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How Do I Become Less Dependent on PowerPoint?

FP&A Expert Quy Dong discusses benefits of dashboards and analytics

Next to Excel, there may be no more familiar tool for finance teams than PowerPoint.

Many among us are creatures of habit. And when it comes to helping prepare a report or presentation to business partners, PowerPoint ends up being the likely default because of its familiarity and relative ease. The reality is that at most businesses today, ideas and information are often shared one PowerPoint slide at a time.

Now, like Excel, PowerPoint has its place. It’s a relatively fast and easy go-to tool for one-off presentations or for sharing information with a range of audiences.

Yet, for FP&A teams looking to add the most value to their organizations, PowerPoint has real downsides—and limitations. For starters, even after you’ve created a standard template, PowerPoint can be labor-intensive and error-prone because of the need to manually enter data into slides. It lacks the ability to help you generate and portray strategic insights. And let’s face it, PowerPoint is usually pretty boring.

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The key is to find a platform that takes PowerPoint to the next level. For the last year, I’ve been able to achieve that with the analytics and dashboard capabilities offered by Adaptive Insights. And you can too.

More time, better insights

By leveraging analytics, you don’t have to re-create the wheel every month or quarter for your key reports and presentations. Once you build in your requirements, then the dashboards update automatically when the latest actuals are refreshed.

The key benefit of this, of course, is more time. And with more time comes the power for you to put your strategic chops to work and provide greater depth and context in your analysis as well as a much more effective and nimble platform to share information.

This can be a big game-changer in terms of your relationship with business owners. When you bring more insights that are relevant to the decisions they have to make, they begin seeing you more as a valued partner. You can help them develop and execute on their business plans far more effectively.

So, for instance, when the product sales team books business, you can actually show them the ripple effect through the organization—the impacts of their actions and decisions on cash flow, revenues, and headcounts.

I’ve found these conversations are a win-win. FP&A quickly becomes much more of a trusted source. Business partners are more open to exploring with you how to make plans better, more efficient, and more closely aligned with the company’s overarching strategy and goals. Having those conversations with the business leaders is powerful.

The story behind the numbers

In essence, this approach enables you to get to the story behind the numbers in a way that is far more insightful than a tired old PowerPoint deck. Dashboards offer a dynamic view with visualizations that allow you to flow the numbers into a trend graph and see upticks and downturns. You can identify outliers. The visuals help you spot variances that might not have been so apparent without the dashboards.

Dashboards refresh automatically and regularly, allowing you to see how the latest data and information compares to key benchmarks or reveals relevant trends. You can take a step back and say: What happened month to month? Or: This happened last quarter, last year, and the last quarter of the year before? Why did the business behave this way over the course of this year or this quarter?

Beyond that, it allows you to think about the business in a life cycle level as well. You get a holistic view that can help you identify seasonal or quarter-over-quarter trends. From there, you’re in a position to offer up strategic advice so business partners can make adjustments aimed at helping them hit targets or avoid trouble.

The analytics also offer great self-service capabilities. Business partners can just log and have access to their dashboard anytime, anywhere. And the dashboards are customizable so they can choose to see just a snapshot of the data today, a trend over the last quarter, or a wide range of other insightful views. This not only informs your business partners, it empowers them. If they need to make a quick presentation on the fly, all the information is right there at their fingertips.

I suspect we are a long way from PowerPoint going away all together. Nor should it. It still has a place in your toolbox. Yet it makes real sense to make leveraging analytics your go-to solution.

For it’s through better analytics delivered via dashboards that you provide real strategic value as an FP&A team. Business associate start becoming engaged business partners. You start unearthing and telling the key story behind the numbers. And you gain a more insightful perspective on where your company’s been and where it is now, so leaders can make smarter, more informed decisions about where the business is going.

Try doing that with a tired old PowerPoint deck.

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