Power BI Apps: Powerful, Visually Impactful Reporting
Nick Hilton | 04 August 22 | 5 min read
It’s one thing to create beautiful reports, it’s another to create excellent, functional reports, and then it’s another thing again to get your users to actually make use of what you’ve built. Often end user acceptance isn’t as dependent on the report itself as you might think, instead acceptance may be tied to accessibility and delivery. After all Power BI is still a brand-new way of doing things for most people and there can be some friction on the journey to getting users to consume data this way.
Today we’re going to take a look at Power BI apps to see how you can make delivering reports a seamless experience and how you can deliver those reports as part of a complete branded package which contains all sorts of helpful supporting materials. This really is an underutilised feature but it’s so powerful and so much more visually impactful that I for one will be looking for the right opportunities to deliver content and data this way.
What are Power BI Apps?
A Power BI app is a package of content that can contain reports, dashboards, and other embeddable content like websites and documents. This package can be customised to be delivered with a logo and colour scheme. You publish an app from a workspace adding anything from that workspace into the app/package. At this point you can think of the workspace (which let’s be honest can get a bit messy with reports and datasets) as the staging area and then the app as the presentation layer.
The best place to start is to show you what an app looks like so without further ado.
This is what you would see if you had just opened an app.
Notice the list of items on the left toolbar? These open up the different content sections in your app. The top link here opens up the Customer Profitability Dashboard, the next one down is the full Customer Profitability Report which drops down and up to show or hide the list of pages. Below those pages you have the Customer Profitability workbook which in this case is an Excel file embedded in page. From here we could continue adding to that list so users have access to websites which may be of use, embedded feedback forms, PDF user guides and much more.
I often get frustrated with the way workspaces default to showing all content and datasets in one list together, it can be messy and if you’re delivering to users who are unfamiliar with Power BI then it can be outright confusing, I’m sure most of us have heard “Which one should I click on?” when presented with multiple versions of the same thing. Of course, there are practices to help avoid that but isn’t this the way you envisaged delivering reporting content when you first started? Not just delivering utilitarian workspaces but instead beautiful, intuitive reporting suites?
Requirements and Considerations
Licences – Apps are considered a standard feature and follow the same licencing as your other reports meaning the end users require a professional or Premium Per User (PPU) licence. Alternatively, the workspace can have premium capacity and users without licences can view app content
Access to underlying data – One of the fundamentals of Power BI is ‘democratisation of data’ and apps would seem to hide it away from users who could potentially be doing their own analysis and adding value. Fortunately, there is an option for ‘allow users to connect to the app’s underlying datasets’.
You can have at most 100 users or groups in the access list for the app. However, you can give more than 100 users access to the app. To do so, use one or more user groups that contain all the desired users. (Groups are managed by whoever manages your Office 365 tenant settings)
For the new workspace experience, if the user added to the app access list already has access to the app through the workspace, they will not be shown in the access list for the app.
Apps can have a maximum of 200 dashboards.
How to create and deploy apps
When the dashboards and reports in your workspace are ready, you choose which dashboards and reports you want to publish, then publish them as an app.
In the workspace list view, decide which dashboards and reports you want to Include in app.
2. Select the Create app button in the upper right to start the process of creating and publishing an app from the workspace.
3. On Setup, fill in the name and description to help people find the app. You can also set a theme colour, add a link to a support site, and specify contact information.
4. On Navigation, you select the content to be visible in the app. Then you add app navigation, to organize the content in sections. See Design the navigation experience for your app in this article for details. Under Advanced, you can set the default width of the left navigation pane.
5. On Permissions, decide who has access to the app, and what they can do with it.
i. In the new experience workspaces: specific people, Azure AD security groups and distribution lists, and Microsoft 365 Groups. All workspace users are automatically given access to the app for the workspace.
ii. In classic workspaces: everyone in your organization, specific people, or Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) security groups.
iii. You can allow app users to connect to the app's underlying datasets by giving them Build permission. They'll see these datasets when they're searching for shared datasets. Read more about allowing users to connect to the app's datasets, in this article.
iv. Users with Build permission can also have permission to copy reports from this app to another workspace. Read more about allowing users to copy reports in the app, in this article.
6. You can install the app automatically for the recipients if your Power BI admin has enabled this setting for you in the Power BI Admin Portal.
7. Click publish!
Apps can always be updated later so don’t worry too much about getting it right first time.
Here are a few articles that will help you make the most of your new apps:
I’ve been interested in putting together Power BI apps ever since they were first introduced, they’re a great feature and it’s a shame that more people aren’t making use of them. To be honest I think Microsoft just haven’t quite figured out yet how content should ultimately be delivered through Power BI but it’s clear they see apps at the forefront of that experience and it’s exciting to see what they come out with next.