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Introduction

Microsoft Power BI has no doubt transformed the business intelligence landscape over the past four years. It has enabled everyone from analysts to business leaders in small and large organizations to quickly analyze, find new insights, and act from those insights. Every day the Visual BI Solutions team envisions, designs and implements Power BI solutions that empower customers to realize this value. The enthusiasm from the possibilities of Power BI coupled with its viral nature can overshadow the voice of reason for how best to address planning, deployment and management of said insights. We recognize this as governance.

These voices should not be ignored. Not having a governance plan leaves open the door for issues that can span from improper data usage to losing confidence in the organization’s ability to deliver business intelligence value.

This blog posting serves as the beginning of a Power BI Governance series that will outline our observations and recommendations for implementing governance across organizations of all sizes. Whether you are just starting out on your governance journey with Power BI or have implemented Power BI and are looking for a few tips, we hope you find our experience beneficial.

 

Framing the critical discussions

When starting efforts to build and implement a Power BI governance plan, it is important to identify touchpoints across key areas that will be impacted by a governance process. Working with customers in drafting their own governance plan, we at Visual BI Solutions frame the discussions across these three pillars:

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Each of these is critical to allow cohesion of the Power BI governance plan across the organization.
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1. Putting People First in Governance

We start first in the area of People and Practices. This area lays the foundation of how the governance plan will impact and empower individuals in the organization. Focus areas for this category include:

Personas are used to identify operational owners, creators and consumers of reports from Power BI. In a governance plan, it is important to map existing users into several key groups, including Data Architects, Data Stewards, Power Users, Analysts and Business Users. A strategy should be applied to each group as they will play a key role in crafting and advancing governance.

Support/Service Management frames the integration of the organization’s help desk services when applying the governance plan and who will provide overall oversight of Power BI services.

Creating a Center of Excellence for Power BI (or for all business intelligence reporting in general) gives the governance plan the ability to adapt to changing business conditions and service innovations over time. It represents a working body of individuals across the organization to provide continuous improvement and drive adoption of Power BI. Look for more about this element of the Power BI governance plan in a future blog post of this series.

Establishing a Near/Long Term Roadmap is an important component when you represent an adoption roadmap measured in days (for short term goals) and months (for longer-term goals) that describes how the organization plans to enable features that are both mainstream and preview in the Power BI Service.

 

2. Plan for success with Process

  • Planning for a successful governance program will involve a review of how the artifacts and deliverables from Power BI are developed and managed. The Process pillar outlines key areas that need to be considered when drafting a governance plan.
  • Demand Planning focuses on how best to address ongoing requirements from business users as expectations increase with the rollout of Power BI. Having a plan to review requirements and prioritize against existing business intelligence initiatives is a cornerstone of a strong governance program.
  • Content Management outlines what considerations need to be made for developing Power BI reports in small, medium and large teams. Policies on source control, quality assurance, and release sign off all need to be documented with the appropriate process underpinnings in place.
  • Hand in hand with Content Management, Delivery/Deployment will focus on what processes are required to provide a smooth experience for end-users to discover and leverage the reports from the reporting team. Decisions around when to use Workspaces versus Power BI Apps is important to distinguish here.
  • Implementing a Chargeback Model allows the organization to measure investments made across resources to deliver BI and analytical reporting. This is an important step in evolving governance as it helps the organization understand how to progress their adoption of Power BI with the resources available across personnel, licensing, and time. Knowing costs of ongoing implementation can also provide guidance on what areas should be adopted early as the Power BI service evolves.
  • Data Curation focuses on sources of data and how timely that data needs to be provided for end-users. Knowing these requirements will assist the architecture reporting team in making implementation decisions in areas of gateway configuration and which appropriate Power BI dataset models (Import vs Direct Query vs Composite) to use. Lastly, data classification tagging should be formalized to align with the existing enterprise classification taxonomy.
  • Underlying all of the planning efforts mentioned above is security. Security will entail understanding how the organization is to apply existing privacy and sensitivity policies to the underlying data sources while providing robust reporting. Row-level security is one topic here, but considerations should be made in areas of data protection to prevent inappropriate use inside and outside the organization.

3. Drive execution with Implementation

Implementation represents the culmination of policies and planning identified from the first two categories with an eye on leveraging advancements in the Power BI platform. In most governance planning efforts this area is last in forming the plan and represents the area where the most change will occur over time due to the fast-paced nature of Microsoft’s efforts to innovate the tools and services that comprise the Power BI platform.

Primary areas to address in your governance plan are as follows:

  • Monitoring is having a strategy to measure the adoption and usage of reports in Power BI. While Microsoft does provide some inbox capabilities, we are finding that customers are seeking additional guidance to understand what options exist to track and act upon trends in reporting. Important trends to stay on top of include report usage so that Power BI Service resources are properly allocated across licensing and storage. Knowing what reports are most visited can assist the reporting team to adopt best practices for development and provide improvements over time.
  • Mobile directs governance planning on how the organization can empower their field with leveraging the latest innovations in mobility. Decisions can span from the level of report access to deciding if separate reports tuned for smaller device form factors should accompany tablet and PC-form factor reports.
  • Setting standards in user experience and visualizations is important when thinking about accessibility and performance for the end-user. Consideration should also be made for whether to allow third-party visualizations (certified and non-certified) to be available for report writers to deliver enhanced functionality in the environment. Organizations need to set guidelines early so that their Power BI reporting developers know how best to deliver intuitive visualizations in their reports.
  • Having a semantic model is key for when working towards the goal of organizational self-service analytics and business intelligence. Setting standards around what tool(s) are to be used in establishing the broader model need to be factored into the governance plan.
  • Gateway Management is a critical part of an enterprise Power BI architecture as it is responsible for providing on-premises data to the Power BI Service. Understanding options around single sign-on (SSO) and what credentials will be used to access on-premises resources needs to be well understood so that the proper data access can be provided and managed.
  • Endorsing datasets is a best practice when providing reliable, high-quality datasets to the enterprise. A governance plan should outline requirements for both Certified and Promoted datasets so that all personas from the Data Architect to the End-User understands what those endorsement badges represent in Power BI for their organization.
  • Tenant Administration will outline how the organization should configure key settings to support the underpinnings of the governance plan. The Power BI Administrator can apply settings that will reinforce governance policies and rules in areas of exporting data, publishing, workspace settings, custom visuals, audit logging, and data classification. We recommend that tenant settings be reviewed periodically (once a quarter is a good rule of thumb) as we know Microsoft will be evolving the service over time.

Until next time…

Look for our next blog regarding Power BI Governance that will cover how to start the governance planning journey and best practices in conveying the governance strategy and execution.

As a reminder, our Microsoft offerings are available to accelerate your Power BI deployment planning and provide additional services to implement all stages of business intelligence and advanced analytics.

Let us know if you are seeking additional guidance in planning your Power BI governance program. Read more blogs from Power BI Category here.

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