Managing Self-Service BI in Power BI
Microsoft Power BI is the Port of Antwerp's strategic tool for important business reporting needs. Together, we built a virtual cockpit in the form of a Power BI report to chart the use of this tool. Not with the aim of pointing fingers, but to further coach the users and ensure that the created reports are in line with what the company wants to achieve. The Self-Service aspect is retained but in a more controlled manner.
The guidelines on how to use the tool had to be established before we could set up something like this. We started with the question "How should Power BI ideally be used at the Port of Antwerp" and answered this for and with various stakeholders (e.g. someone in a technical position, someone responsible for data governance, an architect, etc.). This way we directly brought all the visions together, which was an important aspect for generating enough support.
The result is a meta Power BI report that provides information on Power BI use in the organization, supplemented by key information on all artifacts. This report consolidates different sources of APIs, scripts and databases into 1 convenient overview. The Port Authority's Data Analytics team holds bi-weekly meetings with stakeholders from a functional domain to discuss ongoing issues, including the report with the underlying use data. They analyze how users create reports and datasets and how well they conform to the applicable guidelines. From this analysis, they formulate recommendations for the users. For example, this could be about the data source that was used, since the company has centralized data sources that are optimally formatted for self-service. Does the data in the report come from this trusted environment, or was data from an obscure test environment used? The cockpit tells them.
A successful experiment
The virtual cockpit was launched as an experiment. The results are positive and have fueled our desire to think about the next steps. One of the next paths is to make the picture more complete. It is also the intention that people who will be creating content in Power BI should be exposed to the established guidelines from the outset so that the meta-report primarily serves for follow-up.
By using the Microsoft Power Platform, we managed to quickly evolve from the idea to a working tool. In 10 days' time, we held discussions about guidelines and set up the report, and they started working with it. So starting small clearly has its advantages, and scaling up is always an option.
Data on the use of Power BI is crucial to measure success in the organization. With this cockpit, we have taken it a step further than the static logging method commonly used. We are very pleased with the result in the short term. The underlying motive of 'stimulate, not control' is therefore absolutely spot on for me.
Benni De Jagere, Enterprise Data Architect Inetum-Realdolmen