Every day the members of Microsoft’s Treasury group have to make smart decisions about how to manage the company’s $158 billion in assets. Their guide to these decisions can be found in data and information analysis, and one of their tools of choice to manage this process is Microsoft Power BI.

One amazing example of this data in action is the US Consumer Personal Spending dashboard, created by Investment Analyst Carlton Gossett. This dashboard displays publicly available information in a dynamic, interactive way, allowing Treasury to quickly get a feel for consumer spending in the US and where our economy may be heading in the business cycle.

Previously, this information was maintained in solely in Excel, but combining the spreadsheet with the tools available in Power BI gave access to instantaneous insights. Now the team can not only see what's happening in US consumer spending, but also why it's happening.

The dashboard uses data produced each month by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and currently covers January 1999 through March 2016. It details US consumer personal spending on over 200 items, divided into an eight-level hierarchy. The spend is in trillions of USD and is “real spending” in that the BEA normalizes for inflation, growing costs, and other related factors.

This dashboard is based on tens of thousands of rows of data, and is automatically refreshed when new data is available. The dashboard is shared across the Treasury group and easily accessible to new members, so it can be used as a resource and platform in strategy meetings without requiring emailed spreadsheets or copied-and-pasted PowerPoint reports.

 

How the dashboard is used

The US Consumer Personal Spending dashboard allows the team to gauge whether the US economy is entering a trough or reaching a peak through the identification of patterns and analysis of key consumer items.

For example, looking back at 2015, an analyst can see that the services sector had peaked and was starting to trail off. Using the dashboard, Gossett was able to drill down and see what components contributed to the service sector, which lead to the discovery that the adoption of the Affordable Care Act created a rise in hospital and doctor visits in 2014 that was now beginning to taper off.

Thanks to analysis made possible with the dashboard, the team concluded that the drop in services spending was simply a normalization and not signs of an impending economy-wide issue.

“Power BI has enabled our team to effortlessly bring data to life and unlock insights from millions of data points. It has helped the team in intelligent data exploration and is redefining how we experience data,” says Beau Damon, Chief Investment Officer, Microsoft.

 

Try it now for yourself

Microsoft Treasury’s US Consumer Personal Spending dashboard is an excellent example of how Power BI can turn commonly available data into unique and actionable insights. The dashboard is embedded below so you can do your own hands-on analysis.

For more information on Power BI and what it can do for your business, see our Financial Solutions website.