Enterprise deployment considerations for Power BI with Dynamics 365 online

Before broadly going into deployment approach options let’s look at how Power BI will be typically deployed with Dynamics 365 online.

Power BI deployment with Dynamics 365 online

 1. Data sourcing - Here the source of data is Microsoft Dynamics 365 online which can be ingested into Power BI. It can be further enhanced with data from other data sources, online or on premise using a data gateway.

2. Datasets and reports - The data modelling, enhancements and reports are created using Power BI Desktop. They are  published into PowerBI.com online service and on mobile applications.

3. Dashboard and Data Insights - The dashboards are created in PowerBI.com PowerBI.com also allows users to get quick insights from their data using algorithms developed by Microsoft. The data insights visuals can also be added to the dashboards.

The dashboard can be brought into Dynamics 365 as a personal dashboard and shared with other users within Dynamics 365.

Considerations for Power BI deployment 

There are various factors to consider when deploying Power BI in an Enterprise environment. If it is to be used in conjunction with Dynamics 365 online, as an analytical reporting capability we need to include additional considerations. The enterprise environment and data governance also impacts the deployment approach.

1. Security 

Dynamics 365 has a very robust security model. The structure includes Business units, security roles and teams. User may have access to data based on the security role assigned to them, which business unit they belong to and what teams they are a member of, in addition to any other customization's.
Unfortunately Power BI does not respect any of the security role model within Dynamics 365. Additionally Power BI has its own row level security model which applies to the data set, reports and visualizations that are created in Power BI.

The visualizations developed within Power BI can be integrated and shared with other users who may or may not have access to the original data from within Dynamics 365 online. So it is important to manage the sharing of the visualizations within Power BI and Dynamics 365.

2. Governance

Governance for Power BI with Dynamics 365 applies to the sourcing of data and data storage. Power BI online can get data from within Dynamics 365 online and many other data sources which may or may not be part of the Enterprise data environment. The data from different sources can be combined, modified, enhanced and modelled to generate Reports and visualizations.
In enterprise deployments considerations have to be given to the source of Data. Also any modifications or enhancements made to source data needs to be governed. It is vital for user adoption that the data source is trusted, accurate and follows the Enterprise data management process.

There are limits to the amount of data stored in Power BI and also the size of the Data sets. The limits are dependent on the license type and quantity. Currently the limit is 1 GB per data set and 10 GB per user for a Power BI pro license. Enterprise needs to make sure they comply with the licenses and data storage limits. Considerations have to be given to what kind of data is being stored and how long will the data storage is to be maintained.

3. Ownership

The ownership here refers to the responsibility of creating and managing the reports and visualizations.

Business power users have access to both Dynamics 365 and Power BI. They see the day to day business transactions being accumulated within Dynamics 365. They want to analyze and gain quick insights from the transaction data, would like to be able to create their own data model and prepare visualization’s. This will help them in understanding the business better and make decisions to react to the business challenges and ultimately make the business successful.

The Enterprise IT team on the other hand have been managing Dynamics 365 development and deployment. They would similarly like to manage the creation and deployment of Power BI & integration with Dynamics 365.
The Enterprise IT follows a standardized development process. They want to be able to make data models that can be consumed and re-used with multiple divisions within the Enterprise. They also want to make sure that the reports and visuals adhere to Enterprise formatting guidelines.

It is important to acknowledge and appreciate the differences between business users and IT team efforts and goals.

In consideration of the above, the following 3 deployment approaches are proposed for Power BI with Dynamics 365.

1. Business led Power BI deployment – Here the business power users are leading the integration and development of Reports and dashboards using Power BI with Dynamics 365 online. IT is not involved in the management of Power BI reporting. This gives flexibility and agility to business users to create and develop their own datasets, reports and gather insights quickly.

2. Corporate (IT) Power BI deployment – This is the traditional approach where the Corporate IT department gathers the business reporting requirements and provides the business users the reporting and dashboards in Dynamics 365 to consume only. The business users have very little if any, capability of creating their own visuals other than the filters provided in the dashboards. The entire integration, generations and publishing of the reports and dashboards is managed by the IT department.

3. IT managed and business led Power BI deployment – A recent new approach to Power BI deployment is combination of both IT and business teams to work together. In this approach the data sourcing and governance is managed by IT. The IT team gets the reporting needs from Business. They, using the Power BI desktop and data gateways, integrate and ingest data, develop the data sets, models and reports and create Apps for deployment. The Power BI apps are published to PowerBI.com service and made available to business power users.

Business power users have access to PowerBI.com service and access the Apps published by IT. They can generate / edit the reports, create their own dashboards and get insights from PowerBI.com. They also can import the PowerBI.com dashboard into Dynamics 365 and share with other users.

In conclusion there are multiple deployment options and Enterprise IT environment and data governance play a significant role in deployment approach. One approach I would recommend is that the Power BI and Dynamics 365 reporting development can start with Business led exploratory approach and over time transfer to IT Managed or Corporate led deployments.

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