How to Use Microsoft Power BI for Project Reporting
Using Microsoft Power BI, anyone in your organization can connect to a data source, and build and share engaging reports – no coding or statistical skills required.
Pulling data together from multiple sources into one tool, Power BI simplifies project reporting for managers, teams, and senior executives.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to use Power BI for project reporting. We’ll cover Power BI Desktop, Power BI Service, and key components of the platform. You’ll see how to create and share a project report using Power BI Service.
We’ll also explore the BrightWork Power BI Pack, which delivers project and portfolio dashboards on SharePoint.
Table of Contents
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Take project reporting on SharePoint further with insight-rich Power BI dashboards.
What is Microsoft Power BI?
Power BI is a ‘’collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn your unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights.’’
Power BI helps organizations to bridge the gap between rapidly expanding data sources and their ability to collect, analyze, and use that data
Power BI connects to Microsoft applications like SharePoint, Excel, and Common Data Services and non-Microsoft applications such as Salesforce.
With this data in one place, you can quickly generate rich reports and dashboards to share with your team and stakeholders.
Versions of Power BI
Power BI is available in four formats:
- Power BI Desktop: Used to create and share reports.
- Power BI Service: Used to create dashboards and view reports online.
- Power BI Mobile Apps: Used to access reports and dashboards on Windows, iOS, and Android.
- Power BI Report Server: Used for on-premises reporting, with the flexibility to move to the cloud.
There are two main end-user roles for Power BI:
- Consumer or user: An individual who uses Power BI Service to view reports, create dashboards, and collaborate with others.
- Designer: An individual, typically a business analyst, who authors and shares reports using Power BI Desktop.
Why use Power BI?
Power BI helps organizations to make sense of their data and uncover actionable insights to drive work forward.
At a high level, Power BI:
- Connects to multiple data sources across the cloud or on-premise, helping to eliminate silos
- Combines these data sources into a single report.
- Leverages AI and machine learning for in-depth insights.
- Allows users to ask questions with natural language processing.
- Can handle larger datasets than Microsoft Excel, including Azure data lakes.
- Generates engaging, interactive visualizations with a few clicks.
- Refresh datasets at regular intervals for up-to-date reports.
- Allows users to filter data and create personalized views without changing the underlying dataset.
- Integrates with Microsoft Power Automate to streamline data collection.
- Facilities collaboration with comments and sharing.
- Offers extensive security and data protection options.
These capabilities translate into better decisions, agile teams, enhanced customer experiences, and increased productivity.
How can Power BI improve project outcomes?
Power BI simplifies and enhances project reporting for managers, teams, and senior executives.
Senior executives and PMO leads get real-time visibility into performance – without having to chase updates.
Interactive reports provide detailed insights into ongoing projects, with information on the schedule, resources, risks, and more.
With just a few clicks, senior executives can identify issues that may have remained undetected in a spreadsheet!
Similarly, project teams can easily track performance in real-time dashboards. A low learning curve and free options allow teams to take a metrics-driven approach to projects – without relying on IT.
Freed up from manual reporting, project managers can spend more time with their team.
What types of project reports and dashboards are available in Power BI?
- Current projects
- Portfolio timeline
- Resource allocation
- Key project metrics
- Overdue projects
- Risks and Issues
- The project timeline
- Active items and tasks
- Project status reports
- Issues and risks
- Work Reports
- Planned v actual day
- Resource management
Key Elements of Power BI Reporting
Before creating your first Power BI report, it’s helpful to understand the services you’ll use to import and transform data and create visualizations.
If you use Excel, you will be familiar with many of these concepts and services.
For an exhaustive list of terms and concepts, bookmark Microsoft’s glossary for Power BI consumers!
Power Query – Desktop
Power Query is the engine for importing data and transforming (cleaning) data.
Data is imported through a simple interface and transformed using the ‘Power Query’ editor before loading into the report area.
- Add or remove rows and columns
- Separate rows or columns
- Remove null values
- Remove rows with blank values.
Changes applied in the Power Query editor do not impact the underlying dataset.
Power Pivot – Desktop
Power Pivot is used for creating data models – relationships between tables – and performing calculations.
Calculations use DAX – Data Analysis Expressions – to analyze data. DAX statements are similar to Excel functions.
Power BI includes over 600 DAX functions such as sum, average, max, and count. Users can also create custom functions.
Power View delivers data visualization in various Microsoft applications, including Power BI, SharePoint, and Excel.
Visualizations are used in reports and dashboards in Power BI to help users to understand complex information quickly.
Options include area charts, funnels, line charts, maps, tables, and KPIs.
Power BI Reports
A Power BI report refers to a collection of visuals and can span multiple pages.
Reports connect to one dataset, or data model, only. Power BI can combine multiple data sources into a single report.
Power BI reports are interactive, with options to filter, slice, and drill-down.
Automatic refresh updates all visuals in a report based on a fixed interval, for example, every hour, or based on changes in the data.
Power BI Dashboards – Service
A Power BI dashboard is a one-page summary of your data, with visualizations or tiles.
Each tile links to an underlying report, making it easy to drill-down for more detail as needed.
A dashboard can contain links to multiple reports, providing a quick overview of your data in one place.
As mentioned above, Power BI is available as a desktop or cloud-based service. The version you use depends on what you need to do with Power BI.
Let’s take a further look at Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service.
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Transform your enterprise project data into powerful insights.
Power BI Desktop v Power BI Service
Power BI Desktop
Power BI Desktop is a free download and installs directly onto your computer.
Access the download from Microsoft or within Power BI Service.
Power BI Desktop is used by designers to import, transform, analyze, and visualize data using the components outlined in the previous section.
It is the authoring tool within Power BI. Reports are published to Power BI Service for end-users.
Power BI Desktop has three views to work within:
- Report: Build reports and visuals. This page remains blank until the first visualization is added.
- Data: Transform data using Query Editor.
- Model: Build relationships between tables with a drag and drop interface.
Power BI Service
Power BI Service is a cloud-based application for consumers, anyone who receives and interacts with reports and dashboards.
Power BI Service users must have a license:
- A free license allows users to work on personal reporting and visualizations in the ‘My Workspace’ area. Users can also view any reports shared with them.
- A Power BI Pro license is required to publish content to other workspaces and share dashboards ($9.99 per user per month).
Users can create dashboards, comment on reports, or collaborate in Microsoft Teams.
Power BI Service is based on ‘workspaces’, which contain links to dashboards, reports, and datasets.
Use ‘My Workspace’ for personal reports and ‘Workspaces’ for shared data, reports, and dashboards.
Desktop or Service?
At this point, you may be wondering if you should build your project reports in Power BI Desktop or Power BI Service?
The simple answer is Power BI Desktop! Using this application to import and transform data, create models, and generate rich reports will generate new insights about your projects.
Power BI Service does not support data editing or modeling.
However, Power BI Desktop does require practice and knowledge of data modeling. It’s essential to use the Query Editor and Model tool correctly before creating any visualizations.
If you are using a clean dataset and need to create reports and dashboards to share reports with your team, Power BI Service is the right tool.
Below is a brief comparison between Power BI Desktop and Service.
|Cost||Free||A free license to create reports.|
A paid license to share reports.
|Data Sources||Import data from a wide range of sources.||Import data from a wide range of sources.|
|Data Sources||One data set per report||One or more reports and data sets per dashboard.|
|Data editing||Transform (clean) data for usage.||Use original data.|
|Analysis||Analyze data using models and DAX functions.||Generated by Power BI|
|Visualizations||Build and edit visualizations||Build and edit visualizations|
|Dashboards||No||Create and share|
|Sharing||Publish to Power BI Service to share.||Can share with internal/external users.|
In the next section, you’ll see how to create a report and dashboard in Power BI Service.
The example is based on the free Supplier Quality Analysis sample from Microsoft.
SharePoint Cross-Project Reporting with Power BI Dashboards
See how to improve project and portfolio reporting with interactive, data-rich dashboards.
How to Create a Report with Power BI Service
- Start by getting your data. There are a number of ways to import data from within your organization, file directories, and databases. In this instance, we’ll select Samples and import a pre-configured dataset.
- The dataset will appear in your workspace in Power BI Service.
- Next, select ‘Create Report’ to open the report builder. There are three elements in this area:
- Canvas. This area is blank until visuals are added
- Visualizations pane: Use to add and edit charts.
- Fields pane. A list of the fields in your dataset, based on the columns in your dataset.
- To start building a report, you can either select the relevant fields from your data or pick a visualization. The visualization is displayed on the blank canvas.
- To add a field to your report, simply click the relevant field. Power BI will automatically add the field to the right area in your chart. You can also drag and drop fields into the axis, legend, and values area.
- As you add fields, the chart will start to take shape. If needed, change the chart by selecting another option in the Visualizations pane.
- Once you are happy with the data visualization, it’s time to format the chart. Click the ‘format’ icon to access a range of options, including the size and colors of the chart, borders, and tooltips. If you’d like to add a title or details to the report, click the ‘Text box’ option in the top menu.
- Use the ‘Reading View’ to check how the report will appear to others.
- Add more visualizations as needed.
- Remember to save your work.
- Next, create a dashboard by selecting ‘Pin to a live page’. You can add the report to an existing dashboard or build a new dashboard.
- Dashboards offer numerous editing options, including the ability to add more tiles and different content types.
- When you’ve finished your work, there are a few ways to use your reports under ‘File:
- Export reports to PowerPoint or as PDF
- Embed in a SharePoint site.
- At any time, personalize your display settings using ‘View’. Change the size of the report and colors for improved readability.
