Power BI is a fast-developing business intelligence (BI) platform with a lot of strengths and visions, but in one area we still encounter challenges and Microsoft is struggling to find and create the best solution. When it comes to sharing, cooperating and “self-servicing”, Power BI has most of the features but is missing some flexibility to tie it all together.
As a single-user, Power BI is a very powerful BI tool that allows the user to perform and connect all tasks from data sources, transforming and modelling the data with beautiful interactive. Getting this truly self-service BI tool for free (for personal use) is impressive. All sharing, collaboration and frequent automatic data refresh requires a Pro license, which is a very fair deal considering the powerful features and frequent updates. It is very fast to get from raw data to sharing the finished reports and dashboards with your colleagues.
Microsoft takes it even further and has a vision that Power BI is not only a great end-to-end BI tool, but also an enterprise BI platform – which leads to the transformation of organizational culture being more data-driven and the employees being empowered by data (https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/enterprise/). I believe in this vision and Microsoft has come a long way. However, there are still gaps between how most organizations, on one side, need to govern data and have centralized BI competencies; while on the other side, business users are eager for not only seeing great reports, but also exploring the underlying data.
The main gap
Let's explore an example of this gap, with a fictive character; "Carl" the project manager. Carl has just gotten access to the portfolio report showing all active projects in the different project phases by project type and manager. Carl has never had this overview before and is thrilled for the first few weeks. Now he starts getting hungry for more reports and he has learned that it is easy to build reports in Power BI or even just his own dashboard based on the existing reports.
Carl accesses the report with Power BI Apps, therefore he can’t create new reports right away, but there are several options for Carl to start creating his own reports and dashboards:
This is an example of a great vision of self-service BI that struggles in the current sharing & collaboration setup in Power BI. As Option 4 shows, it can be done but not in an optimal way. I think the main problem is the way that Microsoft implements workspaces (and Apps) as isolated entities. It’s not possible to link across workspaces.
I think a great Option 5 would be to enable Carl to connect to the dataset in the workspace, to create new reports/dashboards and to modify the existing reports in his own version in his “My Workspace”. If Carl creates a brilliant report, it should be possible to copy this report to the shared workspace. In this way, it would be possible to govern the dataset from a central position, and it allows Carl to explore the data, be creative and share his findings.
This could be achieved with Power BI Organizational Content packs but apparently, they are being discontinued at some point in the future. I guess the reason is that the content pack isn’t the optimal solution either.
Currently, sharing and collaboration in Power BI range from super easy to complex. My advice is to make a plan and to consult a professional to take it to the next level. This is something that we in Projectum can help you with, so if you want to learn more about how we can take your Business Intelligence to the next level you can read more here.
Also, I know that the Microsoft product group pays great attention and are listening to the Power BI community, so please give them your feedback and help them improve in the best direction by posting new ideas and voting for the ones that fit your needs.
Senior BI Consultant at Projectum ApS
Through intensive work with several large installations in Denmark i have gained professional experience with both Microsoft SQL Server 2000, SQL Server 2005 and SQL Server 2008. My primary interests lies both in the development of new solutions as well as performance optimizing existing solutions.
Link to specific ideas that would help with the gap described in this post:
Link to Power BI ideas:
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