As I was rehearsing my Using Power BI when Implementing Data Analytics Management Practices presentation for SQL Saturday Austin, I realized that I wasn’t going to have time to cover everything I wanted to cover. One of the important methods for implementing data management practices in Power BI is using content packs. Content packs are a method of sharing reports and data throughout your organization so everyone doesn’t need to create data model and those people who do can share them with everyone else. For this reason I highly recommend using content packs in Power BI. This guide will walk you through the steps needed to create content packs. If you don’t have Power BI Pro, you can stop reading now, as content packs are a feature only available in the Power BI Pro version. There are a number of steps which will need to be completed to use a content pack within Power BI, and I’ve listed them all in order below. Depending on where you are in the process you might want to skip to the Creating a Content Pack section, but I thought it was important to include everything that should be completed first.
Create a Data Model in Power BI Desktop
For this example, you will need to create a data model in Power BI Desktop, and for this demo, create one report too. I’m not going to review how to do that here, but Microsoft has a video guide to creating Power BI Desktop models here. Save the .pbix file. After saving the file, go to PowerBI.com and login.
Recommendation: Use a Group Workspace
The next step is optional, but if you work with other people, I recommend it. If you don’t have one already, I highly recommend that you create a group workspace. That way the ownership is shared, meaning that if you take a day off, someone else has the ability to access the information. Click on the My Workspace item on the left hand side of the Power BI page. Click on the + (plus) adjacent to the Group Workspaces item. On the right hand side of the screen a form will pop up with fields for Group Name, Privacy, and Group Members. Make sure that you complete the form and save it. Double click on the new group workspace item to open it. If you happen to have an Office 365 Exchange license, creating a group workspace will also create a Group One Drive. This is a great place to put data so that you can all share it and see the file from within Power BI. Now that I have this one drive location created, I am going to copy my newly created Power BI file to it.
Using a Desktop file on Power BI.com
To use the Power Desktop file within PowerBI.com, the next step is to upload the Power BI Desktop file to the web as a dataset. Either clicking on the + (plus) button next to the words Datasets, or click on the Get Data button on the bottom of the screen. Both options will get you to the Get Data screen. We want to Import the Power BI Desktop file, so click on the get button in the Files box. The screen will change to the file location section. Select Local file and upload the Power BI file.
Ensuring that the data set refreshed, which allows everyone to have current data, requires updating the data with a gateway. For this example I am going to use the Power BI Personal Gateway because I plan to include multiple data sources instead of just SQL Server and Power BI web application to schedule the data refresh. Assuming I have already installed the Power BI Gateway, Click on the … (ellipse) next to the Power BI Desktop file just loaded to the data set, and a box will pop up with a list of features on the bottom of the popup box. Select Schedule Refresh, which will bring up the screen shown.
Assuming the Personal Gateway is online and the Data Source Credentials are ok, change the Schedule Refresh from the default Off to On. Set the Refresh Frequency to one of the available options. If you want to update the data more than once a day, click on the option Add another time. When you have finished adding times, click on the Apply button to save the contents.
Creating a Content Pack
To create a content pack, ideally you want to share a data model which has working appropriately scheduled updates. That way anyone who wants to create a report doesn’t have to worry about having valid working data. Instead they can work on providing meaningful visualizations to business problems.
If you want to create a content pack or use one, the step is the same. Click on the yellow Get Data button on the bottom left corner of the screen. That will change the active window to the Get Data window. On the left hand side of the screen under the words Content Pack Library, there are two options. Click on the Get button from the one on the left, My Organization. Click on the button labeled Create Content Pack. The following screen will be displayed.
There are a number of options on the Create content pack screen, starting with the Choose who will have access to this content Pack button. I have selected the option My entire organization. You may want to create different content packs for different groups of users. If you have exchange groups set up, such as Accounting@desertislesql.com which would send an email to everyone listed in the email group, you can enter that email group. If you just want to add a list of emails for people within your organization, you can do that as well.
In the sample Create Content Pack screen shown, I have filled in the blanks, selected my Power BI Desktop file I just added and uploaded a company logo. Once you click on the Publish button, the screen will close and you will get a success window which briefly appears on the top of the screen. The content pack is now ready to use. Click on the Get Data button again, and the new content pack is available to use. When I select the newly created content pack AWDW, I am provided a new window with a big Connect button in it. Click on the Connect button. The data set and any reports connected to it will have yellow stars next to them.
Every one who uses this new data set can be guaranteed a data set which updated on the same schedule, and different people can now create visualizations with one shared dat aset which can be used many different times.
Data Management within an Organization
Having helped a number of organizations implement Power BI, one of the big issues I have seen are not related to the product but related to the processes within the organization which are used to support the data needs of a variety of different users. These processes tend to be the reason a self-service business intelligent process is successful or not. Using Content packs can be a part of that solution which is why I look forward to sharing what I’ve learned at SQL Saturday Austin – 461. I hope to see you Deep in the Heart of Texas!
Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur