FOOD FOR THOUGHT | SEEING IS BELIEVING
Author: Humphrey van Lee
You are doing great, doing what you love most, running your business, perfecting your product, and nurturing your customers. To accomplish this, you are monitoring various aspects of your business, from people to production and from procurement to sales. Every department is creating and maintaining their own Excel files to monitor their activities and share them with you and each other. Great! All is monitored, everyone is aligned, and the company’s vision is clear, full steam ahead! Right? But is the information being shared actual? Is the data shared interpreted the same by all? And are all parties following your course and aware of the set goals?
| “ All is monitored, everyone is aligned and the company’s vision is clear, full steam ahead! ” |
In the ideal situation we would answer yes to all the above questions and with great confidence, but in the real world this is hardly ever the case. Although Excel is used as a reporting tool and pseudo dashboard by many, it has its limitations. At its core it was never intended to serve such ambitions, even when being spiked with some impressive VBA code.
Do not get me wrong, I love working with Excel and it can do many wonderful things, some even better than any BI tool can, but both have their own advantages, disadvantages, and philosophies. By now it is obvious that I want to address the advantages of using a BI tool in addition to the traditional office suite. In most cases they complement each other rather than replacing one another.
Let us bring to light some pitfalls that could arise when being reliant on Excel as your sole source of truth when it comes to dashboarding and analysis. If Excel is not directly linked to your data source, the data collected or presented could be u are receiving the file, even when a report is updated manually every hour by a co-worker. Before the data transformation and review has been done, your business already moved on minutes or even hours forward in time. Using a BI tool, like Power BI, reduces this risk. Power BI can be linked directly to your data source and will update itself on intervals defined by you, be it daily, hourly, or even every minute. This ensures that you are not looking at cold data but at the current state of your company, helping you and your team make confident decisions. Besides having a fresh dataset on hand, it is also a key benefit that the source of your data is centralized, or for sure the report is. Utilizing the Excel solution brings the potential risk of unauthorized copies being made, that someone has added ‘improvements’ and different versions are stored on remote (E-Mail, File Sharing, Laptops) and local (Desktop, USB, Network, SharePoint) locations. Using BI to manage your repositories will rest assured you that the whole team is looking at the same dataset and the same definitions, enabling proper, well-informed, and joined decision-making.
| “ Using BI to manage your repositories will rest assured you that the whole team is looking at the same dataset and the same definitions, ... ” |
Although using an Excel report, or plethora of files, can help you analyze and transform your data into information and enable you and your team to create some stunning visualizations, the reports are mostly static and highly labor intensive. Power BI has the same visualizations, and more, but brings a multitude of advantages with these. Like said, the data source is the single point of truth, up to date, applicable and connected to each other. Meaning, when creating filters (selecting data) the whole report containing the visualizations will follow suit, helping you quickly navigate through your data to drill down into detail or make comparisons. Because the reports and visualizations are in the same repository and being fed from the same data source, it provides the benefit of being able to set your definitions and targets for the whole business. In collaboration with the team the goals are set and the performance indicator’s definitions are made, ensuring everyone is looking at the same data in the same manor. Which rules out room for interpretation.
As always, reports are not set in stone, they are dynamic and fluid. What is applicable and the best choice today could be outdated tomorrow. The report should be capable to follow your business, which is also dynamic and changing over time.
Therefore, at FFA we believe in building a flexible, scalable, and robust foundation on which you can build reports and dashboards. Key elements are data availability and correctness. On top of the foundation we will build the analytics in such a way it is still moldable to your needs and preference as look and feel can change overtime, but data is key and should be rock solid, crystal clear and understandable for all parties involved.
If you enjoyed this blog, or if you want to have more insight in how FFA can support your company, feel free to reach out!
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