Power BI – The Road to Success: Part 4 (of 4)
by Ian Stuart, Principal Consultant – Altis UK
In the first blog of this series, I covered the key steps that we need to focus on to ensure that usage of Power BI is effective in our organisations. In that blog I also delved into Training and Governance that provides the foundation for us to get started on our journey. The second blog of the series covered Design & Development of our data platform, data visualisations and our deployment process. The topic of the third blog was Rollout & Adoption to ensure our hard work was being rewarded by usage in the wider organisation.
In this fourth and final blog of the series I will cover Support & Maintenance of our Power BI estate, looking at three aspects:
- Who do we need to support?
- What do we need to maintain?
- Who is responsible?
1. Who do we need to support?
In short, we have; users (or consumers), analysts, developers and administrators that will require ongoing support.
- Users are the personnel that consume Power BI reports and dashboards but will not be creating new content. They require to know how to navigate the Power BI Service, how to find their reports and dashboards, how to read reports, and how to create bookmarks and filters. Additionally, they need to know how to get further help and support if required, and how to comment on a report and how to share it (if your policy permits). In my last blog I suggested a “how to consume and use reports in our organisation” session and I also wrote about setting up an effective support system. We need to ensure that new users continue to be inducted through such sessions.
- Analysts are those personnel that look to gain deeper insights from published datasets and potentially ad-hoc data sources. They will need to be kept up to date with new developments in Power BI that may aide them in their discovery journeys. They also need to be aware of new datasets that have been published that they may be able to make use of. Again, in my last blog, I mentioned; “Brown Bags”, “Town Hall Meetings” and having an internal Power BI User Group or Power BI Community of Practice. Such mechanisms are ideal for the Analyst. Additionally, they will need the same support and induction that users get. They will also benefit from more formal training such as Power BI Dashboard in a Day, Power BI Advanced, or Data Visualisation Best Practices.
- Developers are report writers and data engineers who are responsible for creating and supporting official datasets and reports. Their needs include all things mentioned above for Users and Analysts and they will likely need more advanced training such as Power BI Data Wrangling, Power BI Advanced or Group Coaching.
- Administrators look after the Power BI infrastructure. They will need at least a subset of the support and training outlined above for Users, Analysts and Developers. They will also need to learn how to administer certain parts of the Power BI landscape such as gateways and dataset refreshes. A good place to start to understand what they need to know is here.
The importance of looking after our user base cannot be stressed enough. Without providing the ongoing support outlined above, skills will become outdated, knowledge will wane, and the effectiveness of Power BI in our organisation will diminish. Such a shame if we have put in all the effort that I described in the previous three blogs in this series.
2. What do we need to maintain?
In short, whatever elements comprise our Power BI estate. This view of high-level Power BI components, that we often present in Power BI training, omits the detailed parts that require our attention which mostly reside in the Power BI service.
Lower level components include; the query editor, row-level security, custom connectors, themes & templates, third party tools, custom visuals, workspaces, apps, dashboards, datasets, dataflows, subscriptions, alerts, sharing, gateways and administration to name the most common:
We doubt that many if any, organisations will use or need all of these low-level components. In fact, we advocate to start simple and establish understanding and control before introducing further elements. And we strongly suggest that new features are brought in one at a time and only if there is a proven business benefit.
However, systems have historically exhibited a tendency to grow organically and are, therefore, likely to become more complex over time. Many parts of our Power BI infrastructure will be interdependent so if one part breaks, another is likely to follow suit. Therefore it is important that we look after every part well.
Supporting some of the elements, such as Workspace settings and access, may require new skills to be learned. Other parts, such as Office 365 and Active Directory, may already have established support processes.
3. Who is responsible?
Make sure someone is! I am sure many of us have heard the story about Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody:
There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have. – Lolly Daskal
Perhaps flippant and not strictly true because, as I stated earlier, certain skills are needed to carry out some of the jobs. Nevertheless, the moral of the story holds true in that we need to be clear about who is responsible for particular tasks.
Firstly, someone has to carry the responsibility to maintain and support the whole Power BI Estate. They will have specialists reporting to them and this senior role is not necessarily or wholly a technical one. More importantly, it should be fulfilled by someone who understands the strategic goals of data and analytics in the organisation so that they can ensure that technical development is aligned and supportive of corporate aims. It may be the Head of Analytics, the CDO or the Head of the Information Centre dependent on the organisation.
Beyond identifying who fulfils this role we need to identify the tasks and roles required and draw up a RACI matrix or similar. RACI is an acronym that stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed:
In this way, we can ensure that each task has at least one “R” assigned to it (unlike Task 5 above that has probably been left for “Somebody”!)
The roles and tasks will differ between organisations dependent upon their size and the characteristics of their Power BI estate so an “off the shelf” Power BI RACI matrix is not appropriate. Whiteboard time is.
Assuming you have followed all the blogs in this series and acted upon them, you may be able to create a Power BI Dashboard to display the RACI matrix and update it as and when tasks are done or (more importantly) not! Now there’s a challenge!
By understanding the “who” and “what” of support and maintenance, as detailed above, and then working on implementing the detail, we can ensure that the wheels do not fall off our Power BI vehicle so our journey to success continues.
In this blog series I have outlined; Training and Governance, Design & Development, Rollout & Adoption, and Support & Maintenance. I trust that what I have gone through helps you on your Power BI journey and that you are now ready to work on the detail and reap the benefits.
I delivered the following webinar of the same name subsequent to the publication of the blog series. I encourage you to watch it and please feel free to connect with us if you’d like to learn more about how we can help you be successful with Power BI in your organisation.