This blog series will give you a high-level checklist of things to consider then forming your future Power BI strategy. Following it will help ensure you are covering all the most important considerations. And what better place to start than with delivery strategy?
When implementing Power BI, it’s important to understand the different delivery strategies available. Figuring out which strategy best fits your organization can also answer questions like what licensing you need, and how your data needs to be organized. Your options include business-led self-service, IT-managed self-service, and corporate BI. Any organization may fall on a spectrum between these three general delivery strategies.
Business-led self-service is a bottom-up approach – meaning that the business units in your organization are completely self-sufficient on analytics. They take ownership of the data preparation, integration, data modeling, report creation, and execution. As you can see in the chart, BI ownership and governance are completely managed by the separate business units in this delivery strategy.
It is very rare to see a completely business-led self-service BI model in an organization. It would require a very mature analytics environment because it requires business units to source themselves. In that situation, each business unit would need skillsets such as business analysts, data modeling, and even integration skills to transform the data and into a format that can be reported on.
A completely business-led self-service BI model requires a lot of resources. When we see this delivery strategy, it’s often at very large companies because they can have those skillsets in each business area. That’s why IT-managed self-service BI delivery is much more common.
In my experience, IT-managed self-service is the most common approach. It’s somewhat of a hybrid between business-led self-service strategies and the corporate BI strategy.
In this strategy, the IT department (or your BI department within IT) is responsible for data preparation, integration, and making the data available to the business so they can report on it. The different business units are then responsible for the creation of those reports and dashboards in a tool like Power BI. In short, the data ownership is on the IT side while report governance and management go to the business side (or to each of the business units).
This reduces the integration and data modeling skillsets needed in your business units. The business mostly needs analysts who can learn the Power BI tool and become proficient at making reports and visualizations from datasets made available to them from IT.
This is more of your top-down approach and the opposite of business-led self-service. In a corporate BI delivery strategy, all your BI reporting and data is managed by the IT department. They own all elements of reporting and data management – including data preparation, integration, and availability. They also own the creation and publication of reports and dashboards – as well as sharing them with appropriate groups. This delivery strategy isn’t as common, and it has some limitations regarding flexibility in providing business units with the data and reports they need in a timely fashion.
Which Delivery Strategy Is Right for My Organization?
It’s important to know which strategy you’re going to pick when implementing and deploying Power BI in your organization. So, how can you determine which of the three strategies (or what mix of strategies) works best? It’s very important to be realistic with the resources you have. If your organization has a very small IT team (or limited data preparation experience), then that will limit your delivery strategy options. You will want to take into consideration the data culture within your organization and how willing different departments are to source the analytical skills required to support a self-service IT approach. Finally, you will want to evaluate your data architecture and determine if it is scalable enough to support a self-serviced IT approach.
How does your delivery strategy affect licensing? The way you share data, the people who prepare it, and how engaged your organization is with BI will change what licensing you need. I’m not going to talk about pricing, but I will focus on some high-level features. Remember, whether you start with the free licensing to get your feet wet, or jump directly to Pro or Premium levels, Power BI can offer a lot of advantages.
It’s totally free to start out with Power BI. You can download the desktop application and start authoring reports on your own PC. You can then publish those reports to the service where you have a free My Workspace area. This is a great place to start if your organization is on the fence about using Power BI. New users can also opt-in to a free Power BI pro license trial for 60 days to test some of the sharing and collaboration features offered in the Power BI service.
Pro licensing is the next level, and it’s needed to share content within your organizational workspaces and apps in the Power BI service. In a future blog I’ll talk more about those sharing options and the best uses for them. Pro licensing starts out at $9.99 per user per month, but it can offer good value when you want a level of BI collaboration you can’t get with just the free option.
While one or two Pro licenses may be enough for smaller organizations, that may not be enough for a larger enterprise. If an organization wants to scale Power BI to hundreds (or even thousands) of users in their organization, then they should consider Power BI Premium because it enables the sharing of content through Power BI apps with Power BI free users.
With Premium licensing, you need to pay the set SKU price of a Premium node. There are three tiers of pricing to that, but (depending on your needs) it can be worth it. With this licensing level, you get several features that are unavailable with the Pro licensing. You also get the built-in functionality of being able to embed Power BI content in a custom application or website (for example). Paginated reporting (SQL Reporting Services) is also included with premium licensing.
While both embedding and paginated reporting are included in Premium licensing, you can also buy them separately (click here for SKU embedding pricing information). Power BI Report Server is included for free if you have SQL enterprise licensing, but you can also purchase it separately if you are not using Power BI Premium.
The Evolving Licensing Landscape (Advantages of Premium Features)
Previously, organizations would start with “How many users do I have?”, and the answer decided whether to choose Power BI Pro or Premium.
If you had X number of Power BI users, you wanted to stay under that 500-user amount because 500 users multiplied by $10 is roughly $5,000 a month – which equals the lowest tier of Power BI Premium. However, with the number of features that are getting released at the Premium SKU level, you may want to think about not just the number of users in your organization but also the value of some of those features.
So, what kind of features are we seeing released in 2020 for Power BI Premium and in the future roadmap of Power BI? Some highlights include composite models and AI integration pieces that Microsoft continues to build out. Existing premium features that are worth consideration are deployment pipelines and XMLA endpoints. These features along with others may be a reason for your organization to look at the value of Premium over and above user count.
In my next blog, I dig into some of the Power BI sharing options and some best practices for getting that critical information in front of the right people.