 

This gives everyone at your organization instant access to the insights they need, making your accounting department even more valuable. 

The automation feature is especially helpful for multi-entity accounting software operations. The more companies you have, the more difficult it can be to have full visibility into all of them. When you use Microsoft Power BI for accounting, you can easily see data for all your entities in one place, even if you have some locations with different tax laws or different currencies. 

Power BI connection

Both Gravity and Power BI are built on the Microsoft Power Platform, the two integrate seamlessly. This means that all the financial data stored within Gravity that you want to analyze can flow freely into the Power BI app. This eliminates time spent migrating data from one database to the next and allows your accounting team to focus on developing better insights for your business.

The real benefit in using these two solutions in tandem comes from the fact that Gravity is more than just accounting software. It also lets you track inventory across multiple locations, manage multiple entities in a single database, create a bill of materials for light manufacturing, calculate value-added tax (VAT), integrate seamlessly with Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM and more. So, when you combine all of those capabilities with the power of Microsoft Power BI, you can unpack key insights and drive operational efficiency across your entire business. By taking the wide-ranging capabilities of Gravity and pairing them with a unique business intelligence tool like Power BI, you can gain an edge on your competition and position your company for sustained growth.

Want to see how Microsoft Power BI and powerful multi-entity accounting software can improve results for your business? Schedule an online demo of Gravity today to learn how our innovative accounting solution can help spur growth for your company.

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