When developing financial statements and management accounting models in Power BI, developers very quickly realise that the standard MS matrix isn’t really up to the job. MS visuals are excellent for showcasing aspects of financials as line, bar and donut charts, tables, and whilst that will be a user requirement there is also the need to present information in a traditional format.
Why does the MS Matrix not function very well?
- No number formatting options for individual rows.
- Subtotals and totals are required to be inserted into “odd” places.
- Outlining individual columns of the matrix is not possible.
- Unable to colour row headers.
- No bold or italic for individual rows.
What custom visuals are there in the app store?
In my view the key players here are Inforiver, Zebra and Profitbase. All three visuals give options to:
- Insert rows on the fly and perform calculations such as GP% or Net Income%.
- Manage switching accounting signage to easily understandable for non-accountants.
- Individual row formatting – colour, bold, italics.
Zebra and Inforiver also offer data bars and waterfall charts, live comments and forecasting/budgeting options. Inforiver offers some level of pdf and export to excel functionality.
Relevant to all three visuals is the ability to insert a row on the fly. This is fantastic functionality since it reduces the requirement to write more complex DAX and may bring a project to production faster.
The downside here, however, is any export directly from the data model, rather than the visual, will require these calculations to be made again in the export recipient, which rather defeats the object of having a powerful analysis tool in the first place. The same issue arises when preparing an export as a paginated report data source. Equally, whenever there is a change in reporting structure, new lines inserted etc, then all the visuals will require attention. With DAX this could all be handled with a single reporting structure dimension table.
Which visual is best?
As always it depends. They all have good functionality and manage traditional financial statement presentation excellently.
Profitbase comes as a free version. So if you’re just looking for financial statement presentation then there is ample functionality here to do the job.
Zebra and Inforiver are richer with charts and comments and could be employed in other Power BI apps covering other areas of the business, e.g. sales performance, receivables etc. This would dilute the licencing cost across your whole suite of apps and give users a common visual experience across all aspects of Power BI. Inforiver offers forecasting and budgeting options, which for larger companies who take their enterprise option could significantly reduce the costs of preparing a budget.