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Written by Brett Thebault

At Mantel Group, we’ve seen Power BI become the go-to business intelligence (BI) platform for many organisations. This isn’t surprising. Power BI capitalises on the familiarity of Microsoft products for many users, boasts lower per-user costs compared to some competitors, and integrates seamlessly with other Azure offerings. But migrating to Power BI is more than just a technological switch – it’s an opportunity to streamline your data ecosystem and empower users.

Shifting Left for Efficiency and Consistency

Many legacy BI environments suffer from a common pitfall: business logic and data consumption become intertwined. Metrics and dimensions are often embedded directly into the front-end of these tools. This approach creates inefficiencies and inconsistencies.

During a migration, we recommend a “shift-left” approach. Core business metrics and dimensions are defined and persisted in the “gold layer” (curated data layer) of a centralised data platform. This gold layer becomes a single source of truth, accessible by all BI tools. Benefits abound:

  • Reusability: Metrics and dimensions become reusable across reports and dashboards, eliminating the need for users to “reinvent the wheel.”
  • Standardisation: Standardised calculations ensure everyone is working with thesame data, promoting consistency and avoiding conflicting interpretations.

Power BI Datasets: A Double-Edged Sword

Power BI datasets offer a powerful solution for specific scenarios. Here’s how we leverage them:

  • Performance Boost: If your Power BI environment can handle it, creating a temporary copy of your gold layer data within Power BI datasets can significantly improve performance. Remember, this is just data storage, not logic modelling.
  • Granular Analysis: Power BI datasets empower users to connect directly to the underlying data using tools like Excel. This caters to users who prefer detailed analysis and spreadsheet manipulation beyond the confines of charts and graphs.

However, it’s important to be mindful of the potential drawbacks:

  • Data Duplication: Maintaining duplicate copies of data can introduce inconsistencies and increase data management overhead. Ensure your gold layer remains the single source of truth.
  • Limit Logic Modelling: While some basic transformations might be possible within datasets, avoid replicating complex business logic here. This can lead to maintenance headaches and inconsistencies.

Power BI Embedded: A Seamless User Experience

We strongly recommend leveraging Power BI’s embedding capabilities. This allows you to create custom web interfaces that shield users from the technical aspects of the dashboard. Imagine – users accessing insights and data seamlessly through a familiar website experience, free from the technical complexities of a dedicated BI platform. Think a custom-designed section within your company intranet, with a catchy name and aligned branding – that’s the power of embedding!

Data Refresh: Finding the Right Rhythm

Data update frequency is crucial to any BI solution. While daily or weekly refreshes might suffice for some use cases, others demand real-time updates. Power BI offers options for handling streaming data. However, regardless of the chosen frequency, remember:

  • Upstream Considerations: Your upstream data platforms need refresh cycles that support your BI needs. Batch updates require frequent refreshes, while real-time necessitates a broader event-driven data architecture within your organisation.

The Power of User-Centred Design

Lastly, it’s imperative to recognize that PowerBI is fundamentally an end-user tool. A migration to PowerBI should not solely focus on the technical migration but also on fostering end-user adoption and ownership. Mantel Group champions a design-thinking approach, emphasising rapid and iterative development cycles driven by user feedback. This ensures:

  • High User Adoption: By involving users in the design process, you create dashboards and reports that cater to their specific needs and preferences. This fosters user buy-in and drives long-term adoption.
  • Data Ownership: When users feel empowered to interact with the data, they become invested in its accuracy and insights. This ownership fosters a data-driven culture within your organisation.

Migrating to Power BI is an exciting opportunity to streamline your data ecosystem, empower users, and gain deeper insights from your data. Here at Mantel Group, we leverage design thinking and a user-centric approach to ensure your migration is a success. Let’s unlock the power of data, together.