Content Endorsement in Power BI, Part 1, The Basics

Content Endorsement in Power BI, Part 1, The Basics

As you may already know, Power BI is not a report-authoring tool only. Indeed, it is much more than that. Power BI is an all-around data platform supporting many aspects you’d expect from such a platform. You can ingest the data from various data sources, transform it, model it, visualise and share it with others. Read more about what Power BI is here.

One of the key aspects of users’ experience in Power BI is their ability to collaborate in creating and sharing content, making it an easy-to-use and convenient platform. But the convenience comes with a cost of having a lot of shared content in large organisations raising concerns about the content’s quality and trustworthiness. It would be hard, if not impossible, to identify the quality of the contents without a mechanism to identify the quality of the contents. Content endorsement is the answer to this.

In this series of blog posts, I answer the following questions:

  • What is Content Endorsement?
  • What contents support endorsement?
  • Who can endorse the content?
  • What is Certification?
  • How to endorse the supported content?
  • What are endorsement processes?

But before we start, we need to know what content means in Power BI.

What does Content Mean in Power BI?

When we use the term Content in the context of Power BI, we refer to the objects we create in Power BI Service. We currently have the following contents in Power BI:

You may ask, is a Workspace also content?

The answer is no; a Workspace is a container for the contents enabling users to collaborate within the organisation.

Continue reading “Content Endorsement in Power BI, Part 1, The Basics”

Power BI 101, Report Authoring Tools

This is my last blog post in 2021. I wish you all a wonderful break and a happy new year.

In the first post of my Power BI 101 series, we learnt that Power BI is a data platform containing various tools and services. We also explained the currently available subscriptions within the Power BI platform. The focus of the second post of this series is on what we should learn to achieve our goals more efficiently. In this post, we focus on the reporting tools available to us according to our subscription plan. From this post onwards, we discuss more specific aspects of the Power BI platform.

We learnt so far that Power BI is not just a reporting tool to build sophisticated reports; it is indeed a platform supplying a wide range of features from data preparation, data modelling and data visualization to contribute to an organisation’s data analysis journey in many ways such as sharing datasets, reports, and dashboards. All of these are possible only if we take the correct steps in building our Power BI ecosystem. But, it is very true that Power BI gives us the flexibility to create professional-looking and eye-catching visualisations providing easy to understand insights around a subject. The most renowned tool within Power BI is Power BI Desktop, but it is not the only tool available to us to create reports. Besides, Power BI Desktop reports are not necessarily the best answer to all business requirements. In fact, the business requirements define the Power BI architecture that supports those requirements. Based on the architecture, organisations decide to acquire a certain subscription plan, and based on the subscription plan, we have various reporting tools available to us. At this point, you might ask, “well, what architecture supports my organisation requires?”. Let’s answer that question in a future blog post.

For the purpose of this blog post, it is enough to know what reporting tools are available under which subscription plans. Let’s get started.

Reporting tools available in Power BI

As mentioned earlier, there are various reporting tools available to us. Let’s first see what reporting tools are available to us regardless of the subscription plans. Then we will look at the subscription plans supporting those tools.

Power BI Service

Power BI Service is a SaaS (Software as a Service) offering from Microsoft in the cloud. The users within an organisation, depending on their access rights, may create reports directly in Power BI Service. The users can also securely share and distribute those reports. While creating or editing reports is possible in Power BI Service, it is strongly recommended to avoid this method for several reasons. The most obvious one is that the changes we make to a report may soon get overwritten by someone else that republishes the same report from Power BI Desktop. Check this blog post from SQLChick to see why you should avoid creating or editing reports directly from Power BI Service. The reports are downloadable in PBIX format. 

You can access Power BI Service here.

Power BI Desktop

It is a desktop application built for data preparation, data modelling and data visualisation. If you like to learn about data modelling with Power BI, check out my book here. We can use Power BI Desktop to connect to more than 250 different data sources, preparing, transforming and cleansing that data and at lastly visualising the data. Power BI Desktop is the predominant and most renowned report authoring tool available in the Power BI platform. It has many more functionalities and is more flexible than Power BI Service. For instance, setting up Role Level Security (RLS) is not available in Power BI Service. The file format of the reports created in Power BI Desktop is PBIX. 

Download Power BI Desktop from here.

Power BI Report Builder (Paginated)

Paginated reports aka pixel-perfect reports are formatted in a way to fit perfectly on a page. That report page might later be printed. We have exact control over page formatting to display our data in tables or charts. The reports are not as interactive as the reports created in Power BI Desktop.

Paginated reports are based on RDL technology which is standard report format in SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). The tool for developing a paginated report in the Power BI ecosystem is Power BI Report Builder. The reports file type is RDL. We can currently publish Paginated reports only to a Workspace that is backed with either a Premium Per User (PPU) or a Premium Capacity. 

Download Power BI Report Builder from here.

Power BI Desktop Optimised for Report Server (RS)

Power BI Report Server (PBIRS) is an on-premises server capable of rendering Power BI report files (PBIX). If we have a PBIRS up and running within our organisation and we require to publish Power BI reports to PBIRS, then we will need to create our reports in a special edition of Power BI Desktop which is optimised for PBIRS. This edition is different from Power BI Desktop, which we usually use to create and publish our reports to Power BI Service. For instance, Power BI Desktop RS does not include the preview features we used to see in Power BI Desktop until those features are released. Building reports in Power BI Desktop RS guarantees that the reports are fully functional after being deployed to our PBIRS. We can install Power BI Desktop and Power BI Desktop RS side-by-side on the same machine. 

Download Power BI Desktop RS from here.

Continue reading “Power BI 101, Report Authoring Tools”

Power BI 101, What Should I Learn?

This is the second part of my new series of Power BI posts named Power BI 101. In the previous post, I briefly discussed what Power BI is. In this post, I look into one of the most confusing parts for those who want to start learning Power BI. Many people jump straight online and look for Power BI training courses which there are plenty out there. But which one is the right training course for you? Let’s find out.

What do you want to gain from learning Power BI?

Regardless of attending paid training courses or being a self-learner, the above question is one of the most important questions you might ask yourself before going to the next steps. The answer to this question dictates the sort of training you must look for. Your answer to the preceding question can be one or none of the following:

  • I am a graduate/student looking at the job market
  • I am a business analyst and I want to know how Power BI can help you with my daily job
  • I am a database developer and I want to learn more about business intelligence and data and analytics space
  • I am a non-Microsoft Business Intelligence developer and I want to start learning more about Microsoft offerings
  • I am a system admin and I have to manage our Power BI tenant
  • I am a data scientist and I want to know how I can use Power BI
  • I am just ciourious to see what Power BI can do for me

As mentioned, your answer might not be any of the above, but, thinking about your reason(s) for learning Power BI can help you to find the best way to learn and use Power BI more efficiently. You can spend time and money taking some online courses and get even more confused. You don’t want that do you?

So, whatever reason(s) you have in mind to learn Power BI, most probably you fall into one of the following user categories:

Think about your goal(s) and what you want to achieve by learning Power BI then try to identify your user category. For instance, if you are a student thinking of joining an IT company as a data and analytics developer, then your user category is most probably a Power BI Developer or a Contributor.

To help you find out your user category let’s see what the above user categories mean.

Power BI Developers

The Power BI Developers are the beating hearts of any Power BI development project. Regardless of the project you will be involved with, you definitely require to have a certain level of knowledge of the following:

  • Data preparation/ETL processes
  • Data warehousing
  • Data modelling/Star schema
  • Data visualisation

To be a successful Power BI developer you must learn the following languages in Power BI:

  • Power Query
  • DAX

Depending on the types of projects you will be involved in, you may require to learn the following languages as well:

  • Microsoft Visual Basic (for Paginated Reports)
  • Python
  • R
  • T-SQL
  • PL/SQL

As a Power BI developer, you will write a lot of Power Query and DAX expressions. Most probably you require to learn T-SQL as well. The following resources can be pretty helpful:

Continue reading “Power BI 101, What Should I Learn?”

Power BI Governance, Good Practices, Part 2: Version Control with OneDrive, Teams and SharePoint Online

Power BI Governance, Version Control with OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams and SharePoint Online

One of the most important aspects of the software development life cycle is to have control over different versions of a solution, especially in a project where there is more than one developer involved in the implementation. Just like when you normally create a project in visual studio and you commit the changes back to a source control system like GitHub or Azure DevOps, it’s advised to keep the history of different versions of your Power BI reports. What we expect from a source control solution is to keep tracking of all changes happening in the source code while developing a project. So you can easily roll back to a previous state if you like to. 

The other benefit of having a source control process in place is when multiple developers are working on a single project. Every single one of them makes changes in the source code then they commit all the changes into the source control server without overwriting each others’ work. 

With Power BI things are a bit different though. Power BI report files are PBIX files which are stored in binary format (well, PBIX is basically a zip file isn’t it?) which at the time of writing this post, there is no official way to enforce Power BI source control in any source control solutions like GitHub or Azure DevOps (YET). 

Microsoft announced a fantastic feature last week (6/05/2020) named “Deployment Pipelines” which does exactly what we’re after, but it is currently a preview feature which is only available only to organisations with Power BI Premium. So it is out of the game for the majority of us.

Having said that, there is still a way to keep history of changes in the shape of different versions of PBIX files. This is called Version Control.

There are several ways you can enable version control over your PBIX files while developing the report. Regardless of the version control platform you need to think about having multiple environments and who can access them for doing what.

EnvironmentAccessible toDescription
DevelopmentDevelopersData modellers and report writers access this environment for development purposes.  
User Acceptance Test (UAT)Developers, SMEs, Technical Leads, Power BI AdminsAfter the development is finished the developers deploy the solution to the UAT environment. The solution will then be tested by SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) to make sure the business requirements are met.
Pre-prod (Optional but recommended)Technical Leads, Power BI AdminsAfter the solution passed all UAT testing scenarios Technical Leads or Power BI Admins will deploy it to Pre-prod for final checks to make sure all data sources are correctly pointing to production data sources and all reports and dashboards are working as expected.  
ProductionTechnical Leads, Power BI Admins, End UsersAfter pre-prod checks completed Technical Leads or Power BI Admins deploy the solution to the Production environment which is then available to the end users.

Version Control Options

If your organisation does not have a Premium capacity then “Deployment Pipelines” feature is not available to you. So you need to come up with a solution though. In this section I name some Version Control options available to you

  • OneDrive for Business
  • Microsoft Teams/SharePoint Online
Continue reading “Power BI Governance, Good Practices, Part 2: Version Control with OneDrive, Teams and SharePoint Online”