3 simple steps for successful Power BI Implementation in finance

This article can be used as an extensive Power BI adoption roadmap. I’ll take you through the relevant implementation steps and precautionary measures pivotal in starting a Power BI project, covering multiple sources for Power BI best practices, implementation costs and implementation challenges.

Implementing a Power BI project can be complex. Yet, with the right approach, it is an attainable goal for any finance team and its project managers. This is especially so in present times. For example, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Singapore government has recently enhanced its previous initiatives targeted at promoting digitalization and productivity. There is no better time to begin than now.

Here’s what you need to do to start harnessing the capabilities of Microsoft Power BI:


1. A clear goal with prioritised objectives to deploying Power BI

Power BI implementation is an extremely powerful tool with endless possibilities. Ambitious CFOs and finance leaders often take a deep dive into business analytics in an attempt to automate every financial report possible. However, trying to achieve too much too fast could lead to eventual pitfalls. It’s crucial ​​to ask the right questions such as what is Microsoft Power BI and is it what my company needs? Bearing in mind that it is an interactive data visualisation software with a focus on business intelligence, it’s important to know if it can help you drive your business results by providing actionable insights that help you decide if it’s what you need.

So, the first question every finance leader should ask themselves is:

What is Power BI used for and will it work for my business?

It is extremely important to find the true purpose of implementing Microsoft Power BI in your organisation, and the eventual goals you want to achieve. Business Intelligence platforms and tools may be the hot topic right now, but it is important to understand BI’s significance particularly to you and your organisation, and not jump on the bandwagon just for the sake of it.

If your systems are working well for you now, why change them? Many ask questions such as is Power BI better than Excel? If your company is small and doesn’t require a lot of data analysis then Excel may suffice, but it’s worth finding out more about what Power BI can do for you and your colleagues as potential Power BI users.

Without a purpose and vision to your BI project, a big-bang approach that focuses on just the output of real time reports is both resource intensive and may not be scalable enough to adapt to prospective changes in reporting requirements. Additionally, you may place the project team at risk of change fatigue. These are undesirable consequences that could further strain your resources and lengthen your project timeline for Power BI implementation.

Instead, bear in mind that ‘less is more'. Goals should be reframed to build the foundation that paves the way to success for your vision. In this case, the goal should be a big picture where scalable objectives can be built within it. It is important to keep things simple. One such goal could be to build a data-driven culture, that is to prioritise using the data in Power BI to make decisions. This incorporates small successes to gain competencies while avoiding change fatigue.

Who are the beneficiaries and how to use Power BI?

It is also crucial to understand who the eventual beneficiaries of your Microsoft Power BI project will be. How will the Power BI implementation serve their needs? What is Power BI and how does it work?

Try wearing the lens of the board members, and internal and external stakeholders to envision how financial information should be consumed in the future and think beyond how your reports are currently being consumed. This way, you will be able to have a clearer view of what your Power BI dashboards and Power BI reports should look like, allowing you to effectively build and prioritise your project goals.

Like every other digital initiative, you will need a goal that is specific and time bound for stakeholders to work towards. The goal also needs to be measurable, with key indicators to define the success and effectiveness of ongoing efforts. This is the most important step that you will want to dedicate time to because the project will be centred along these objectives.

One way to get started is to interview your finance team to get the whole picture. Your team would be in the best position to feedback on your current constraints and requirements to map out a viable plan, at the pace of your organisation’s learning curve.


2. Data maturity level assessment: Are you ready for Power BI implementation?

Another question to ask yourself is: Am I ready to start a Microsoft Power BI project? CFOs often want to start Power BI implementation but fail to consider what lays the foundation, and what the prerequisite or priming conditions are. The heart of implementing Power BI lies in the data and as the common saying goes: ‘garbage in, garbage out.’ Ensuring that good quality data goes in is as important as every other step of the implementation process.

Here are some key questions to ponder:

  1. Is my company and its data ready to implement Power BI?
  2. Does our organisation commit to a process to ensure data is accurate, standardised, complete and up to date?
  3. Do we have what it takes to implement Power BI?
  4. What are the priming conditions necessary to help my team transition smoothly?

Start by engaging an expert to review your existing finance processes. If organised internally, ensure that the selected individual or team has the authority and sufficient mandate to drive the process assessment. In our experience, the success of a project is often highly reliant on commitment from the management. This similarly applies if you hire an external expert, one who is seasoned in Microsoft products and services, for example.

Next, ensure you have a centralised, single source of truth data warehouse. Granted, such data warehouses can be filled from various sources, but they should follow a centrally set structure. Such a process of centralising multiple sources of data to one warehouse is commonly known as ETL (Extract, Transform and Load).  

It’s time to assess which level of the curve you are at, according to our assessment guide above and given that you are reading this article, you would be at the Awareness stage. The outcome is to inculcate a data driven culture to fully leverage on Power BI.


3. Find the right experts to guide your Power BI project

Having considered your objectives and company’s data maturity level, the next step is implementing your solution.

For successful Power BI implementation, you can consider tapping external expertise. With the Innovation and Productivity initiatives launched under the Enterprise Development Grant (EDG), such support is readily accessible. The scope of the EDG includes automation tools, process redesigning as well as product development. External expertise comes equipped with relevant skill sets and can provide a fresh new perspective as they see your organisation’s operating model from a third-party view.

You can leverage their experiences with similar projects and gain insights that are more objective and unencumbered by factors that hinder project goals and objectives.

Experts can help you:

  • Redesign your processes
  • Centralise your data sources
  • Implement a platform to evaluate datasets, shape, model and share data
  • Utilise the Power BI desktop and mobile app properly
  • Create a solid, well-designed solution that considers not just the data alone, but end-to-end processes outside the Power BI tool, such as moving data to be cloud-based

Finding Power BI experts in your company

Do also pay attention to developing internal expertise to tap on the purpose of self-driven BI tools. The aim is for staff to be equipped with the right skill set to automate new reports from the same data source. We are blessed in a highly digitalized world where there are multiple platforms available to pick up basic Power BI skills – such as the use of Dynamics 365 Customer Insights. 

When engaging external experts, it’s important to also work out a tailored training plan to increase adoption rate. This will help achieve your goal at a faster pace and ensure enduring success. 


Summary: Why your company should start Power BI implementation now

Implementing Microsoft Power BI is not an insurmountable task. With actionable steps taken to set goals, ensure data maturity and engage expert resources, I believe that your company will be able to reap the benefits of a successfully implemented Power BI project. The visualisations available will help you and your team derive better business analytics faster. 

According to an ACCA report, 76% of finance leaders believe big data will have an impact on businesses over the next five-year horizon. “Its promise and its pitfalls are gaining increasing attention in businesses across the world, as business leaders come to terms with the risks and opportunities it will mean for them.” (ACCA). There’s no better time to start than now. 

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