Coffee Talk

Welcome to the latest PowerPivotPro Coffee Talk, where members of the community discuss various topics related to Power BI, Power Pivot, and Analytics/BI in general. These conversations take place during the week on a Slack channel, and are then lightly edited for publication. In this installment of our Coffee Talk series, we’ll be chatting with Per Solli and Travis Buckingham about PowerON BI’s Power Planner. Let’s introduce everyone:

Per Solli is the CEO of PowerON BI, whose mission is to enable Corporate Performance Management Solutions based on Power BI.

Travis Buckingham is the Director of Finance and Market Analytics for Stewart Title. He has over a decade of experience as a financial consultant, developing and managing financial budgets, to go along with his years of mastering Tableau, SQL, and Power BI.

Austin Senseman is a CFA Charterholder, former CPA, Excel Power User, and SQL Server Professional. Oh, and he’s still VP Operations here at PowerPivotPro

Ryan Sullivanis a lead consultant here at PowerPivotPro who spent his early days turning Excel files into PDFs and other worthwhile endeavors. In his search for “a better way” he came across the PowerPivotPro blog and became an avid follower. He has since become a full stack developer for Microsoft Business Intelligence tools with a soft spot for removing the drudgery from everyday business data tasks.

Welcome and Introductions

ryan
2017-08-04 15:22
So, my name is Ryan Sullivan and I am a consultant with PowerPivotPro. I’m joined by some friends and strategic partners from PowerON BI, Per Solli and Travis Buckingham. Welcome to you both!

 

tbuckingham
2017-08-04 15:22
Thanks for having us!

 

psolli
2017-08-04 15:23
Thank you Ryan for setting this up

 

ryan
2017-08-04 15:23
Glad to have you both! As we kick off, tell me a bit about yourselves and a bit about PowerON BI

 

psolli
2017-08-04 15:25
For 20+ years, i have been helping large Fortune 500 and US Public companies, like Stewart that Travis works for with Corporate Performance Management. Also referred to as Write Back in BI Terms.

 

psolli
2017-08-04 15:27
Power On and our solution is 100% utilizing the Power of Tabular, and enables write back to Power Pivot, SSAS Tabular on-premises or SSAS Tabular in Azure. We also support SSRS with Power BI that is being launched by MS this summer.

 

psolli
2017-08-04 15:28
Companies utilize the ability to do write-back in Power BI to do Budgeting, Planning and Forecasting Apps.

 

ryan
2017-08-04 15:34
And you Travis?

 

tbuckingham
2017-08-04 15:35
For the last 13 years I have works as a finance consultant building constraint based financial optimization models for large companies. My experience is in predictive and non-linear prescriptive analytics. I am the director of Finance and Market Analytics for Stewart title (a multi billion dollar title company) and third largest in the world next to First American and Fidelity. My role at Stewart is to forecast market trends and advise our C-Suite on how to run our business more efficiently. I develop the financial budget and manage against it each month. I am also technical and have 7+ years experience with Tableau, and use SQL and Power BI extensively to manage my business.

 

ryan
2017-08-04 15:36
Awesome!

 

tbuckingham
2017-08-04 15:37
From a budgeting perspective we use PowerPlanner and it was our tool of choice for what-if scenario analysis. We use to use Hyperion, but killed it when we discovered PowerPlanner

 

PowerON and Power Planner

ryan
2017-08-04 15:38
So I know that alot of people on the blog have seen PowerUpdate and I know that I used it before coming to P3. But as you guys have pointed out, that’s not even the tip of the iceberg for PowerON

 

ryan
2017-08-04 15:38
The real value-add is in the Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting

 

ryan
2017-08-04 15:39
So tell me a bit more about what PowerPlanner does…

 

psolli
2017-08-04 15:42

Power Update has become a swiss army knife for a lot of Business Analysts. Rob Collie and Power ON’s development team put their heads together and filled a gap that is now thousands of licensed users are benefiting from. Power Update can refresh any ‘M’ Power Query in Excel or Power BI desktop, and publish it anywhere, including sending emails with attachments.

A nice feature I know Travis can elaborate more on is Power SQL. It basically loads all your Power Queries and loads them to a SQL database.

This is not today’s topic, but I am know all your readers will benefit from Power Update and Power SQL.

Now to Power Planner:

 

psolli
2017-08-04 15:46

Power Planner is a Powerful Budgeting, Planning and Forecasting solution, and enables organization a true solution where ALL data resides in the same location, AND is being used by same Self Service BI Application, Power BI and Excel. Power Planner also works on ANY data model that the user develop, and doesn’t have rigorous proprietory tables and structures for users to learn. You can build all this with:

Excel, Some SQL knowledge, and DAX.

 

psolli
2017-08-04 15:50
Recently, our experience has been that more and more Business Analysts have different needs than the traditional budgets. They love to use the GOAL SEEK feature of Power Planner to optimize parameters, KPI’s and targets, and be able to save this back to the Tabular Model on-premises or in Azure.

 

ryan
2017-08-04 15:50
Per, amazing stuff.

