Collaborative Planning and Commenting in Power BI:
For most companies, forecasting and planning with Microsoft Power BI is a one-way street. Someone pulls together the data, creates some sort of visualization or dashboard, gets feedback (usually via email and more spreadsheet shuffling), and produces another version. Rinse and repeat. That isn’t very conducive to the business agility required in today’s hyper-speed, hyper-changing world because such a cycle can often take weeks or even months. The underlying issue is a fundamental lack of collaborative input functionality within Power BI: the ability to comment on data within the visualizations and save changes to the data (write-back). As a result, Comments in Power BI are relegated to other channels such as spreadsheets, email, Slack, or scribbles on printouts. while saving changes to Power BI data requires changing the underlying data sources. That lack of functionality robs Power BI users of the real-time collaboration they need to truly be agile in their forecasting and planning.
The Power of Comments in Real-Time Forecasting and Planning
Feedback plays a critical role in the forecasting and planning process. Without it, Finance, Sales, and Operations are often trying to identify a future state of the business in a silo. But with the geographic and organizational fragmentation in today’s modern business, passing a spreadsheet or PDF around is cumbersome at best. What’s more, consolidating all of the feedback into a single, usable source of information against which to modify that forecast is time consuming, error-prone, and just plain painful. Real-time commenting, then, can drastically change the planning and forecasting process. Consider being able to have input on your car as it’s being manufactured. It would be like having cameras on the assembly line and making comments as the work is actually happening so that changes can be addressed immediately rather than after it’s been finished. But the workers could also make comments, providing justification and context for their decisions. The entire process would result in a car which better meets the customer’s desires and requirements.
The same can be said about enabling real-time comments in forecasting and planning. So rather than commenting after a sales forecast or financial plan has been completed, comments can be added by the person who creates the visualization as well as other people who can review it along the way. This allows leaders and decision makers along the entire process to ask questions about a specific value, provide context for a number or series of numbers, and even recommend alternate approaches.
Comments + Write-back = Power BI Collaboration
At the heart of planning and forecasting is collaboration and iteration. Projects and predictions for the future state of the business requires changing the data to see the impact across other areas of the business. That’s why real-time commenting is so crucial. But it’s also only one-half of true collaboration. As many Power BI users know, there’s no way to change Power BI data sets without modifying the original sources. And changing data at the source isn’t a very agile way to plan and forecast.
As we mentioned before, there really is no way to write-back data within native Power BI. Just like commenting, data write-back doesn’t exist as baseline functionality within the software. What if there were a way to save data within Power BI, to create different “versions” of values within the Power BI datastore without modifying the original source data? Power BI could truly be a real-time and collaborative for planning and forecasting. Comments could be made within the visualizations (attached to individual data points) and used to generate additional iterations of plans and forecasts. There would be no more waiting around or circulating spreadsheets or documents for comments and input. True agility will have been reached.
Plug in Power ON to Make Power BI Collaborative for Planning or Forecasting
As a Power BI user, it may seem daunting to achieve that nirvana of real-time collaboration for forecasting and planning because necessary capabilities such as commenting and write-back aren’t in there. That’s where Power ON comes in. By integrating Power ON into your Power BI instance, whether hosted in the Cloud, in a hybrid model, or on-premises with Power BI Report Server, you can quickly have those two valuable features to enable real-time agility in your planning and forecasting.
Examples of write-back include but are not limited to…
- Save values in Power BI as different “versions” of the value for multiple iterations of a single plan or forecast
- Save values to the Power BI datastore without modifying the source data
- Build Power BI applications to collect data for any process across an org
Examples of commenting include but are not limited to…
- Add comments to original values within a visualization so that the author and reviewer understands original thinking behind a value
- Add comments to proposed alternate values so that reviewers and readers understand why a value has been changed
- Use comments to ask for more clarity on a value
The valuable aspect of using Power ON for commenting in Power BI is that the comments can be stacked and become part of the collaborative and iterative planning process itself. Think about how it works now. Versions of a plan or forecast are passed around. Comments get incorporated and a fresh version is released for review. But what happens to the previous comments? Unfortunately, they are lost in the process. Not so once Power ON is added to Power BI. Power BI becomes a true two-way street: a powerful real-time data collection, forecasting and planning collaboration tool.
You Can Be Collaborative and Agile with Power BI Today
Power BI is a powerful platform for business intelligence. No question there. But, there are a few capabilities, such as real-time write-back and commenting, which keep it from being a collaborative tool for planning, forecasting, and other data collection processes. By integrating tools from Power ON together with Power BI, you can enable users and decision makers to iterate in real-time through the business planning and forecasting visualizations they already use in Power BI every day.
This can save valuable time by breaking the cycle of produce a version, export to spreadsheets, add comments, generate a new version. Suggestions for different models s can be made as the versions are being developed and the entire process, from the first iteration to the last, with comments embedded, can become real-time. Now that’s business agility.
Make Your Power BI a Two-Way Street
If you’d like to learn how you can leverage your Power BI investment as a collaborative planning and forecasting “two-way street,” check out Power ON Visual Planner.
Until next time…