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Rules to Better Power BI

10 Rules

If you still need help, visit our Power BI consulting page and book in a consultant.

  1. Do you know how to add custom branding to the Power BI portal?

    The Power BI Portal can be customized with custom branding. The items that can be changed to make Power BI fit into an organizations brand are:

    • Logo
    • Cover Image
    • Theme Colour

    To make these changes navigate to: Admin Portal | Custom Branding

    Make your changes and save. That's it, you now have a branded Power BI Portal.

    powerbi custom branding
    Figure: Power BI Portal with Custom SSW Branding

  2. Do you know how to integrate Power BI with Reporting Services 2016?

    There are 2 ways to integrate Power BI with SSRS (SQL Reporting Services) that will allow you to be able to find all of your relevant reports from wherever you look for them

    SSRS

    In SSRS 2016, you can list Power BI reports as if they were SSRS ones.

    Power BI Dashboard

    Figure - Good Example: Power BI dashboards can show charts from SSRS reports, and link through to them when clicked.

  3. Do you know how to share links to specific tabs in Power BI reports

    The problem with the standard File | Publish to Web options, is it always goes to the same tab of a report, but if you want to send a link to a specific tab, you have to do one more step...

    Do the above as usual, and then go to that published public report, and navigate to the tab you want to send people to.

    At the bottom right hand corner of the screen, there is a share icon. Click this for a sharable URL for that tab (people can still navigate to other tabs as needed, but will start on the one you've chosen.

    Power BI   Share Tab

  4. Do you know not to use Alphabetical Sorting?

    The default sort order for most visualizations is alphabetical, but you should almost always change this.

    Alphabetical sorting is really only good if you're specifically looking for one item on the X axis, but it's terrible for seeing ranks, trends, or proportions. PowerBI alphabetical

    Figure - Bad Example: Alphabetical gives very little information

    PowerBI-non-aphabetical.png

    Figure - Good Example: Sorting by value shows rank and trends easily

  5. Do you know the best practices around colour?

    Using colour in reports can bring them to life, or else make them confusing and noisy, so make sure you’re intentional with them.

    Semantic colours

    Remember that some colours have a shared understanding of their meaning.

    • Red means pay attention or danger.
    • Green often means good.
    • Traffic lights can be used for showing 3 levels.
    • Cold, Warm, Hot should have appropriate colours that make sense without having to look at the legend

    colours powerbi bad
    Figure: Bad example – non-semantic colours cause confusion

    colours powerbi good
    Figure: good example – obvious colours used for Cold, Warm, and Hot

    Tufte minimalism

    Edward Tufte is often quoted as saying that, on a report where you want to draw the eye to exceptions or out of bounds data, colour should only be used to highlight what you want the user to see.

    tufte good
    Figure: Good Example – the black stands out as everything else looks translucent

    Consistent Palette

    Make sure you stick with one colour palette, so if you use one pastel colour, make them all pastel. If you have one bold colour, make them all bold

    pallete bad
    Figure: Bad Example – inconsistent palette feel like the colours clash

    pallete good
    Figure: Good Example – consistent colour palette

    Colour Blind palette

    Just to be difficult, it is worth noting that red/green colour blindness is the most common type, which may make standard semantic colours sometimes less desirable. In this case, use blues and oranges for contrast instead.

  6. Do you know the difference between Calculated Columns and Measures in Power BI?

    When you run into a wall in Power BI and feel like you've exhausted the out of the box functionality, that when it's time to investigate what a bit of DAX can do for you. 

    There are 2 different things you can do with DAX, create a Measure or a Calculated Column.

    Calculated columns:

    • Stored in the database
    • Often used to filter/group data

    Measures:

    • Computed on aggregates of values
    • Computed at query time
    • Often used to give a numerical metric
    GroupingColumn = if(value<x, small, if(value<y, medium, large))

    Figure - Good Example: Nested if statements are a great way to split up your data into groups

  7. Do you know where to save reports?

    You can save report under My Workspace and share it with your team. This is bad because if you leave your company, your report is gone!