 

tbuckingham
2017-08-04 15:51
I live by Power SQL weekly. As you can imagine I have 15+ million rows of data from our financial general ledger account PLUS market transaction data from other public websites…. ALTA Market Data, Real Capital Analytics, Order Count Data, http://Realtor.com, etc… In order for me to better forecast market trends I need to understand in real time market fluctuations and any correlations to other KPI metrics. Data is real-time for us and gets updated daily. I use PowerSQL to publish my complex ETL jobs developed by Power Query and load them into our EDW. I also write the script for our Earnings Calls each quarter with Wall Street and as analyst are firing off questions to our CEO and CFO about forecast and corporate goals, I am able to IN REAL-TIME run these questions & analysis through the ETL and publish to SQL and refresh in either Power BI or Tableau to be able to respond with accuracy what certain actions would do to our company or market.

 

psolli
2017-08-04 15:53
Travis has a good point here: It is all about the DATA. It’s a overused phrase, i know, but there is no need to create plans for your organization, if all the drivers and underlying material is faulty or has holes.

 

psolli
2017-08-04 15:55

The Power of ‘M’ has been discussed in many twitter threads and discussion boards, and some people even here at Power Pivot Pro says that Power BI wouldn’t existed without M.

When it comes to the Planning Processes, you can use these MS Technologies to build your self-service datamart, and start doing your own ‘Planning’ and data collection.

 

ryan
2017-08-04 15:57
Yea, this plugs right into our mission as well. We seek to empower businesses by taking these commonly found Excel skills and extending them to make Excel/PowerPivot/PowerBI superhumans. It seems like these tools all leverage the same idea. “Let’s take the tools and skills you already have and supercharge them!”

 

ryan
2017-08-04 15:59
So I know that I’ve been a part of business’ success stories using these tools. One of the big things that I’ve experienced with PowerON is how you keep your ear to the ground and are constantly filling new gaps in the market.

 

ryan
2017-08-04 16:01
Travis, you’ve dropped some serious knowledge on the success these tools can bring. Let’s follow down that road for a few

 

Soothing Those Pain Points

ryan
2017-08-04 16:01
If I were a person just looking at the PowerON suite, what common pain points would you say they solve?

 

psolli
2017-08-04 16:02

Ryan, this is what has been so great with the relationship to P3. You enable professionals, and we can help automate a lot of tedious tasks.

As I mentioned earlier, we can load data from Power Pivot models to SQL. Today we are launching a ‘Rules Engine’. It is required for allocations and transferring data between models.

With the Power Planner Rules Engine you can now write any DAX EVALUATE statement, and write it to any SQL database you have access to. More to come in the next few days.

 

tbuckingham
2017-08-04 16:07
The biggest advantage for me is the ability to grab data from our Hyperion consolidation system and analyze it ways that could not be done before. We use Tableau heavily but have also been working in Power BI. Unfortunately Hyperion does not offer APIs or ODBCs for easily connecting to these BI tools. In order for me to analyze this data, it makes the most sense to put this data in SQL. I have a process/ETL I use to scrape all this data from Hyperion and load it into SQL for data visualization. I use PowerSQL to load data from Power Query directly into SQL. Power BI and Tableau sit on top of SQL and I can not produce some really cool visuals. PowerPlanner is also connected to my SQL database and my team is able to load their budget and I am able to load targets and market forecast numbers…..then visualize this in PowerBI/Tableau.

 

psolli
2017-08-04 16:09

Thank you for asking about the typical profile for the Power ON user:

Our clients do have some traits in common. It is the Business Analysts with missing or lacking data, and a GREAT desire to see his or her data in Power BI!!!

Some process we currently support with Power ON’s products:

  • Load data from SalesForce/MS CRM, mix it with historical information, and now you can create a complete forecasting solution with Landed Business, Closing Business, and Prospective business. This give you a real agile benefit.
  • The worlds largest producer of iodine has a solution in place that projects every shipment, in every packaging to every hospital in the US and around the world. It helps save lives.
  • A public 70Bn dollar US based software company is using Power ON for projecting new sales and maintaining training opportunities with Power ON solutions and Power BI.

 

ryan
2017-08-04 16:10
Travis, that’s perfect! Having the ability to connect things from tons of different sources, put the data where ever you want, and report on it using multiple platforms is the kind of empowerment businesses need now. A single tool typically doesn’t do the job for modern power-users and having the flexibility to make everything play nicely together is life changing!

 

psolli
2017-08-04 16:10

What they all have in common is that “They can’t wait for the DW to reload data” they need it now, and need to see the impact immediately.

People that love our tools, love to please the CFO, by creating unlimited number of scenarios and help creating forecast for Cash Flow and how to Fund the growth of the business

 

ryan
2017-08-04 16:12
Per, we are always on the same wavelength!
I was going to ask next what’s on the horizon and what get’s you excited about working in this space. These are all great examples of amazing functionality and success and we can see it’s hard for you to contain your excitement!

 

psolli
2017-08-04 16:16

I wake up every morning and think: YES!!! Planning and Forecasting and BI is now finally ONE solution. It make me giggle every time i think of it.

