When it comes to planning, budgeting, and forecasting, many organizations rely on good ol’ Excel or a specialized planning tool—such as Hyperion, SAP BPC, Workday Adaptive—or the litany of others that have been around for decades.
However, Microsoft Power BI and its vast ecosystem of add-ons are now a major (and sometimes only) alternative for planning and forecasting, especially if your organization “is” or “wants to be” a Power BI powerhouse.
If you are considering buying Power BI or you already purchased Power BI, you want to make sure you get the most mileage out of this investment. We sometimes get tunnel vision with Power BI, thinking it is reserved for specific use cases and business units or that “Power BI is just a reporting tool.”
Yes, Power BI is a fantastic visualization tool for your data. But it can also be utilized for creating, managing, and collaborating on your planning, budgeting, and forecasting processes…basically, everything you do today in a specialized planning tool and/or Excel. More and more we are seeing Power BI being leveraged for just about any planning use case in finance, FP&A, and across the organization.
Utilizing Write-Back in Power BI
Write-back capabilities in Power BI give the end-user the ability to enter, edit, or update numbers, text, or even data models all via Power BI and see the immediate impact of these changes. These tools let you add notes or adjust drivers for a particular metric directly on the visual. This ability gives a user all of the capabilities and flexibility of their legacy processes and tools, along with Power BI’s rich experience.
For example, when analyzing a P&L report, your budget holders make quick scenario-based changes to the data by typing right into the visual. The visual will then write it back to the cloud or on-premise Power BI server so that the new data reflects in the Power BI report almost immediately—all while maintaining a single version of truth.
With write-back in Power BI, your teams:
- Instantly interact and hypothesize on different drivers and variables (i.e. expenses, pricing, sales).
- Rapidly budget and forecast at any level of granularity by scenario and see the results reflected across the department or the entire organization.
- Easily communicate and collaborate the financial or operational impact of critical business decisions to executives in real-time.
Efficient Planning Workflows and Approvals with Power Automate
Once you understand Power BI’s analytics and planning capabilities, there are other applications in the Power Platform stable that are worth trying out. Using Power Automate, you can build any type of business process or checks and balances within the Power BI environment.
Power Automate is a low code smart robotic process automation middleware with conditional logic through a dynamic user interface. Power Automate allows you to put automated business processes and intelligent workflows into action across your new Power BI-based planning system. Interactions, such as workflows and approvals, are mapped out in both qualitative and quantitative terms in an automated fashion.
Let’s say—with one of the hundreds of prebuilt connectors—you connect Power Automate with Salesforce or HubSpot CRMs. The tool automatically notices whenever a deal gets closed and creates an account for that client in your accounting or ERP system (Xero, Workday, or SAP). Once Power Automate sees that billable hours have been used up for that deal, it automatically issues an invoice ready for approval.
It’s also possible to set approvals for documents and processes within the workflow. For example, approvers or executives respond to requests through email or Power BI collaboration to approve forecasts, work orders, or sales quotas.
By harnessing these three powerful tools (Power BI, Power Automate, Power BI Write-back), you extend and integrate all your business processes in the Microsoft Data ecosystem to facilitate any organizational use case and get an end-to-end business solution.
With higher integration capabilities on the Power Platform, it is absolutely possible to democratize data and unify FP&A processes into a more complete and automated package.
Microsoft Power BI is the most popular and fastest-growing business intelligence tool…and it truly has endless capabilities. Adding Power BI write-back and other tools from the MS stable further unleashes superpowers for FP&A and the whole C-suite. Getting more familiar with the extent of its capabilities then leveraging those superpowers will only enhance your organization.
For more of a deep dive into this topic, we highly recommend dedicating an hour to our complete Collectiv Academy training session, How to Plan and Forecast in Power BI. And, if you need further guidance, don’t hesitate to reach out to Collectiv’s Power BI experts.