    It's better to save reports under Group Workspace and share it with the team.

    powerbi bad
    Figure: Bad example - saving report under My Workspace

    powerbi good
    Figure: Good example - saving report under Group Workspace

    1. Group work space requires all users to have pro license ($10 / month)
    2. Group work space cannot share report and dashboard via embed link
    3. Until Microsoft fixes PowerBI's group sharing, it's better to use My Workspace with a shared account (i.e. powerbi@northwind.com )
  8. Do you use Email Subscriptions to get the reports you need in your inbox?

    Pro users can quickly subscribe to emails of the report pages that matter most. Once subscribed, Power BI will regularly send screenshots of the report page directly to your inbox.

    Figure: Many people love getting reports in their inbox monthly

  9. Do you use the Dataverse connector when connecting the Dynamics 365?

    When creating a Power BI connection to Dynamics 365, the first thing that comes to mind when searching for a connector is to search for Dynamics 365, seems logical enough right?

    dynamics connector 1
    Figure: Bad example - Searching for Dynamics 365 connector

    Wrong.

    When connecting to Dynamics 365 data always use the Dataverse connector (if it is available). Your system admin will need to tinker with some settings to enable this support, but it's simple and easy enough to do, here's the link: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powerapps/maker/data-platform/view-entity-data-power-bi.

    Once enabled instead of using Dynamics 365 (online) connector use the Dataverse connector.

    dynamics connector 2
    Figure: Good example - Use the Dataverse connector instead

    The advantages of using the Dataverse connector are:

    • Supports both Import and Direct Query (Direct Query means live reporting 🙂)
    • Dataverse is built on top of TDS (Tabular Data Stream), meaning it should be much faster than the WebAPI connector
    • Potential to write custom SQL queries for data sources

    The disadvantages of using the Dataverse connector are:

    • None
  10. Do you use version control with Power BI?

    Developers in 2018 have better control history than before.

    Prior to the April 2016 update, storing a Power BI Report in version control could be prohibitive, as pbix files contain the dataset and report definition, which in some cases can be gigabytes in size.

    The April 2016 update features the ability to export a Power BI Report template (pbit) file, which contains the report definition minus the dataset.

    If the pbix file size is not too large, you may choose to store it directly in source control. When a pbix file is very large, then it may be more economical to store the template (pbit file) only in source control.

    Here’s the pros and cons we’ve found for each file type:

    Template pbit files are small, but when you open a template in Power BI Desktop, the dataset needs to reload. If the changes you need to make to a report are small, waiting for a dataset reload can be frustrating (e.g. waiting 10 minutes for the reload to do a one-minute change). The Power BI pbix file will still be required to publish to Power BI Online.

    Power BI pbix files can get very large, but when you open them, the data is there and you can immediately make changes to the report. However, if your workplace is geographically dispersed, then upload and download times to/from source control will be a consideration.

    Having a mixed set of rules for storing different file types based on their size will quickly get messy if you have a number of reports, so make a decision to go one way or the other based on your environment.

    PowerBI SourceControl BadExample
    Figure: Bad Example – Mixed Template and Power BI Files in Source Control

    PowerBI SourceControl GoodExample
    Figure: Good Example – Single File Type in Source Control

    To export a template from Power BI Desktop, select File | Export | Power BI template from the menu, enter a description, file name and click save, as per the below figures.

    PowerBI SourceControl 1 3
    Figure: Exporting a Power BI Template from Power BI Desktop Add comments describing the changes made to the report and append to these, in descending order, each time a change is made. This way the history will be at hand each time the template is opened.

    PowerBI SourceControl 2 3
    Figure: Enter a Description for the Template

    PowerBI SourceControl 3 3
    Figure: Enter a File Name and Save

    Save your pbix file to the same folder as the template above, you’ll need these if you want to publish your report to Power BI Online.

    If you’ve decided to store template pbit files in source control, ensure you’ve set your source control application to ignore *.pbix files.

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