Power BI VS Spotlight / Fathom / Futrli

POWER BI VS THE TRIFECTA (Spotlight, Fathom, Futrli) – (Article Updated – April 2019)

The accounting industry is spoilt for choice in the analytics space right now. The trifecta are certainly not the only choices you have. They are just the dominant players. As accountants, we can become overwhelmed by choice in the market. Constantly being told we need to learn a new software that is going to be “the future”. We become skeptical in this environment. Particularly when the message comes from IT professionals, selling a gloom and doom story that we have to act, with no credentials to have an opinion in the accounting space.


If you are an accountant and have not heard of any of the software in the trifecta above I would be very surprised. The marketing is enormous. But Microsoft Power BI. That is a different story. It’s quite common that I speak to an accountant who either has never heard of it, or know very little about it…


Why? Yes, it is new, but it’s basically just an extension of Microsoft Excel..…


If you haven’t heard about Power BI, perhaps you might like to read my previous blog on ‘What is Power BI?’ first.


Now lets explore Power BI and the Trifecta and then come back to ‘the why’ later.


Microsoft Power BI


3 Main Benefits 

  • Flexibility – You can build just about anything yourself to bring data visualisations and insights to life. Power BI have open sourced their visualisation building software, so we are now seeing new concepts regularly around the world. (Story boarding, toggles, bookmarks). It is a canvas for you to create your art on.

  • A hub for data – CRM, Operational, Social Media, Marketing, Databases, Email, Web. The world of big data is here. Combining financial with non-financial data sources brings insights that have never been seen before. Operational cloud based software is so powerful to play with. (Dear Inventory, SimPro, Unleashed, Kounta, etc.)

  • Machine learning and predictive analytics – Microsoft have seriously got their act together. Predictive analytics, machine learning, automation of processes. In the future you likely will not need to build many insights for your clients, because the machine learning will run over the datasets for you and tell you what is appropriate.



3 Main Disadvantages

  • Training – You need to learn to use it (querying, transformations, data modelling, DAX expressions, reports & visualisations).

  • No templates – Building from scratch is time consuming and thus expensive (time is money).

  • Streamlining – No streamlined approach to put accounting data into Power BI Desktop currently. (Quickbooks Online is in beta).


Power BI Summary: Incredible flexibility to build anything you like for your clients with a mountain of data, is offset by the fact that there is no starting point (no templates) and you need to learn Power BI.



THE TRIFECTA (Spotlight, Fathom, Futrli)


3 Main Benefits

  • Templates – These are by industry (Hospitality, Manufacturing, etc.) and service (Budgeting, Cashflow, etc.).

  • Turn Key Solutions – Built for accountants to deep dive into their clients business.

  • Integration – Integrates seamlessly with the major accounting software (Xero, MYOB, Quickbooks). They are now branching into new data sources in recent times (Excel, Workflow Max, Google Analytics, MyProsperity)


3 Main Disadvantages

  • Inflexibility– Some of the trifecta offer minimal and rigid report building capabilities. It’s common that I speak to accountants expressing their dissatisfaction at the inflexibility. All businesses are different. They have different needs, different KPI’s, different circumstances. Thus far it’s not being accounted for.

  • Expensive – Advisory starter packages range from $300-$450 entry per month for a set number of organisations and features. The point is not to say the price is unjustified, but merely point out that there is a significant cost difference in comparison to Power BI. To learn more, see links to pricing pages – Spotlight Reporting, Fathom, Futrli

  • Limited Data Sources – We live in a big data world now. Don’t tell me you can simply analyse financial data anymore. Don’t tell me they are going to be able to account for and open the door for all the  data sources that the SME sector use. It’s not enough. Businesses want more.


The Trifecta Summary: Instant and easily created industry and service specific templates, meets an expensive rigid framework where it puts all your clients in the same black box with no personalised reporting.




There is a space for both Power BI and the Trifecta. How far you want to take your advisory services will dictate how far you want to invest in training to build insights. The Trifecta might be the right answer for your firm. Right now. At this point in time, with minimal time.


Power BI is a bigger investment in your time. If your client base is filled with individual tax payers, this may not be the best fit for you to make such a big investment in the insights.


Businesses are screaming out for help to grow their business. Investing in Power BI will stand you out from the crowd and put you in the calibre of the Big 4.


Frequent inaccurate statements I hear in reference to Power BI

  • You can’t consolidate

  • It doesn’t accommodate foreign currency

  • No 3 way cashflow forecasting

  • No Budgeting

  • No Board packs with Executive Narratives



I’m puzzled by these comments. Power BI can do all of the above. There is just no turnkey solution to do so.




Here at Etani we are working extremely hard to bridge the gap. Training, in house and online is the answer.  Templates, templates and more templates for Power BI is the answer. All templates interacting with Xero, Quickbooks and MYOB AR, Netsuite, Deputy, Workflow Max, SimPro, Dear Inventory, Unleashed, Kounta, plus more! Because if you have templates and you know how to use Power BI, we are running out of reasons why you wouldn’t implement it in your firm to obtain better outcomes for your clients. Yes, you need to front load some training in your staff. But the weapons at your disposal on the other side are crazy good.

We have also created a streamlined solution for you to manage your clients data. See below infographic showing the flow through that we take care of for you.





At the beginning I asked why accountants have all heard about the Trifecta but are not so familiar  with Power BI. The answer lies in Microsoft’s marketing campaign. Enterprise is Microsoft’s game. Enterprise has led Microsoft’s recent resurgence in the share market. Charging each accountant $12.70 per month is not overly profitable. Enterprise are incorporating the Azure web services, machine learning components and data warehouses. Enterprise carry data scientists and developers on staff. The integration of Power BI inside the Azure suite of services is where Microsoft are succeeding.


I urge you to consider and take Power BI very seriously as an accountant. Just for a moment look at your practice over the past 15 years+ and think about how important Excel has been for you. Power BI just takes it to the next level…. Maybe a better description for it is Excel on Steroids!