DIY – Using Custom Power BI R-Powered Visuals

In a recent post I introduced using R custom Visuals in Power BI, and this post details how to use the correlation visual in a Power BI Report. The first step in the process is to download R, if it is not on the computer already. if SQL Server 2016 with R integration is installed, there is no need to download R, as it was installed already. If the computer does not have R installed, click here. Once R is installed, go to the Power BI Custom Visualization page and select the R tab to pick one of the six R visualizations. I picked the correlation plot. To use the R visualization, if the machine does not already contain the packages used in the visualization, as screen will prompt you to install some packages also. This may take a little while to do and when it is complete, a window will appear showing the packages were successfully installed. Now the custom Visual can be used in Power BI.

Using the Correlation Visualization in Power BI

Power BI will show the new visual which you can place on the report. It is important to understand a little about R to better understand the error messages received. For example if you are using the fcoorelationplotorecasting tool and have selected the year value instead of the date, you may receive an error about an invalid time series. The underlying code is expecting to receive a date value, and a year is not a date, meaning you have to reference a date field in order to make it work.

Differences between R Visualizations and other Power BI Visualizations

Interacting with R visuals works differently than with other report visualizations as you cannot click on elements within the visualization and filter other items on the page. Other visuals on the page will filter the data contained within the R visual. For example, let’s say my report contains a total field, a slicer which contains years and a correlation plot which contains products. If the slicker is changed to select a year, total field and the data within the R visual will change to reflect that. If on the other hand, I choose to click on the R visual to select one of the product categories, the total field will not change and the R visual will not change. The R visual’s appearance will not change in any way.

nointernetrmessage

One interesting thing to note is if you have created an R visual in Power BI and are working without an internet connection, the report will throw an error when trying to open the report. This occurred when it was a report I created or a sample report, so it appears with these reports an internet connection is required.

 

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Downloading Power BI Reports and the Impact on Report Creation Process

savepowerbireportWhile the official announcement has not been released, on November 24th the Power BI feature to Download report became available. It is now possible to download Power BI Reports from the Power BI Service. To access the feature, click on the dropdown file menu of a report, and there you will see the option to download a report. If your report was not created recently, this feature may not be enabled. If the report was created November 24th or later, the download menu item should be enabled. After the download option is selected, a message pops up letting you know the report is being downloaded. The message is accurate as it took a good three plus minutes for the report to be downloaded.

savepowerbirptmessage

There are a couple of points worth mentioning regarding the downloading feature. Downloading is for reports, not dashboards or datasets. **UPDATE: on 11-29 Microsoft released the information about the download feature. It can be turned off if on the Admin Portal exporting data is turned off. Unfortunately there isn’t a way to just turn off downloading the reports, as that one option controls both downloading reports and data.

Impact of Report Downloading on Templates and Content Packs

Power BI’s report download feature has the ability to modify the development process in Power BI as it is now possible to use Power BI Desktop and provide the ability to create report versioning. Unfortunately, a report created on the service, cannot be downloaded as only reports which originated as desktop files can be downloaded. This is a problem as these files cannot be sent to SharePoint Online to provide versioning. One has to hope no one broke a report created on the service as there is no method to rollback changes to a previous because no file exists. This limits the use of Organizational Content Packs. A Content Pack is designed to be a starting point for report development as it contains everything needed to create a report, including a connection to a dataset, plus dashboards and perhaps a report or two to serve as a style guide. Content Packs are accessed by the arrow at the bottom of the Power BI Menu or by selecting Get Data, then selecting My organization to use content packs created for local data access.

Now that anyone can use a report which has been uploaded to the service as a starting point for a new report, there may be a decreased use of the template feature. Any report created on the desktop can be saved as a template, by selecting save on a desktop report file and changing the file type to a template. Unfortunately, templates do not contain links to the datasource used. The person creating the report must determine what data to use and if there was a dataset presently used which is refreshing the data, or create a dataset and it’s respective refresh features as part of creating a report.  Content packs provide the connections to datasets, but since the reports cannot be saved as a file for versioning, this feature is not often used instead of templates. Downloading the file and then modifying it is does resolve the issue as the starting point is then a working report with a connection to an existing dataset.

