Power BI: Choose consolidation versus quantity of reports

Posted 07/11/2017

By Jeff Nelson, director of customer strategy

I have been watching Power BI evolve for a little over two years now. I kept a watchful eye on it not only as a Microsoft partner with a vested interest in the solution, but also as a curious potential user who can comprehend the value business intelligence can bring to my organization. I am a power Dynamics CRM user and I am fortunate to work for a company where CRM usage is part of our ethos. As a result, we have developed a database that is a treasure trove of customer- and sales-related data. Additionally, we have always utilized a combination of SQL Reporting Services reports and CRM dashboards that have done a pretty decent job of helping us produce the data we need to make decisions. However, as is the case in nearly any other static reporting-type scenario, I can always poke holes in this reporting – “It needs to show this…,” “I wish it could represent it this way…,” etc. My initial plan was to try and leverage Power BI to help plug those holes and fill in our reporting gaps. I spent more time than I care to admit planning the various Power BI reports and visualizations that would be helpful to augment the existing reporting that we use in our sales organization. I would soon realize that this approach was not doing me any benefit.

I had identified 15 unique “reports” that I wanted to leverage in Power BI. Once I dug in and started to build the data models, it became painfully obvious that I had taken the wrong approach. Every one of the reports was essentially a different representation of similar data. Rather than adding existing reports to my library, I needed to go in the opposite direction – consolidating the existing reports to create a self-service BI/reporting experience. This change in approach could be equated to going to individual airline websites to check routes, dates, times and fares of flights as opposed to just going to a website like Orbitz or Travelocity – punching in where I want to go and when, and it pulls in a report of all the flights that meet my criteria. I can then narrow those results down by a number of criteria – time of day, number of stops, price, etc. It’s self-service reporting in the truest form.

With some assistance, I was able to take those 15 reports and narrow them down to four. One of the cool features in Power BI is the ability to add in slicers, which allow users to dissect the data using various parameters. So, learn from my experience – when rolling out BI in your own organization, focus on the opportunity to consolidate your reporting needs into a self-service experience as opposed to continuing down the path of creating additional reports.

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