Through a series of blog posts, we will explore how Power BI can be creatively used within law firms to create insights from data and inform business decisions. Let’s dance with data.
If you are enjoying this series, join me for a free webinar. I will go into more detail,
with live demonstrations, on how to use Power BI creatively within your firm.
Super-charged Custom Reporting with Power BI 8th September 2020@ 11AM aest – Register HERE
Diving into your accounting system
Accounting data in Power BI gives decision makers a high level and holistic view of firm, partner, practice area and fee earner performance. It allows you to explore profitability at a granular level. You can identify trends and take them into consideration as you make business decisions.
Law firm management requires a balance of managing cost and increasing revenue. In a culture of constant change, it is more important than ever to have a solid grasp on your P&L and your cash flow. With Power BI, you can present that information in an immediately accessible and easy to understand way.
Sharing accounting data quickly and safely
Accounting teams are understandably protective around sharing detailed accounting information. It’s sensitive data and requires analysis before it can be shared in a meaningful way. With Power BI, much like we did with heat maps, sections of data can be represented without giving full access to all the underlying figures.
Reports can be surfaced from the accounting team and be easily viewed by the partnership and board in a self-service model.
It can be a valuable tool to help lawyers understand extended financial metrics beyond budget, salary and time recorded.
Visual representations of smaller data sets are useful to legal management teams (eg I.T. or marketing) when tracking costs and cash flow. Often managers are asked to prepare budgets but given very little financial modelling to then manage those budgets.
Power BI & Xero
The below is a sample Power BI dashboard accessing Xero. This particular dashboard is available for free within Power BI Services from here.
Note that this dashboard is just connecting to Xero – not combing the dataset with your practice management information.
How do you access your accounting data?
The use case for bringing your accounting information alongside your practice management statistics is clear. What’s not so clear is how to bring that data into Power BI.
Some cloud based accounting packages may have Power BI applications you can download. Like the Xero one shown above. You can download the application and connect it to your accounting package and use it out of the box.
If you want to access the raw data and potentially combine that with your practice management system, you need a different approach.
For cloud based packages, like MYOB or Xero, the answer rests with APIs (pardon the pun).
What are APIs and how can I use those?
An API (or application programming interface) allows us to query the cloud based system and bring back specific data. For instance, there is an API request that allows us to query Xero for budget information. We send a request to the Xero system. It authenticates that request and sends back the budget information in a format readable by Power BI. If you are lucky enough to have a programmer within your firm with capacity to build your datasets using APIs plus a place to put the resultant dataset, then you can access your cloud based accounting information that way.
Obviously, not every firm is in that position. If you don’t have the in-house resources to delve into your accounting system via APIs, there are other options.
Options other than APIs
You can purchase (outright or subscription based) connections necessary to pull information from your accounting software to Power BI. There are companies that have pre-built the API to dataset connections. However, you will still need to build the reports yourself.
If you engage Verlata to create your reports, we create the connection to your accounting software and set up the dataset. We do this as part of the scope of works as a fixed fee.
Bringing accounting data into Power BI gives decision makers a high level and holistic view of firm performance.
If you would like to connect into your accounting package using Power BI reports but you aren’t quite sure where to start, please get in touch with me – firstname.lastname@example.org
Join me as I explore more about how Power BI can super-charge your reporting and give you valuable business insights
About the Author
Robyna May is part of our Power BI team, her role sees her taking raw data and developing it into clear visual representations that can be used to inform strategic decisions.
Robyna has over twenty years’ experience in the Australian legal sector, both working within firms and supporting firms. She has worked as a project manager, IT manager, knowledge director, legal firm practice manager, technical consultant and software developer. This broad range of experience allows her to see both the technical and practical sides of any project. In each of these roles, she has had a keen interest in pulling data from various sources and presenting it in such a way that allows decision makers to have a clear, birds eye view of their practice.
With degrees in both IT and Law, she has a deep understanding of how law firms work and how technology can support them. She regularly writes and presents on topics associated with the intersection of IT and law.
- Posted by Verlata Administrator
- On September 7, 2020
- 0 Comments