Working on data is often not something performed alone. There is no technical reason that not to do it all by yourself, it’s just that if there is only one person with all the answers it may make taking a day off now and again problematic. If using data sourced from anything other than an Analysis Services cube, as I talked about in a previous post, I highly recommend that you create your model in Excel Power Pivot and use Power BI on the Web to create your visualizations. When creating data models and visualizations in Power BI as part of a team, there are a few steps required to make sharing the files and visualizations with others possible.
OneDrive – The place to store Excel Files used in Power BI
People working to provide a data solution require an environment where multiple people collaborate on a single data model. If it is not a problem to replace the data model in Excel every time you make a change to it, and never want to update the data, continue to store the Excel file containing your data model locally and upload from a Local File. Using a local file also means new visualizations will need to be created when the model is changed too. If at some point, you find it necessary to refresh the data stored in Excel, the file needs to be stored on an OneDrive. It is possible to share an OneDrive with others, which means the owner is responsible for adding new people and the OneDrive is tied to that owner. Sharing a file will also not permit a team to develop reports and dashboards, as that information is stored separately within Power BI. I’ve provided an example scenario to explain Power BI team development within an organization.
Collaboration within Power BI with Group Workspaces
At Initech, two people are working with Power BI Pro to create visualizations, me and someone named Jason. If you live in the US, statistically speaking your odds of working with a Jason are quite high. Jason and I are working on a data model and a number of reports, and we both want to see what each other is doing, as well jointly modify the data model. These features are available from a Group Workspace. To create a Group Workspace, within Power BI, open up the menu item My Workspace, then click on the plus sign next to Create a Group. The pop-up form includes a space to name the group and add users by adding email addresses to include group members when the group is created. It is possible to add or subtract users later, but it is not possible to create a workgroup with anyone who does not have the same company email suffix; i.e. everything after the @ must be the same for all users. The menu under My Workspace will then change to show the Group Workspace listed, as shown here where the Development Team workspace has been added. When the Development Team Group Workspace is selected, the Dashboards, Reports and Data Models listed are shared with everyone on the team. To add files, from within the Group Workspace click on Get Data button then Files to see a new OneDrive Location created with the name of the workspace, which I have called Development Team. The workspace OneDrive provides the ability to share the model and if with Power BI Pro, schedule automatic updates. Now Jason and I can collaboratively create reports and dashboards within Power BI as the reports created will be shown to everyone within the Group Workspace. Items created with My Workspace are not visible to others, so it is possible for either Jason or I to create reports or dashboards each other cannot see.
Licensing: The answer to Why Group Workspace Features Don’t Work
Generally speaking I don’t discuss licensing, as that is a topic best covered by Microsoft as the topic is complex and reminds me of a Jim Henson movie. All of the licensing information listed here came directly from Microsoft, which is why I have included a number of links to their pages. For teams which want to use Groups Workspaces, and don’t care about sharing files, then all that is required is a Power BI Pro license. With a free Power BI account, Group Workspaces are not available.
Groups are part of Office 365, and are designed to work with Exchange, as a key part of a groups is to have group emails. For Example, at Initrode they hold licenses for Office 365 ProPlus, and have email hosted on premise. Office 365 ProPlus licenses do not include Exchange. People working at Introde with Power BI Pro Licenses, cannot add any files to the OneDrive Created with Group Workspaces, as with this kind of licensing combination it is not possible to do so. Clicking on the OneDrive Icon created for the Group Workspace, will open up a file location which does not allow any files to be added. Furthermore, it is not possible to access any other OneDrive you may have from within the Group Workspaces, which means that none of the files in this Group Workspace can ever be updated. To resolve this problem, Introde needs to purchase Exchange 365 licenses for all members of the Group Workspace who need to be able to edit files, even though they plan on continuing to use Initrode’s on premise email servers to create and receive mail.
If your company has purchased E3 Office 365 license and Power BI Pro, Group Workspaces will work with no additional purchase required. At this time there is no bundled Microsoft License which can be purchased which includes Power BI Pro. Power BI Pro must be purchased separately for everyone who needs to use it. All users in your organization do not have to have Power BI Pro. Using the free version, it is possible to access visualizations created by people who have Power BI Pro, including accessing the visualizations from your phone with the free mobile apps as long as they are not accessing any Power BI Pro features.
Let me know if you have found this information helpful. Group Workspaces are great tool when creating reports in a team environment, and I would be interested in reading comments from anyone else who is using them, or thinking about it.
Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur