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”

Quick Tips: How to Copy Visual Formatting to Multiple Other Visuals in One Go Using Format Painter Tool in Power BI

Format Painter in Power BI Desktop

When you create a report it’s highly likely that you’d like to copy other visuals’ formats from an already formatted visual using “Format Painter” tool in Power BI. Perhaps you already used this awesome tool available in Power BI Desktop.

As you see in the tooltip shown while hovering over the “Format Painter” tool you can simply copy formats from an already formatted visual to another visual. But what if you have a lot of similar visuals to be formatted (painted) like shown in the below screenshot that I have several card visuals on top of my page. One of them is formatted as desired but the rest must still be formatted.

Formatted/Unformatted Card Visuals in Power BI
Formatted/Unformatted Card Visuals

It would be good if I could paint all of them in one go right? So continue reading to see how we can do that.

Continue reading “Quick Tips: How to Copy Visual Formatting to Multiple Other Visuals in One Go Using Format Painter Tool in Power BI”

Power BI Ecosystem Report Authoring Tools Demystified

Power BI Reporting Tools Confusion

There are a lot of discussions these days around Power BI tools to create reports and for sure many of you may have already downloaded and worked with some of them if not all of them. You may also already thought that some of the tools’ names are confusingly similar. I recently had an interesting conversation with fellow who has a lot of SSRS report writing background. I was talking about Paginated reports and said, I downloaded the latest version of Power BI Report Builder… that he immediately said, wait a second…

  • John: Power BI Report Builder? Oh I see, that’s the one that you can create paginated reports with then you can deploy those reports into an SSRS instance.
  • me: NOPE! That’s not the case I’m afraid.
  • John: Oh I know, I meant Power BI Report Server, you can deploy the reports to an instance of Power BI Report Server. I knew it!
  • me: NO! That’s not what I’m talking about…
  • John: What the…?

I bet some of you had similar conversation with a friend or a customer. OK, in this post I explain a little bit about report authoring tools available to you and your organisation to get the most out of your Power BI ecosystem.

Here is a list of all reporting tools currently available to you:

  • Power BI Service: It is a SaaS (Software as a Service) offering from Microsoft in the cloud. The users in an organisation, based on their access rights, may be able to create and publish data, reports, dashboards in Power BI Service. The users can also schedule data refreshes on the published data as well as securely sharing and distributing the contents. 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 you make in a report may be 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. Use Power BI Service here.
  • Power BI Desktop: It is a desktop report authoring tool that can be used to connect to, or loading data from, varies types of data sources, preparing, transforming and cleansing that data and at last visualising the data. Power BI Desktop is the predominant report authoring tool with a lot more functionalities and flexibility than Power BI Service. For instance, setting up Role Level Security (RLS) is NOT available in Power BI Service. The format of the report file is PBIX. Download Power BI Desktop from here.
  • Power BI Report Builder (Paginated): Paginated reports aka “pixel perfect reports”, as the name resembles, are formatted in a way to fit perfectly on a page. That report page might later be printed. You have exact control over the page formatting to display your data in tables or charts. The reports are not as interactive as Power BI Desktop reports are. Paginated reports are based on RDL technology which is standard report format in SQL Server Reporting Services. The tool for developing paginated report in Power BI ecosystem is Power BI Report Builder. The reports file type is RDL. You can currently publish Paginated reports only to a Workspace that is backed with a premium capacity. Download Power BI Report Builder from here.
Continue reading “Power BI Ecosystem Report Authoring Tools Demystified”

What is Power BI Documenter

Power BI Documenter Logo (Small)

On Saturday, 9th June 2018, we announced the existence of Power BI Documenter. As the name resembles, Power BI Documenter is a tool to help individuals and businesses to document their Power BI Desktop models. Everyone who already have several Power BI Desktop reports probably realized that documenting the solutions is not as easy as how creating a report in Power BI Desktop is. The issue is more visible in larger organisations with several Power BI Developers who are busy enough with a big list of tasks that are assigned to them on a day to day basis. Therefore, there is no time left to take care of the documentation. Every IT expert knows how important is to have proper documentation. We at Data Vizioner decided to do something tangible about this issue. So we started the project several months ago with the vision of creating web app to help individuals and businesses to keep their Power BI documentation on track. In this post I’m not going to explain how you can easily start documenting your Power BI Desktop reports using Power BI Documenter. You can learn more about Power BI Documenter and how to use it here. Despite the fact that the current version of Power BI Documenter is the very first version of the app with lots of limitations, it indeed can help users with their Power BI documentation tasks. All you need to do is to export the Power BI Desktop files (PBIX) to Power BI Template format (PBIT) and upload it to Power BI Documenter web app. Continue reading “What is Power BI Documenter”