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Power BI Governance

Power BI started out as a pure self-service tool, but has increasingly been moving to be more of an enterprise tool and can rightly be called a hybrid BI tool. No matter if you use Power BI as a self-service tool, as an enterprise BI tool or both, it’s important to include governance into your implementation. Far too many organizations start using Power BI without thinking about governance and then have the problem of trying to get their users to stop doing things as they are used to and to start using process they are not used to, that they often feel will hinder their progress.

This article will focus on the 4 pillars of a good governance strategy:

Figure 18-01: The Four Pillars of Power BI Governance Strategy

Process

It´s important to have a formal governance process in place. This process is often broken down into smaller processes and usually contains processes for Development, Publishing, Sharing, Security, Naming Standards, Support and Tenant Settings.

It´s vital that the processes are easily discoverable and are set up as a whole so that users understand how each process ties into the whole governance strategy. One way is to have one master process document with links to all the individual process documents. Another way is to store all the process documents in the same library and categorize them so it´s easy to navigate between them and they are logically grouped.

Training

If you want to have a successful Power BI implementation, training is very important. You want to train everyone who touches Power BI, but in a different way depending on their role. You want to make sure you get to everyone and deliver the right training based on their needs. It´s not only governance training that is important. Training users in properly using Power BI and using best practices will deliver value faster and will make report and dataset developers more compliant.

Training categories

The most common training categories are Consumer, Report Developer and Report and Dataset Developer. For each category there is a definition of who belongs to it as well as what training content is appropriate and how it should be delivered. Most often the Consumer training is delivered either as videos or training manuals. Developer training is most often either classroom training or an online training course.

Monitoring

One of the cornerstones of governance is monitoring; monitoring what users are doing and monitoring what users are creating. From a governance perspective, it is most important to monitor creation, access, usage, changes, deletion and data exports.

Artefact inventory

The Power BI Rest API can tell you what artefacts exists and who has access to what. Besides that, the Rest API has powerful administration endpoints that allow you to get information about various administration objects, as well as allow you to perform admin tasks. To access the Power BI Rest API, you can either create your own web application and call the API, or you can use PowerShell to call it.

Monitoring usage

The Power BI Audit log can tell you who accessed what and who changed or deleted what. The audit log is part of the Office 365 Security and Compliance Centre. The Power BI audit log is turned off by default, but can be turned on in the Power BI Admin Portal. To get access to the audit log in the Office 365 Security and Compliance Centre you need to be an Office 365 admin or have the View-Only Audit Logs or Audit Logs role in Exchange Online. It is possible to fetch data from the audit log in two ways; manually through the Office 365 audit Security and Compliance Centre or use the Office 365 Rest API, which is the preferred way to automate the collection of the log information. Note that the log is only stored for 90 days by default, so if you want to keep it for a longer time, you will need to collect it and store it in a different place such as data warehouse.

The author recommends that both the audit log and artefact inventory is collected and stored in a database. Partly because of governance issues as described before, but also partly because there is valuable information in there about adoption, development over time and user behavior which could be beneficial for the organization at a later time.

A close up of a logoDescription generated with very high confidence

Figure 18-03: Monitoring Power BI and reporting the results

Roles

To be successful with a Power BI implantation in the long run it´s important to have well defined roles. This is most likely different from organization to organization and in some cases the same person might have more than one role. The most common roles are Power BI Administrator, Power BI Gateway Administrator, Data Steward, Power BI Auditor and Power BI Supporter(s).

Automation

For the training and processes you can automate the discoverability by sending content to users as soon as they get a license or as soon as they create content. That way you are sure that all your users are aware of the processes and training and you can control what they receive depending on where they are in their Power BI journey.

Summary

Governance is a necessary part of a Power BI implementation and the earlier you can start, the easier it will be. A good governance strategy will include processes, training, monitoring and roles.

Asgeir Gunnarsson
About the author

Ásgeir Gunnarsson is a Data Platform MVP and Chief Consultant at Datheos in Denmark. He works on Business Intelligence solutions using the whole of the Microsoft BI stack. Ásgeir has been working in BI since 2007 both as a consultant and internal employee. Before turning to BI, Ásgeir worked as a technical trainer and currently teaches BI courses at the Continuing Education Department of the University of Iceland. 
Ásgeir speaks regularly at events both domestically and internationally and is the group leader of the Icelandic PASS Group, as well as the Icelandic Power BI User Group. 
Ásgeir is passionate about data and loves solving problems with BI.

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