Using Power BI Apps & Workspaces To Provide Easy Access For Users

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What Are My Solution Distribution Options ?

For businesses moving to a new reporting tool, adoption is often the biggest challenge; adoption is only possible through barrier free solution distribution. Without easy, consistent access to your dashboards, your team is less likely to use the dashboard suite and unlikely to adopt it. Power BI allows for a 3 different distribution methods, the easiest being just sharing dashboards among users. In this post we'll briefly cover all the distribution methods in Power BI and then examine the step-by-step process of an ideal distribution model.

Option One: Direct Dashboard sharing

Dashboards can be configured to act as shared views and 'link' repositories between users. One user can configure a dashboard with multiple pins from separate reports- effectively creating an access point of sorts. This 'Access Point' dashboard can then be shared to specific users.

Pros:

  • Quick and easy

Cons:

  • No version control
  • Every user has to be manually added
  • Only works with a single dashboard to n reports model
  • No collaboration

Option Two: Content Packs

Content Packs are the next logical step in sharing Power BI objects. A Content Pack can have any number of Power BI resources inside of it and can be made available to a whole organization or a small subset of that organization in seconds. Content Packs are being deprecated but maintain a position as the Quickest 'No-Distro-to-Full-Disto' solution for Power BI.

Pros:

  • Quick and Easy
  • Organisation wide adoption is simple
  • Integrates with O365 Groups

Cons:

  • No version control
  • No collaboration

Option Three: Workspaces and Apps

The process for efficient and effective distribution and sharing of reports revolves around Workspaces and apps, these are our golden ticket. The layers and interactions between these are what we will outline today. Workspaces and Apps mean a very specific thing in Power BI.

A Workspace is the intermediate and dynamic middle ground between Power BI Desktop and an App, when you "publish" a report from the desktop software it must go into a Workspace. What does a workspace offer? Workspaces are the collaborative development hub, for Power BI, this is the first stage of distribution. They offer easy editing and in progress sharing.

Second is the App. Once your workspace is tidy and set up how you want it, you can publish it into an App. An App, is the face of your Workspace. It is the final destination, and piece that you will be sharing with most of your users. Apps are rigid and secure, ie. no one can edit your reports, and mess stuff up. 

By leveraging the staging abilities of Workspaces and Apps, we can develop a version control of sorts whereby all testing and development can take place in the Workspace, and consumption takes place in the App side. The App is static in structure, no matter what's inside the App's Workspaces, until the Dev team decides to overwrite the structure of the App.

Pros:

  • Organisation wide adoption is simple
  • Integrates with O365 Groups
  • Implements a simple form of version control
  • Made for collaboration 

Cons:

  • Can be cumbersome to set up
  • Is a confusing topic
  • The number of Workspaces can become overwhelming

What do I need to use Workspaces, and Apps?

  • Power BI Pro licence.
  • OR - Power BI Premium.
  • Pro licences for all users you with to share with.
  • Reports to share!

Despite the cost of owning Pro licences, in our opinion Workspaces are most certainly worth the cost. There are even some little tricks to get the most of the users that you do purchase licences for. Below is an outline of the benifits of including Workspaces and Apps in your sharing process.

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Solution Mobility

Apps are the perfect way to share and distribute your reports. Workspaces are a dynamic and flexible way for your development team to collaborate and work together. These two pieces combined embody mobility.

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Fast Solution Deployment

Deploying an app containing your polished reports is as easy as 1-2-3. Once your reports are published to your workspace and tested, just update the app and the users will see the newly published changes.

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Organization Wide Consistency

Control over the contents of the app is such an important asset. It is common for reports to have different varieties and version numbers (you know what I'm talking about, 'v1.1' 'v1.1 Final' 'v1.1 Final 2.0'). Updating your app allows to choose exactly which version your users have access to. This eliminates confusion and inconsistency.

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Collaborative Platform

The nature of the 2 step deployment, workspace -> app, allows for the workspace to be used as a dynamic collaborative platform. Share the workspace between your development team and everyone can test the reports and apply their own touch prior to deployment. 

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Unified Technology

The core behind workspaces and apps is Microsoft user groups. This means that anyone familiar with managing the admin side of user groups will be familiar with managing workspaces and apps.