Personally I have been waiting for Microsoft to release the download feature for a long time and am very happy to be able to use it. I hope that an some point the download feature will be expanded to reports created on the service as this feature will  improve the report creation process.

 

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Admin and Auditing in Power BI

On October 24, 2016 Microsoft has created a new access right in Office 365, the Power BI Admin. This means that no longer does one have to be a Office 365 Administrator, a role with a ton of rights which have nothing to do with Power BI to be a Power BI Administrator. To be a Power BI Adminstrator, the Office 365 Adminstrator needs to run a PowerShell script to make a user a Power BI Administrator. Just change the email address and run this script.

Add-MsolRoleMember -RoleMemberEmailAddress “user@useremailaddress.com" -RoleName "Power BI Service Administrator"

After running this script you will almost have everything you need to be a Power BI Administrator. The one thing that the newly minted Power BI Administrator cannot do is review the Audit Logs.

Audit Logs in Power BI

The Audit Logs are the third menu item in the Power BI Admin Portal. As you can tell by looking at a copy of the screen below, Audit Logs are not really part of Power BI. Yes the ability to log all of the content in Power BI exists in the Audit Logs, but so does the ability to review the audit logs for things like Exchange Mailbox Activities and User Administration Activities.

Power BI Admin Screen

If the Office 365 Administrator has granted a user Power BI Administration rights, this is what the newly minted Power BI Administrator will see when trying to access any search activities. It appears that you the user has rights, until that user tries to do anything on the screen. At that point, this error window appears.

error-message-for-power-bi

Granting a Power BI Administrator the ability to view Power BI Audit Logs

To view audit logs, additional Office 365 access features are required. I did not figure out a way to turn on the audit feature unless one already was an Office 365 Administrator. If you want to view the audit logs, the first step should be to find out if they are turned on, because the steps I am going to show won’t do that. Within the Office 365 Admin center, go to the Exchange admin center and select permissions.

office365portal

Select the user and then add two roles Compliance Management and Organization Management. It is also possible to create a new role with Compliance Manager rights and add the Audit Logs and View Only Audit Log permissions, since those are the required permissions. None of this has anything to do with Power BI, which means when the permissions granted, users will have the ability to see all of the audit logs. After the new role permissions have been applied, the error message will go away and users will have the ability to see activity logged in Power BI as well as all of the Power BI Administration features.

 

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Using Power BI to Display R Visuals

 Microsoft has in the past few months increased the support for R Visuals in Power BI. In the July release, Power BI Service started displaying interactive visuals and in October, six R visuals were made

rvisualsavailable in Power BI which do not require any knowledge of R. Six visuals is a far step away from the wide number of visuals available in R. According to the Comprehensive R [CRAN] as of today there are 9557 packages available for R, and that does not count all of the packages on GitHub.

R Packages Supported in the Power BI Service

According to a September 8th post on the Power BI Blog, there are currently 352 R packages supported in the Power BI Service. For those of you wondering if your favorite R library is included (yes dplyr, ggplot2 and cluster are there) I have included the list of packages here.

