When business users request Power BI content, it can be challenging to know where to start. Opening Power BI can seem like unleashing a floodgate of endless technical considerations and user activities. As leading Azure technology experts, 3Cloud’s Managed Data and MBI Jumpstart teams can assist with the end-to-end content creation process – from requirements gathering to strategic implementation.
There are several Target Areas any creator should consider before building reports, dashboards, or datasets. Gaining a firm understanding of each Target Area allows creators to create content that is more relevant to the intended audience by fully understanding what data users want to see and how they want to use the content.
By spending time upfront properly assessing requirements, creators will prevent being trapped in a never-ending loop of development and feature requests. Even the most sophisticated and well-designed model will not be received well if the report does not achieve a business goal or spark action.
Allow the business purpose to drive the technical implementation.
Before ever diving into the technical requirements, it is critical to obtain a firm grasp on the business purpose and audience.
Devote significant time discussing the contextual purpose with the requestor of the content. Start by identifying a broad primary purpose, such as a Financial Summary or Warehouse Performance report. Subsequent discussions should narrow the scope and reveal key areas to highlight in the report.
As you engage further with the requestors, identify any business problems or pain points. For example, do executives want to analyze why gross profit is declining in some regions but not all? Are staffing agencies experiencing a decline in applications for certain positions?
Further, are there specific security or privacy standards that need to be met? Knowing the audience allows you to design a report that is both contextually relevant and appropriate from a security perspective for the users.
Make sure to know your audience. What kind of user is requesting the content? What is their business role and level of technical skill? How many users are intended to use or develop the content?
Keeping the business goal and audience in mind allows you to understand how to design your report in a way that will be most useful and relevant to your users.
After addressing the business purpose, gather the key measures and calculations users want to analyze (examples include Sales Amount, Retention Rate, etc.).
Next, identify the most significant ways users want to describe the key metrics – the most common examples include Date, Regions, Departments, or Categories.
What level of detail are users needing to see? Will users need data at a daily, weekly, or monthly level? Will users need to drill into specific subcategories or individual regions? Knowing how detailed the users need the reports to be should drive the granularity of the data you use.
What is the anticipated size of the data? Do users need to view historical information or just a subset of years or months? Does the report need to span the entire company or only a specific department? Be as frugal as possible when importing data to keep model size as trim as possible. Smaller models mean improved refresh times and better performance.
Once you pinpoint what data you need and the level of detail it needs to be, investigate where the data should originate – databases, cloud sources, flat files, web sources. Thoroughly document information about the sources. Are the sources on premise, and if so, has a gateway been configured correctly in Power BI Service?
Be sure to understand credentials and contact information of data source owners to facilitate the development and troubleshooting process in the long run.
After you have successfully identified the sources, design the data model to reflect the purpose. Anticipate that this area will require the longest time in development.
The most important consideration is whether the data model exists already. If the data model already exists in a published dataset, dataflow, or view, reuse that model. Reusing common dimensions or model structures creates consistency across the organization. Additionally, reusing shared datasets or dataflows saves time in development and reduces future maintenance needs.
Ideally, gathering requirements should be an iterative process. Continuously monitor and make changes to the data source structure and design as business needs evolve.
After the data has been structured properly, design the report layout in a way that is both intuitive and cohesive.
For users to get the most out of a report, report designers need to be strategic so that users clearly understand the message. Emphasize the most important and relevant measures to your intended audience by placing them in the top right corner of the page, where Western-cultured eyes are attracted first. Use common business terminology and standardized date or currency formats so that users readily understand the information.
User color to highlight important data points. Consider using Report Themes to adhere to corporate color schemes. Additionally, consider the accessibility of the report by avoiding color combinations that are problematic to color-blind individuals or using flashing imagery.
Ultimately, your report should inspire change in the organization. Give users a reason to interact with the content. If you understand the pain points in an organization, you can design content that allows users to drive business decisions based on the insights. For instance, if a Finance user knows that the Sales Report will allow them to drill down into both countries and states, they can analyze regional sales and make tax adjustments in an unprecedented manner.
Merely describing data is a lackluster solution for users. Leverage the full potential of Microsoft’s Azure and Power Platform technologies to not only make data accessible, but also to bring data to life through interactive visuals and AI enhanced content.
When gathering requirements, consider the entire lifecycle, including intended delivery format and maintenance processes.
How do users intend to access the report? Are the users developers or business users? Use this information when delegating permissions and delivery formats for the reports. As a best practice, reserve Workspace level permissions to developers. Create apps or email subscriptions for business users intended only to read the content.
Will users be interacting in the Power BI Mobile App? Be sure to design the Mobile view in Power BI Desktop if so.
Do users expect the report to be printed or exported? Consider creating a Paginated Report to optimize the print design. If you have determined that the information is sensitive or confidential, consider disabling the Tenant Setting in the Admin Portal to prevent data loss or security risks.
Once you have designed the report, consider how the report will change over time.
How frequently does the audience need the information? If you understand both the frequency at which the sources are refreshed and the frequency at which users will need to access the reports, you can be strategic when configuring the scheduled refresh of the report. Consider the burden on the source systems and the scheduled refresh of other items in the organization to minimize potential downtime or refresh errors due to capacity overutilization.
Do report builders and content creators have the correct permission levels on the Dataset, Workspace, and App level in order to change or publish reports?
Is there an existing Workspace or Deployment Pipeline structure that needs to be maintained? We recommended to create a strategy for managing versions between changes, whether it be Power BI Deployment Pipelines or SharePoint or OneDrive locations.
Have any On-Premises Gateways been configured appropriately in Power BI Service? Further, are data sources appropriately registered on the source?
When gathering requirements, consider the report’s entire lifecycle. Enable trained report developers to make changes as business needs evolve over time and Power BI usage expands in the company.
Engage with 3Cloud
Now that you’ve successfully gathered contextual reporting requirements, elevate your reporting standards by engaging with the 3Cloud team of leading Azure experts.
As seasoned Business Intelligence Consultants and Data Engineers, 3Cloud can assist in the creation of content at any stage. 3Cloud is Microsoft’s largest pureplay Azure partner in the world and has over 500 full-time engineers specializing in our three key domains: Data & Analytics, App Innovation, and the Cloud Platform.
If you’re looking to kickstart your Modern Business Intelligence efforts, 3Cloud’s MBI Jumpstart teams can implement a sophisticated solution in a fixed time frame. And 3Cloud’s Managed Data teams can engage over a longer period of time in an iterative process of training and implementation. Get started with us today!