Make Strong Decisions with Power BI

March 2, 2022

Power BI is a free tool from Microsoft that helps you pull, visualize and link your reports and answer all those questions on the fly.

Make Strong Decisions with Power BI

Free Microsoft tool lets you visualize business intelligence data quickly and easily

Do you love creating reports? Would you like an easier way to mine your existing business data so that you and your leadership team can use it to make better business decisions? The Miller Group has been using Power BI to do just that, and we think you could benefit, too.

You already have tons of useful business intelligence (think client data, expense data, costs and revenue). But it usually takes a lot of work to create reports about that data to help you make decisions. Then, once you create one report, your business partners start asking questions. How did you get to that number? What’s behind that percentage? Which customers are in that segment? Often, you’re sent back to the drawing board to run more individual reports.

Power BI is a free tool from Microsoft that helps you pull, visualize and link your reports and answer all those questions on the fly.

Rather than looking at a static pie chart, you can drill down into each segment right there by simply clicking on a section of the pie.

Data at your fingertips

For example, we have four lines of business at The Miller Group. And we’ll typically look at a pie chart with revenue by line of business. With Power BI, we can peer inside those revenue numbers without running an extra report. We just click on the Surety section and instantly see the largest clients and the service teams for those clients. We can click on Property and Casualty and see which policies generate the most revenue and the types of policies that make up that revenue. In the past, we’d have to run separate reports for each of these views.

Manufacturing example

This would work great in a manufacturing environment, for instance, where you’re considering materials, quality assurance, job costs, etc. You are likely tracking that data today in a CRM, accounting system or individual Excel files. As long as your spreadsheets have consistent column names, you can set up a Power BI dashboard to display the data visually and allow you to drill into it with a single click.

At a Kansas City Manufacturing Network meeting we hosted earlier this month, Ben Troja with Rehrig Pacific Company talked about how he has used Power BI to improve quality assurance. He asks employees to enter data when they find a problem with a product, including where along the production line they find the problem. With this data, he’s able to track their improvement over time and display the information visually for staff and leadership.

With Power BI, you:

  • Spend less time running reports and building charts
  • Get a clearer visual depiction of your data
  • Make the data accessible to your leaders – no matter when or where they need it
  • Give your non-numbers people a better understanding of your data
  • Make more informed business decisions

Getting started is easy

Best of all, Power BI is easy to learn, especially compared to the more traditional ways of creating charts and graphs from complicated data or using the daunting tables within Excel. With a basic knowledge of Excel and a few YouTube videos, you’ll be on your way.

You can probably get going with Power BI in just a few hours. The basic steps:

Step 1: Open up your reporting system, whether that’s your client relationship management system, accounting software, project management software, inventory control system, sales data or something else. Now, download the data into an Excel spreadsheet. As long as the data columns and rows make sense to you, you can use Power BI can highlight the information.

Step 2: Download the free Power BI desktop version.

Step 3: Click File: Get Data. Select your workbook. Open it. Your data will be imported into the Power BI dashboard.

Step 4: On the visualization panel, drag the chart style you want onto your workspace and connect the chart areas with the column header labels on your Excel file.

It’s really that easy. The sky’s the limit. It’s powerful, it’s free, and I highly recommend it.

About The Author

Andy Holmes

Andy Holmes
Email As Chief Financial Officer, Andy oversees cash flow and financial planning for The Miller Group. With more than 14 years of experience, he analyzes the company's financial strengths and weaknesses, recommending strategic directions.