abc abc.data acepack actuar ade4 AdMit andrews
aod apcluster ape aplpack approximator arm arules
arulesViz assertthat BACCO BaM BAS base64enc bayesm
bayesQR bayesSurv BayesTree BayHaz bbemkr BCBCSF BCE
bclust BenfordTests bisoreg bit bit64 bitops BMA
Bmix BMS0 bnlearn, boa boot bootstrap bqtl
BradleyTerry2 brew brglm, bspec bspmma BVS C50
calibrator car caret, catnet caTools cclust class
clue cluster coda coin CORElearn corpcor corrplot
crayon cslogistic cubature cvTools data.table date dbscan
deal deepnet deldir dendextend DEoptimR deSolve DiagrammeR
dichromat digest dlm DMwR dplyr DPpackage dse
dtw e1071 earth EbayesThresh ebdbNet ellipse emulator
ensembleBMA entropy EvalEst evaluate evdbayes exactLoglinTest expm
extremevalues FactoMineR factorQR faoutlier fBasics fields filehash
fitdistrplus flashClust FME fmsb foreach forecast Formula
fracdiff fTrading futile.logger gam gamlr gclus gdata
gee genetics geoRglm geosphere ggdendro ggmcmc ggplot2
ggthemes glmmBUGS glmnet gmodels gmp gnm GPArotation
gridBase gridExtra growcurves grpreg gss gsubfn gtable
gtools haplo.stats hash hbsae hdrcde heavy HH
HI Hmisc HSAUR ifultools intervals ipred irlba
irr iterators jpeg kernlab KernSmooth KFKSDS kinship2
kknn klaR knitr labeling lars lattice latticeExtra
lava lavaan lazyeval leaps LearnBayes LiblineaR LICORS
limSolve lme4 lmm lmtest locfit locpol LogicReg
lsa lubridate magic magrittr mapdata mapproj maps
maptree MASS MasterBayes Matrix matrixcalc MatrixModels maxent
maxLik mboost mda memoise mi mice microbenchmark
mime misc3d miscTools mitools mixtools mlbench mnormt
MNP modeltools mombf monomvn MSBVAR msm multcomp
munsell mvtnorm NbClust ncvreg nlme nloptr NLP
NMF nnet nnls nortest numbers numDeriv OutlierDC
pacbpred party partykit PAWL pbivnorm pcaPP pdc
PerformanceAnalytics plotmo plotrix pls plyr png polynom
predmixcor PresenceAbsence profdpm proto proxy pryr pscl
psych qap qdapRegex quadprog quantreg qvcalc R.oo
.utils ramps RandomFieldsUtils RColorBrewer Rcpp RcppArmadillo RcppEigen
registry reliampo relimp reshape reshape2 RGraphics rjson
RJSONIO Rmpfr rms robustbase ROCR rpart.plot rrcov
rscproxy RSGHB RTextTools rworldmap SampleSizeMeans SampleSizeProportions sbgcop
scales scatterplot3d sciplot segmented seriation setRNG sfsmisc
SIS SixSigma skmeans slam smoothSurv sna snow
SnowballC snowFT sp spacetime spam SparseM spatial
spBayes spikeslab splancs spls spTimer sqldf sROC
stabledist stabs stepPlr stringdist stringr stsm stsm.class
survival tau tcltk2 tensorA textcat textir tfplot
TH.data tidyr timeDate timeSeries tm topicmodels tree
tseries tsfa tsoutliers TSP vcd VennDiagram VGAM
VIM whisker wordcloud xgboost XML xts yaml
zipfR zoo

 

 

I hope that some day that this list becomes much longer, but it is a good start. If your company has lots R visuals and you wish to migrate them to Power BI, chances are some of the libraries you are using are not here. If you are interested in having your library added to the list of 352, go to the Ideas page of Power BI and request that your library be added, as Microsoft I know looks at this page to determine what to release in the future. Someone has requested that igraph be added, and since it hasn’t received a lot of votes yet (hint) it is probably low on the priority list.

Release Plans for Additional R Library Support in Power BI

In reviewing the Power BI documentation online, it is not known what Microsoft’s plans are for future R packages. Does Microsoft plan on adding a lot more in the future? Will new libraries be added as part of upcoming releases? All questions where the web presently does not provide answers.