There’s little point in creating a report that no one uses or discusses! Sharing and collaborating on reports is straightforward with Power BI Service.
Below, we’ll take a look at three options: comments, links, and Microsoft Teams.
You can also share reports and dashboards by:
- Using workspaces and apps.
- Embedding reports in secure portals or public web sites.
- Exporting a report or dashboard as a PowerPoint presentation.
- Printing reports.
1. Adding Comments to Power BI Reports
Use @mention to tag team members and leave comments on dashboards, report pages, or specific visuals on a report or a dashboard.
Tagged individuals immediately receive an e-mail notification or a push notification on the mobile app.
Power BI automatically bookmarks the report at the point of the comment, allowing others to see the report with filters, slicers, and other data views.
Users simply need to click the bookmark icon in each comment to access the same view as the author at the time of commenting.
2. Sharing Power BI Reports and Dashboards
To share your report, select ‘Share’ from the top navigation, complete the form, and share it with your team.
Reports and dashboards may be shared with internal and external users.
You will need a Power BI Pro license to share your reports. Recipients will also need a license to view the content.
When an internal user clicks the shared link, Power BI adds the dashboard or report to their ‘Shared with me list’ page.
There are a few details to note about sharing reports:
- Recipients can view it and interact with the report or dashboard but can’t edit it.
- Depending on permissions, internal recipients can share the reports with others. External users can’t reshare the report.
- Reports created in Power BI Desktop must be published to Power BI Service before sharing.
3. Collaborating in Microsoft Teams
As the usage of Microsoft Teams increases, it makes sense to streamline conversations and meetings about reports in one place.
There are two ways to collaborate with Power BI using Teams.
1. Share in Teams
Add a report or dashboard to a team or channel using the ‘Share in Teams’ option.
Search for the relevant Team or channel, add a comment, and hit share!
The Power BI link and additional comments appear as a post – add more comments and @mentions.
2. The Power BI App in Teams
Power BI is also available as an app within the Teams Directory. Use this option to add a report as a tab to a Team.
This is a useful way to highlight key reports, bringing focus to a particular phase or area of work in the project.
To add the app:
- Navigate to Apps in the Teams menu and search for ‘Power BI’.
- Select ‘Add to a Team’ or ‘Add to a Chat’ from the dropdown menu.
- Next, search for and select the relevant Team or chat.
- Finally, choose the Power BI report to add as a tab.
SharePoint Cross-Project Reporting with Power BI Dashboards
See how to get more from your project data.
BrightWork Power BI Pack for SharePoint
The BrightWork Power BI pack for SharePoint is a pre-built report with six dashboards.
The pack connects to the three BrightWork project data sources – Project Cache, Work Cache, and Project Status Report Cache – for complete insight into projects and portfolios.
The Power BI pack includes:
- Portfolio dashboards with a roll-up summary of all project sites.
- Portfolio timeline, a Gantt view of all project sites.
- Project and Task Timeline, a Gantt view of projects and tasks.
- Work Reports allow project managers to check the status of tasks, risks, issues, and goals.
- The Status Report Dashboard includes RAG indicators, weekly updates, highlights, lowlights, and next steps.
- The Issue Report helps project managers to get further information on issues, including the task-owner.
Let’s take a closer look at the project and portfolio dashboards in the pack.
1. Managing Portfolio Timelines
The ‘Portfolio Timeline’ is an interactive Gantt chart depicting active projects across a selected period.
By visualizing projects in a multi-year roadmap, senior managers can approve and resource new projects at the right time.
Hover over each bar on the chart to get more information about each project, such as the start date and % complete.
Projects can be filtered by date and project manager.
In the below video, Traci Grassi, Customer Success Partner, explains how to use the dashboard.
2. Portfolio Status Dashboards
Combining all project data and key metrics in a single dashboard provides clear, accurate insight into performance and issues.
Filter options, such as project type, status, or department, allow senior managers to quickly tailor the dashboard to their needs
In this short video, you’ll see how to improve portfolio outcomes using one interactive dashboard.
1. Project Status Reporting
A project status report is a useful way to capture details about a project at a given time, with red-amber-green (RAG) indicators and other relevant information.
Using the ‘Project Metrics List’ in a BrightWork site, this dashboard allows project managers to filter and view data by:
- Health status
- Time status
- Issue status
- Project name.
The Project Status dashboard keeps your team and stakeholders in-the-loop with accurate, visual information
Use the dashboard as a discussion point in meetings and to help with regular project re-planning.
In this short video, see how to review project status reports in one dashboard.
2. Managing Active and Late Items
Answering questions about the status of your projects just became much easier with this dashboard. As explained in the below video, project managers can:
- Drill down into projects by ‘assigned to’.
- Check the status of tasks, risks, issues, and goals.
- Review individual items in the underlying SharePoint project site.