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Complete Control

When you publish an app, you have complete control over your users environment. What report/dashboard they open up on, what reports they have access to. This is excellent for any business. 


What are the Steps in Utilizing Workspaces and Apps?

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The most common unknowns and questions regarding the upcoming processes are:

  1. What is required to implement workspaces and apps.
  2. What are the permissions do users have in each layer of publication.
  3. How can I best utilize the tools provided in each of these stages.

All of the unknowns above are covered in the steps and video below.

 


Step-by-Step Overview

1) Getting Started

The first step is to create a workspace. To do this, sign into your power bi account with Pro Licence, or Premium Licence, and under the workspaces tab, click "Create app workspace."

Every user may not have access to this step, contact your IT department if you require elevated permissions.

2) Configure Workspace Options

Here is where you enter some basic workspace preferences. Name your workspace, then observe the two options.

The first set to "Private," means that you select individually who is invited to this workspace. It is important to remember that we are going to utilize an app for our end-users, so we don't need to invite everyone at this step! We suggest that you leave the workspace private and only allow devs and IT access.

The second option allows to you to enable members to edit content. So long as you only invite devs and IT to this workspace, leave this as is.

 3) Publish a Report to your Workspace

3) Publish a Report to your Workspace

Now that we have our workspace set up, we need to get some content in there. This is Fresh BI's Pocket Financials. Once your report is open click publish and select your new workspace as the destination.

 4) Back to Your Workspace

4) Back to Your Workspace

Now head back to your workspace. Your report is here now in the first stage of publication. This workspace is now where we would host work-in-progress reports, proof of concepts and other report varieties along side our complete and verified reports. This space allows for on-the-spot changes and editing online. Collaboration and teamwork is made very easy here!

 5) A Bit on Apps

5) A Bit on Apps

The next step in publication, and the final destination of our reports the App. A Power BI app refines the end-user experience. The main reason apps should be your main consumption tool, is because of their simplicity and lack of clutter. The app lays out your dashboards and reports with no extras. No options to edit. No view options. What you made is what they see. This allows the developer complete control over what their users see. And even better, the users never see changes made to the workspace unless the developer updates the app. This intermediate nature of the workspace is what makes this work so well. 

 6) Updating Your App

6) Updating Your App

Anyway, onto updating your app. Once you have some number of reports that are fit for distribution select your workspace and click the publish app button at the top right.

 7) App Options

7) App Options

Once you've begun updating you will presented with some options. The first of which is a simple description and app icon color. The next set of options you will be presented with is app content. Here is where you choose the list of reports and or dashboards that you wish to send out to your users. You can set it to default to a list of content, a specific dashboard, or one report.

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8) Options Continued

The last set of options is access. This is where you decide who gets to install your app. You can add members individually or you can choose to add your entire organization. If your report is critical in your business you can choose to have your users automatically install the app.

You are done!

Now you have your workspace and app set up. You are now ready to develop and blow your end users away. As you publish items to your workspace from Power BI Desktop, your workspace will be your development and Proof of Concept zone while your app remains untouched. Once you have some reports and dashboards ready you can update your app and all included content will update in a single swath. 


What value is there in utilizing workspaces and apps?

Including all the topics covered above, here are a few more ways that utilizing this workflow can benefit your business.

  1. TESTING GROUNDS: When you publish a new report from Power BI, having the ability to share it with your fellow developers for testing before your end-users receive it is a massive benefit and time saver.
  2. CONTROL: The level of control given to who gets to see and edit what, is a huge bonus. 
  3. TIME: The simplicity of the end-users experience when using the published app saves time. As a developer, much of my time is often taken up with explaining where to find something, how to navigate here, there. But assigning them an app now saves all that communication. "Download the app, and click the 'Sales app' button" is as much as I find I need to say using this system. 

All considered, we believe apps and workspaces are the way to go when it comes to distributing Power BI reports. Its fast, easy, and powerful


 
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Author, Chris Bradford

OCCUPATION:
Power BI Coach

EDUCATION:
Honors in Mathematics/minor in Computer Science at University of Victoria. 

EXPERIENCE:
Extensive problem solving and abstraction. Software development, report design. 

COMPANY:
FreshBI

Team FreshBI is an innovation machine and the blogs that Chris writes mostly emanate from the innovations that FreshBI does for its customers

 

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