The current package support in Power BI does provide the R developer with a method to more securely and widely distribute R visualizations. In my upcoming posts I will review how to use the six R visualizations which do not require R and also how to use R with Power BI.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Power BI Auditing

Auditing is one of the recent features in Power BI Preview which can be a great tool for monitoring what is going on in Power BI. There were a number of people who asked for this feature on the Power BI Ideas site, which shows that Microsoft is responding to what is posted there. When I read about auditing, I thought that it was a Power BI feature. While that is true, the scope of auditing is much bigger than Power BI. Auditing is designed for Office 365. Yes, you can turn it on for Power BI, as well as for SharePoint and a number of other Office applications. Since auditing is really an Office 365 tool, one has to be an Office 365 admin to be able to be able to access the tool, as it is turned on from within the Office 365 tenant. To be able to audit anything, you need to wait 24 hours until after it has been turned on to receive any data. It doesn’t go back in time, which is unfortunate as usually you figure out that you want an audit after something happens, and then it is too late. Best to just turn it on now. If you have free users and Pro Users, you will notice that you only get auditing for the pro users.

Accessing the Power BI Audit Log

Clicking on the gear in the upper right corner of the Power BI Service will take you to the Admin portal. If you select audit logs, the screen has a button on it which opens Office 365 Admin Center. Clicking on the search box will show all of the applications which have audit logs. Scroll down to Power BI activities.

powerbiaudit

As you can see by looking at the available Power BI options, there are a number of options to choose from. If you select the top item PowerBI activities, then everything gets selected. After doing that click outside of the menu for the menu to go away. Select a date and time range of your choosing, select specific users if you wish, then click on the Search button. Depending on how big your date range is, this may take some time to load. Once you see the results, you have the ability to filter as well.

auditdeletepowerbi

The screen starts responding as soon as you start typing. I got as far as Del, and the screen changed to show only the items Deleted.It’s a pretty neat feature and a simple way to monitor what is going on in Power BI.

ITDevConLogo

I am going to be talking about more methods to administer Power BI at IT/Dev Connections. If you are attending, please come by and say hello. I would love the chance to meet more people who read my blog. For those of you who are not in Vegas this week, I will be posting more information on Power BI and R to provide supplemental material for my sessions. Check back later in the week or please subscribe to my blog for the highlights.

 

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

 

Group Workspaces and File Sharing in Power BI

When working on Power BI Reports, much of the time the task is spread among multiple people. If this is the case, you probably will also want to provide limited access to the PBIX files used in your Power BI reports. It would also be nice to have the ability to check out a file to insure that one person doesn’t over-write the changes of someone else. It would be nice to track changes that have been made to the files too. Based on this description, it may sound like the next topic will be implementing source control software, like TFS or Subversion. Instead, all you need to do is use the Group Workspaces functionality with Power BI.

Report Development Teams needs Power BI Group Workspaces

Power BI is licensed by the individual. This means Power BI reports created within a My Workspace belong to that person. This can be a problem if say that person goes on vacation or quits. If the reports are all contained within one person’s account and that individual’s account is deleted when they separate from the company, what do you think happen to all of the reports? Answer they are gone too. Maybe a call to Microsoft Power BI Support will be able to help if that occurs, or maybe not. It’s would be better to create the ability within the Power BI environment where the company owns the company reports. Even if the Power BI reports are all created by one person, I would create a workgroup. After all that one person might want to go on vacation sometime, and for disaster recovery reasons someone else needs to be able to access the reports Of course by that I mean, create a Workspace within Power BI, and add other people to it. When you create a workspace within Power BI, not only do you get a location where multiple people can visualize the same reports, a Group One Drive is also created where PBIX files can be shared within the group.

Source Control with Power BI Reports

PowerBIGroupWorkSpaceMany of the functionality people associate with source control programs live inside the group one drive which is created for Power BI. Looking at the picture of the group screen, which was created when a Power BI Workspace was created, you will see that this group contains 7 members and four files. The members of this groups are the only ones who have access to the files. The file AcmeThree.pbix is selected, and clicking on the ellipse(…) brings up a menu for the file. Notice one of them is Check Out. If I check out a file, the icon next to the name changes, providing a visual queue to all who wish to edit the file that it is being working on. The menu option for me would change to Check In, providing the ability to check the file in to the directory, allowing others to check out the file and work on it. Notice Version History also exists. This feature allows previous versions of the file to be loaded, which means that changes made to a file can be rolled back.