BI is seeing a new spring with self-service. Pessimists was projecting that self-service would day a death of data quality. The other day i was reading a thread on LinkedIN that Self Service BI had helped increase the quality of data. Better together.

CPM(Budgeting, Planning and Forecasting) is soooooo old and outdated. Ugh. With Power ON Visual Planner and Power BI you can do it all in one new fresh tool. The companies that continue to do budgets in legacy budget systems or Excel will evaporate very soon.

The solution is what IBM is doing with merging TM1 and Watson. In the Microsoft camp you have Power BI and Power ON. Both build in one powerful hosted or on-premises solution. The other one just happen to be as powerful, but much less expensive. :slightly_smiling_face:

 

ryan
2017-08-04 16:20
Love it! So self-service BI having this quantity of high quality tools is unprecedented. I know I’m pretty excited to see what the future holds and to be a part of it. If you guys look into your crystal ball, what do you see for our space in the future?

 

tbuckingham
2017-08-04 16:25
A great example of use for PowerPlanner… I was in meeting with some of largest shareholders and they were asking me how do we solve to a specific EPS number while maintaining double digit growth rates in the west YoY revenue, AND improve marketshare YoY in the East and take away 5-8% marketshare from Fidelity. In a matter of 10 minutes I was able to plug and play with those “expected results” and through Solver/Goal Seek and some of the constraint features in Solver I was able to give guidance on “next steps” and develop a financial roadmap that will lead us to those expected result. I also was able to unlock several milling in expense savings opportunities for some of our more distressed markets. This will improve PreTax Profit margins YoY through 2019.

 

tbuckingham
2017-08-04 16:26
* several million

 

psolli
2017-08-04 16:26
Fun Fact: Expected life expectancy for a corporation was:
In the
1990’s – 75 years
2000’s – 17-25 years
2010’s – 7 years.

 

tbuckingham
2017-08-04 16:26
wow

 

Wrapping Up

ryan
2017-08-04 16:30
Very interesting stuff! So before we wrap things up, I want to give you both a moment of podium time to hammer home how awesome the PowerON suite of tools is for modern businesses and analysts in the trenches…

 

psolli
2017-08-04 16:38

I always ask myself and ponder why we don’t all go to http://blockbuster.com to watch a move, or take pictures with a Kodak camera. I went to College in the 90’s and why don’t I use Word Perfect and Lotus……

Future is here much faster than it used to be. Companies need to adopt to change MUCH quicker than we used to. And when change hits, you need to have a plan, and you don’t have time to reload the datawarehouse to make sure we have integrity in historical data. We need to have agile processes and tools that can support and assist smart brains to make even better decisions.

Power ON’s Visual Planning solution, you get:

  • Integration with 75 data sources through Power Query.
  • Power Update to schedule the loading, even partial loading to SQL.
  • Powerful Rules Engine that can post any calculated rule to SQL
  • Tabular Editor to manage any SQL Table in Power BI
  • Matrix for Allocations and Goal Seeking of DAX formulas
  • Workflow and Cycle Management right in Power BI
  • User Notifications with emails and Event Driven notifications.

This framework is hosted and built by Microsoft. Power ON is the glue, super-glue that makes it all come together, with close partnerships with the experts at Power Pivot Pro?

 

psolli
2017-08-04 16:40
Travis is having the shoe on, so I’ll let him speak to how good, great or what’s missing in the solutions as well as the education he is getting from Power Pivot Pro and all the material you provide. But a few last thoughts on the tools:

 

psolli
2017-08-04 16:50

Here is what I hope Power ON and Power BI can become for every business user:

One harsh winter day I was flying from Norway to LAX, with a pit-stop in Chicago. When we landed in Chicago it was a recordbreaking -40 F. If you haven’t experienced it, I will guarantee you’ll never want to. As you can imagine, it was a complete chaos with people, delays, luggage and long lines.

I picked up the phone and called my airline, and I was stumped from what I heard from the automated attendant:
“Based on the number you are calling from, we believe you are ‘Per Solli’, press 1. We have rebooked you on a flight for tomorrow morning at 8.10am, press 1 to confirm. We have booked you in at the Double Tree, press 1 to confirm. …”

20 minutes later I sat infront of the fireplace with a glass or red wine and enjoyed the warm and cosy experience….. That is artificial intelligence to me….and I was actually flying economy.

 

psolli
2017-08-04 16:53
Power BI is here to stay and we hope to be part of the fantastic journey. If the last 2 years gives indication, we are in for a fun ride, and we hope to meet and work with a lot of passionate BI people that want to help us to bring BI to the people…

 

ryan
2017-08-04 17:13
Guys, thank you so much for your time and insight! It has been a pleasure speaking with you

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We “give away” business-value-creating and escape-the-box-inspiring content like this article in part to show you that we’re not your average “tools” consulting firm. We’re sharp on the toolset for sure, but also on what makes businesses AND human beings “go.”

In three days’ time imagine what we can do for your bottom line. You should seriously consider finding out 🙂

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Reminds we that I need to spend some time setting up some dynamic ranges for PowerUpdate reporting. It sounds like I could almost automate a pretty tedious part of our process. I’m going to reach out.

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