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5 things to consider in Power BI report design

Posted on June 23, 2020 by Branden Cecil

Report building in Power BI to some, is viewed as a work of art. To be a successful report builder, you should not only think about the design of the report, but should also focus on how the solution will be viewed in different aspects by the end-users. In this blog post, I will be exploring some of these ideas and how to think more about the end-users.

 

Authors note: In this blog, we break down a podcast from the German website, “The Self-Service BI Blog”. The podcast’s host (Lars Schreiber), had the opportunity to interview Miguel Myers who is from the Power BI Customer Advisor Team (CAT) and works on designing best practices in report building. Miguel is based out of Toronto, Canada. The responses below, are a summarization of what he had to say on the topic. As a learning professional in this field, I found this podcast to be very informational. I will then give my opinions on what Miguel had to say, as we go over the series of questions asked in the interview. I hope you get value from them!

 

Question 1. If a customer comes to you saying they need a report, what kind of questions do you ask to start the report?

Responses:

  • Who is my audience, or who is the final user that will be viewing this?
  • Ask about the integrity of the dataset to understand the data.
  • If there are any additional requirements regarding performance for the reports?
    • Other examples: Different languages, currencies, time zones, end-user disabilities (color blindness), data in real time.

Interpretation:

I think this is a great question to ask, especially for anyone looking to improve their thought process when building reports like myself. Understanding who will be viewing the report, will help identify what needs are important to the end-user. Take the time to understand the dataset and the data integrity because it will help to understand how the users will consume the data. For example, whether it will need to be viewed on the go, on multiple platforms, or other important things to consider when being end-user focused.

 

Knowing about other report requirements can also give you a massive edge in the long run. For example, some of the things that Miguel discussed in the podcast were things that I had not even really considered. Like being able to view data in a different language or currency. This just goes to show how powerful Power BI can really be.

 

Question 2. How does the potential target group effect the design of the report? Ex: management, analysts, financial controllers.

Responses:

  • Depends on the people. Managers should be able to oversee many things right at the beginning, but it may depend on the actual people it is intended for and how deep they want to see their data at first glance. They may want to be able to dig in or drill more into the data before they make decisions.
  • It helps to better understand the role that the end-user is in. Ex: a manager at a larger company may not want a deep level of data as they have more data to look at. Whereas a manager at a smaller company may want to dig in a little more because they have less data and a potential higher risk if they do not know more detail.

 

Interpretation:

As I thought about this question, it made more sense to me. I think this can be a very valuable skill to any report builders’ toolkit. If you see past the title of the group or the end-user, and instead look at what that particular user really wants to see, then you can really tailor the report to their liking. This benefits everyone involved in the project. It’s also worth noting that the second bullet point is equally as important, especially when considering how in depth you want to make the solution. As my knowledge with Power BI expands, this is a skill I truly hope to master.

 

Question 3. What makes a good report?

 

Responses:

  • It’s not about beauty. Keep it simple and organized. It should be something that you can look at and understand in seconds. Much like the saying, “a [single] picture is worth a thousand words.”
  • If you can tell a story or identify a trend or pattern at one look at a report, then you are on the right path.
  • It is good to involve the end-users that will be using it in the creation of the report to get immediate feedback.

 

Interpretation:

While the concept of simplicity seems easy to attain, it can sometimes be hard to do. I found that the best way to keep things simple in a report, is envision when I open the report, I want to understand what is going on with my data within seconds. Like Miguel said, it is important to remember that you are telling a story with your reports. I also really appreciated how he talked about involving the end-users throughout the progress of your report. It makes sense to get their opinion since they will be the ones viewing it. After reviewing it and they can’t get a sense of what is happening in the report quickly, then it isn’t a very good solution. Catching this during the process, enables you to change course and improve your solution to their satisfaction.

 

Question 4. What can you do to become a good Power BI report designer?

 

Responses:

  • Learn how to listen to requirements. Typically, we are stubborn because we want to do things in a way that we know how to because it is more comfortable to us.
  • We think that we are ready to listen to customer’s needs but sometimes we are not, which will blind us from listening to requirements as we try to defend our viewpoints of what makes a great report.
  • It does not matter how good you are with data or designing, if you are not capable of understanding a customer’s needs. You will not be able to create a solution fits their needs.
  • You must understand data visualization. If you are going to use Power BI, then you need to know how and when to use the appropriate visualization and when to avoid them. (Ex. How to improve them with size, color, or even labels.)

 

Interpretation:

The responses that Miguel gave for this question were superb. I was very excited to hear his position on this question, as I am always trying to learn and improve. The most informative piece – at least to me – was listening to the requirements segment. I know I could improve on my listening. It is one thing to hear or see a set of requirements, but it’s an entirely different thing to listen and understand them. That is what can set you apart from other report builders.

 

I also was able to relate to the stubbornness part, since I am a young professional in this field. I know a fair amount, but I also know that there is a lot I have yet to learn. I know I tend to lean towards what I know because it’s comfortable, but that is not always the best solution. Understanding these concepts helps me reconsider the ways I think about potential business problems.

 

Question 5. Is there any other message that you would like to add that is important with report design?

 

Responses:

  • Have fun with it and enjoy the process.

 

Interpretation:

Miguel’s final message was to remember to have fun with it. Report building is a fun task, even if the process can be difficult at times. It may be easy to take this work so seriously since it is still considered “work”, but if you can remember to have fun with it then it can take a lot of the stress out of it.

 

Conclusion:

After listening to the podcast and writing about it, I feel as if I have taken away a lot from the interview. We were able to cover a wide variety of skills involved with report building. Some more straight forward while others required more thoughtful planning and brain power.

Anyone looking to listen to this podcast, there is a link provided bellow. In the link you can access the audio, as well as some other links within it.

Source: https://ssbi-blog.de/podcast/experts-talk/podcast-power-bi-report-design-best-practises/

If you are interested in Co-Developing with me, visit our page to request my professional profile or a consultation.

As always, if anyone is looking to connect to further discuss these concepts you can reach me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandencecil/

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