Using One Drive with Workgroups provides a convenient way for groups of users to work on reports, ensuring that the reports are stored in a secure location and can be access by multiple people within the organization. If you are looking for way for a team of people to collaboratively work on reports, create a Group Workspace in Power BI then use the One Group functionality to provide a secure method for report development.

 

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

On-Premises Data Gateway – the Replacement for Power BI Enterprise and Personal Gateway

 With the announcement July 6, Microsoft has merged the number of gateways used in Power BI. The new On-Premises Gateway not only replaces both of those applications, but also replaces the data gateway used to access on premise data for other applications, such as Azure Machine Learning. This reminds me of Lord of the Rings as There is now One Gateway to bring them all. One Gateway to bind them.

Replacing the Old Power BI Gateways with the New On-Premises Data Gateway

When installing the new gateway, the place to look for the new installer is not on some Microsoft Download page, but from within Power BI PowerBIGatewayInstallScreenitself. The new gateway needs to be installed from Power BI, rather than a generic location. As the gateway is providing data for your account, installing it in this fashion will record the gateway used on this account. To download the gateway, login to the Power BI Service and click on the <<insert icon here>> the download menu and select the Power BI Gateway. This gateway is truly the one gateway to rule them all as it contains the ability to install either the On-Premises Data Gateway, which is the direct replacement for the Enterprise Gateway, or the Power BI Personal gateway. You can install both gateways, but you have to pick one to install first. Both gateways can also run on the same device. Once the software is installed, you can convert your existing gateways to the new gateway, so there is no need to enter the configuration twice.

New Gateway, New Security Model

While the personal gateway works in a similar fashion as before bu using a single user’s credentials, the new gateway uses a different security model than was employed in the past. Instead of using the credentials of the Id which installed the software, it uses a new service account NT SERVICE\PBIEgwService. OnPremSecurityDiagramThis account is for the gateway only, it does not need to be granted any data access. The new application is creating a connection to the Azure Service Bus, acts as the clearing hours for all data requests, including Power BI and other applications occur. The application gateway is where the credentials for accessing the data are applied. This security model is used not only for Power BI, but for other applications like Azure Machine Learning where there is a need to get data from a on-premises source and load it to the cloud. Previously it was not possible to have the gateway used for Power BI to be loaded to the same machine as the other data gateway that was used for Azure Machine Learning. Now that they use the same gateway, this restriction is removed.

Functional Differences in the New Gateway and the Previous Gateways

The underlying security model and application is different, but operationally are the new gateway does not behave differently from the Enterprise and Personal Gateways Power BI, there is just a new application do to what they did. If you want to use the data access rights of a single specific user to refresh and update data, the Personal Gateway will do that. The Enterprise Model provides for the ability to inherit the security of the user accessing the data. If you have a tabular model stored locally which is used as a data source for Power BI, the users will see the data they were granted access to from within the tabular model. The scheduled update features are not changed and are still accessed from the same area as they are in Power BI Service.  Unfortunately, if you are interested in connecting to Azure Machine Learning or Data Factory, you will still need a different gateway, and that gateway cannot be installed on the same PC as a Power BI Gateway.  I will have more information on that gateway in a later post.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

 

 

Time to Use Custom Visualizations in Power BI

After my previous blog post, and subsequent complaints to several people on the Power BI Product Team, I am really happy to be writing a blog encouraging everyone to use Custom Visuals. Power BI no longer has any horrible error messages for custom visuals which prevented me from using Custom Visuals in the Past. Look at the fish with no error messages!CustomVisualizations

Warnings For Custom Visualizations Go Away

Now since Power BI Custom Visualizations are not provided by Microsoft, they feel compelled to give you a warning message letting users know this. Here is the message box you get in Power BI Desktop when PowerBIWarningusing a custom visualization. Notice that I clicked on the check box next to the text Don’t show this dialog again. As Words mean things, checking this box means the warning message never appears again. When you import the visualization into Power BI, no warning messages. Now I can use and propose custom visualizations to clients because they really are neat, and now they contain no warnings. Thanks so much to the Power BI Product team for fixing this major issue.

