Power BI – Just a means to an end

power biSelf-service business intelligence tools like Power BI are marketed as a hub that pull in data from various departments of the organization and help decision makers visualise and analyze them. The webinars and articles on their websites promise seamless data connection and magical dashboards. The number of small business owners who are swept away by these dashboards are numerous. But, how many are actually successful in using these tools for decision making?

Small and medium businesses often fall into the trap of focusing too much on day-to-day operations and rely on the CEO’s gut feel to alert them if “something is wrong”. Most business owners agree that though this approach might help you sail through quite a few bouts of turbulence, it will hamper long term growth prospects.

Business performance review is a critical component for the growth of the organization. Having stated that, we live in an era of instant gratification. We need immediate, yet sustainable results. The decision makers don’t want to wait for a month for financial/operations reports to be consolidated and presented to review the effects of changes implemented. But the biggest danger of relying on standard financial/operations reports is confirmation bias and tendency to overlook fundamental changes.

Business intelligence tools like Power BI are great to create correlation plots between different parameters which are relevant to the business. These plots give a clear picture of variables which move together. These tools are only as good as the variables that are defined as hygiene and drivers.

I was recently reminded of this truth when one of our clients asked us to look at improving margins on the different payment processors that they use to collect loan repayments. Our analysis revealed several parameters that need to be monitored, some as hygiene and some as drivers. The KPI dashboards and correlation plots we conceptualized on Power BI helped us identify the exact variables to tackle. Finally, our solution helped them identify the optimal position on return rates, processing fees and return fees to maximize their margins with different payment processors – once again proving that the greatest BI tools in the world will not help the business owner if the conceptualization of what needs to be analyzed is not clearly articulated.


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