If your company is planning to implement Microsoft’s Power BI analytics platform, it is critically important that you understand the complexity involved with a complete implementation. Power BI is not just a product you install and configure; it is a many-month-long software project built on a complicated mix of technology components. It requires extensive planning and top-notch project management skills to get right.
Consider the track record of software projects in general. Well over half of them end in failure. According to a study by IAG Consulting, a full 50 percent of projects miss their target delivery date, substantially exceed their estimated budget, or deliver less than 70 percent of the required functionality. A full Power BI implementation is a large-scale project, and it carries similar risks.
Although there are a lot of things to like about Microsoft’s flagship analytics platform, any company that plans to build its financial reporting and analytics on Power BI should plan for the kind of cost, complexity, and risk that comes with a large-scale software project.
If you are considering using Power BI in your organization, here are some key points to keep in mind that impact project risk:
1. Power BI Is Highly Complex
Many of us have grown accustomed to software products that can be installed in a few minutes, or in the case of more complex products, perhaps a few hours. That’s a relatively straightforward proposition. On the other end of the spectrum, though, are those “some assembly required” products that depend on a team of technical experts to design and implement them.
A complete Power BI implementation must address a long list of architectural questions. The answers to those questions have long-term implications on performance, productivity, and adaptability.
There are some important differences between a cloud deployment of Power BI and an on-premise implementation. For example:
- Which components should you choose to run, where should those components be running, and how will they all work together?
- At what level (or levels) should you implement security?
- Will you use SQL Server Analysis Services for data modeling, or will you do this within the Power BI desktop tool?
- Should you use the Direct Query feature, or import data into Power BI?
- Will you need to run a gateway component, and if so, where?
These are all highly technical questions, but the answers have long-term implications, and in many cases, it’s hard to make changes down the road.
There are so many variables that factor into Power BI architecture that it is impossible to create a one-size-fits-all solution. Architecting a Power BI landscape is an exercise in custom design, every time.
That complexity also requires ongoing maintenance, which means recurring costs and disruption.
2. Power BI Is a Toolset, Not a Complete Solution
Power BI doesn’t come with any reports out of the box. In fact, reporting with Power BI requires a significant upfront investment, not just in building the technical infrastructure, but also in determining how you access the data, how and whether data must be transformed or pre-processed, where you store them, and more. After you have addressed those design considerations, there is a substantial amount of work involved with implementing the data access and data flows necessary to produce your first report.
In this era of cloud computing, data access is getting more complicated. That is especially true of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 products, which no longer allow direct access for reporting. Microsoft has introduced several potential workarounds, but those alternatives all involve substantial compromises.
In the case of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance & Supply Chain Management (D365 F&SCM), for example, Microsoft has implemented an intermediary layer of “data entities” that programmers can use to gain access to the ERP data. That involves writing custom code using relatively new programming languages, which, in turn, means hiring people with specialized skills.
Customizing Power BI can get very expensive. Every business is unique, with its own distinct needs, so customization is inevitable. Ongoing maintenance of those customizations results in recurring costs.
3. Power BI Wasn’t Designed to Produce Financial Statements
Power BI was designed to be a dashboard visualization tool. It does a great job of providing an intuitive graphical representation of what is happening in the business, and it does an adequate job of generating traditional tabular reports—lists of individual records with multiple columns and subtotals.
Power BI does not produce traditional financial statements because they are very different from other types of reports. Producing a P&L statement, for example, usually requires filtering, masking, or grouping GL totals by account segment, often in different ways for each row in the report. You can break down columns in the report by corporate entity or division, or they may represent different time periods, budget vs. actual, or variance amount or percentages.
Power BI has no way of handling those kinds of distinctions, so getting it to produce a relatively simple P&L is a very expensive exercise in custom programming.
Power BI Without the Risk
insightsoftware offers reporting and analysis tools that provide self-service, user-friendly capabilities, with integration to Power BI and Excel. We take the heavy lifting out of Power BI by automating the process of building a data warehouse with pre-built connectors for over 140 different ERP systems, making it possible for business leaders and analysts to get the information they need, when they need it, without custom programming, and without the complexities of the complete Power BI stack.
insightsoftware is a leading provider of financial reporting and enterprise performance management software. We enable the office of the CFO to connect to and make sense of enterprise data in real time so they can proactively drive greater financial intelligence across their organization, which is how best-in-class finance teams operate.
Over 25,000 organizations worldwide rely on insightsoftware’s portfolio of best-in-class reporting, analytics, budgeting, forecasting, consolidation, and tax solutions to provide them with increased productivity, visibility, accuracy, and compliance. For more information about the risks of Power BI, download our FREE e-book, 5 Unknown Facts about Power BI That Create Project Risk