SQLSaturdayAtlanta-521This visualization update makes me somewhat sad that I am not talking about Power BI at SQL Saturday Atlanta, but I am really excited to be talking about R and connecting with many people in the SQL Server Community. If you are in Atlanta, I hope to see you tomorrow.

 

 

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

 

3 Best Practice Steps for Implementing a Power BI Project

Power BI is a powerful tool with a rapidly evolving set of features. While it’s great to have more features, it is hard to keep up with the best ways to use them all, and some of the information out there regarding best practices have changed with the new releases. If you are planning on implementing a Power BI project where you work, following these steps will  minimize implementation and development issues while saving time. The steps are listed in order needed for creating a new Power BI Project, but if you have a Power BI implementation already, incorporating these steps will provide a more scalable, easy to maintain system over time.

Step 1 – Create a Group Workspace

1BlockOne person should never own a report. One person cannot be responsible for the reports 100% of the time as they may want to go on vacation or do something other than modify a report right now. The reports should belong to a group of people or accounts within the organization which will give the reports the appropriate status of organizational assets, not personal items. If the group owns the workspace, then the progress on the work any report can be monitored and if one person gets busy another person has the ability to help out.  When creating a workspace a group One Drive is also created. The pbix files used by the group should be stored in the group One Drive, which will allow others to edit the report over time. I have seen it take up to 30 minutes for the  workspace to be created, which means this step needs to be done in advance of when it is needed.

Using workspaces with Power BI does mean that you will need to have an Office 365 Exchange license for each Power BI user, because they create groups which are technically an Exchange feature, not a Power BI feature. This does not mean that you need to do anything with your current Exchange servers, you just need the license so that you will have the ability to use the group One Drive. If you do not have an exchange license, the group drive will not be accessible to all users. Updates will then consist of replacing the reports and datasets, which can adversely impact the dashboards relying upon them.

Step 2 – Select and Implement a Gateway

2BlockReports are based on data which needs to be updated to reflect what is current. Power BI offers two methods of updating the data the Personal Gateway and the Enterprise Gateway. If you select an Enterprise Gateway, you may not need to create a data model, as you may rely upon one already created in your organization, which is why this step must be completed at the beginning of the project.

If the data required for Power BI requires a data model is going to be created, the type of security used to access the data needs to be determined.  While both the Enterprise Gateway and the Personal Gateway can be used to handle data mashups, meaning for example you can combine an Excel file with some data from various SQL Server databases, the difference is in the security model. Enterprise Gateways need to be setup by someone who understands the underlying database security model as and passes the users credentials to the source, inheriting the existing individuals data security. A Personal Gateway will use the security of the person who creates it. A Personal Gateway is generally created based on a data model from a report.

Step 3 – Create a Content Pack

3BlockContent Packs can be used to ensure that the data used is coming from the gateway setup in the previous step, and any other reporting standards which you wish to implement are also included. Using the Power BI desktop, create a simple working report using the data refreshed in the gateway created in the previous step. This report may not be anything that you want to release to users, but a report which you can use to test the gateway created earlier to ensure that all of the data connection and refresh issues are resolved prior to spending a lot of time working on a series of complex reports. Load this file to the Power BI Service and use it to create a content pack. By providing a working report model for everyone in the workspace can use as a guide for how to start a report, many issues regarding how to get access to data and multiple sources to the same data can be eliminated. If you have multiple gateways, each should have a content pack. Demonstrate how to use the content pack to the people in the workgroup, and then everyone can create reports where the data will be refreshed.

Follow these Steps, Eliminate Problems

These best practice steps can eliminate many problems which arise when people start working on Power BI visualizations. Going back to my previous post, following these steps addresses the important components of Security and Business Continuity first, before any reports are even created. Addressing these components first can prevent many issues which tend to happen when different models are employed.

