…Is greatly exaggerated. But its evolution is right here, right now.
There’s a reason business reporting as you know it is coming to something akin to a sudden death. But, attention grabbing headline aside, business reporting isn’t going anywhere. Instead, it is changing radically away from the Excel spreadsheets you know (and truth be told, probably love), to something far better. Power BI and live reporting.
Now, a word or two on Excel.
Excel is a perennial favourite of business owners, accountants and everyone who needs to keep track of a few things, or a few hundred thousand things. It is an immensely powerful tool in the hands of those who know how to use it. Watching a ‘power user’ bring out Excel’s magic is awe-inspiring. The programme must rate as one of the all-time most versatile and capable general tools for businesses of all kinds.
Why, then, would you want to ‘kill’ it? And just who, precisely, is doing the slaying? The answers to both questions are telling.
For the first one, why reduce dependency on Excel, or specifically, why reduce dependency on Excel for business reporting? It does, after all, do a pretty good job…
Except the job it does, while good, isn’t the best. Excel has major shortcomings. It isn’t secure, and its very flexibility makes it error-prone. It is too easy to make a minor keying error on a formula tucked away somewhere in the depths of an intensely detailed multi-page spreadsheet with multiple linked dependencies, which snowballs through the entire setup.
Such an error can lead to distorted views of business performance, profit and loss, turnover, sales figures, and any one of a multitude of other metrics. You know it happens. And you know how hard it is to go from gut feel that something isn’t quite right, to finding and resolving the problem. Simply put, Excel wasn’t and isn’t designed for reporting; also, bear in mind that when information is put into a spreadsheet, that’s it: the end of the road for that information. But business today doesn’t work like that. You need constant updates, constant views on performance and constant insights to manage (a growing number of) things for optimal outcomes.
Let’s move our attention to the second question. Who’s killing Excel? That’d be the people who made it in the first place. Microsoft!
Microsoft is far from unaware of both the limitations of Excel on the one hand, and how it is used on the other. The company knows that Excel is relied up by hundreds of millions of businesses the world over to handle reporting and generate insights. Microsoft knows it isn’t the best tool for the job.
And that’s where Power BI zooms into the picture. It’s a Microsoft product, designed to make business reporting as powerful as it should be (you don’t need me to tell you about the value of information today!) Power BI is a business analytics service which gives you interactive visualisations with self-service business intelligence capabilities that let you create reports by yourself. No need for IT staff.
This doesn’t mean ‘the end of Excel’ in your company; far from it. What it should mean is that business reporting, which let’s face it is a crucial service, gets the attention it deserves with purpose-designed reporting tools. It means no more errors, no more back and forth trying to figure out what’s wrong in that obscure formula ‘somewhere’, no more time wasted when you need to know something ‘now’. And Excel is then left to do the stuff Excel is best for.