Yours Always,

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

The Five Key Components for a Successful Data Analysis Project

As a consultant, I have been a part of some very successful implementations of Data Analysis Projects. I have also been brought in to fix implementations which didn’t go so well. Being on a number of different projects, certain common components emerge. When these things are addressed early in the project, things go well. These items really cannot be put off to the end or ignored completely. These items are not related to the software, used in data analysis, as no matter what the tool selected, the solution will be incomplete if the following five areas are not addressed.

5 Components Every Project Should Include

Security

Business Continuity

Reliability

Distribution

Management Direction

Each of these items are important components of a successful Data Analytics Management practice. Problems with any of them can move a project from successful to a failed project.

Security

Security is an obvious consideration which needs to be addressed up front. Data is a very valuable commodity and

Data is the New Gold

Data is the New Gold

only people with appropriate access should be allowed to see it. What steps are going to be employed to ensure that happens? How much administration is going to be required to implement it? These questions need to be answered up front.

Business Continuity

Business Continuity means the solution cannot be on the shoulders of one person, as that can be a risky situation. One person needs a break to go on vacation or not work, and needs a backup who is skilled and able to understand the system and run it alone. This can be a really big problem, especially for smaller organizations, who have only relied on one person. I have been brought in to assist companies who until very recently thought that they had a very successful Data Analytics Platform. The problem with it was that there was only one person who had the skill to maintain it, and that person quit.

Business Continuity can be a specific problem for Power BI users, as often times one user owns a report. Reports for an organization should never be owned by one person. All companies using Power BI should have the reports in a series of group workspaces, not belonging to any single person. Otherwise, if the person writing the report quits and their account is deleted, the reports are not then deleted as well.

Reliability

Reliability is critical, because who cares about a data analysis project if no one believes the data is correct? In addition to accuracy, the system used needs to be reliable, containing data updates on a scheduled basis. How and when is the data going to be updated? How is that schedule communicated? The answers to these questions need to be addressed at the beginning of the project.

I remember working for one client who had over a 100 million dollar loss in a month on a visualization we created. I asked if the data was correct as that was a huge one month loss. I was assured that the data was not correct, but no one knew how to resolve the data issue. The reporting tool, whatever it happens to be, is not the place where data is fixed, it should reflect the contents source data. Where this rule is not followed, the reports are ignored as the data is suspect as no one knows why it should be believed as doesn’t match the source system. How is the source system data going to be fixed? This is often times a management issue as people need to be appropriately incentivize to fix things.

Management Direction

All data analysis needs Management Direction to set priorities. As there are only so many hours in a day, the important items need to be identified so that they can be addressed. What is important? Everything cannot be a number one priority as that means nothing is. In many data analytics projects, someone wants a dashboard. Great idea. What numbers show whether or not the company is currently successful? In most companies where I am helping them create data analysis project, the answer to what are the Key Performance Indicators [KPIs] is; no one has made up their mind yet. Management needs to provide the direction for the KPIs.

Distribution

How are people going to get their hands on whatever it is that you just created? What are people looking for? Reports in their email? Visualizations on their phones? What do people want? Only if you ask the question do you know if you are providing the data in a way people want to consume them. In order to pick the most appropriate tool or design visualizations people are actually going to use, these questions need to be asked up front. Recently I worked for a client who had selected Tableau as there reporting solution, but they were getting rid of it. Why? The users wanted to do adhoc analysis in Excel, so they were using Tableau not to visualize their data or do ad-hoc analysis, but to select data for Excel Pivot Tables. A lot of money and time would have been saved if the question of how the users wanted to use the data was asked up front.

Hopefully all of your data analysis project include these components. In today’s environment, data is the new gold. This valuable commodity needs a system which is Reliable, Secure, important to Management, which can be distributed to continually provide value to the organization.

Yours Always,

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur