Power BI guidance from the CAT

If you’re reading this blog, odds are you’re already familiar with the Power BI documentation. If there’s a feature in Power BI, there are a set of articles that describe its capabilities.

But what if you need more? What if you need guidance on which features to use, and on how to use them properly to achieve your goals? This is where the Power BI guidance documentation comes in.

a watercolor painting of a cat reading power bi guidance documentation, generated by dall-e2
A watercolor painting of a cat reading Power BI guidance documentation

I’ve written previously about some of what the Power BI CAT team[1] does, but the Power BI guidance documentation only gets a passing mention… and it’s worth going into more deeply.

A lot of what the Power BI CAT team does involves working with large enterprise customers. These customers are often trying to achieve difficult goals that often involve complex data architectures, and Power BI is often a significant part of their end-to-end information supply chain. We get involved[2] when these enterprise customers need help achieving their strategic goals, and this help often includes helping them effectively use the existing capabilities of Power BI.

In these customer engagements we help one customer at a time. This is valuable and important… but it doesn’t scale. Documentation scales. So when we identify the need for guidance, we use the Power BI guidance documentation as a channel to share common patterns, best practices, and key concepts that will help everyone be more successful with Power BI.

A lot of the guidance documentation can be summarized as “if everyone knew this thing, the Power BI CAT team wouldn’t need to keep helping customers solve this particular problem.” Included in this bucket are things like the importance of star schemas, using variables in DAX, or the value of separating reports from data models in the Power BI service.

There are also a few sections in the Power BI guidance documentation that are more ambitious in scope. These sections are designed to address common strategic patterns, not just tactical or technical challenges.

  • Migrating to Power BI – It’s very common for large organizations to retire legacy BI tools and to standardize on Power BI.[3] This guidance presents best practices for approaching this strategic change to minimize risk and maximize success.
  • Power BI adoption roadmap – Power BI includes an incredible set of powerful[4] capabilities for delivering information and insights… but technology only goes so far without the right people and processes in place. The Power BI adoption roadmap is a set of guidance that focuses on big picture side of succeeding with Power BI, including governance, establishing a center of excellence, and empowering a community of practice.
  • Power BI implementation planning[5] – If the core Power BI product documentation focuses on specific features and capabilities, and the Power BI adoption roadmap focuses on big-picture strategic topics, the Power BI implementation planning guidance falls somewhere in-between. This guidance presents a set of common usage scenarios, and how to implement these scenarios by using the right Power BI capabilities in the right way, supplemented by subject areas that look more closely at important topics like tenant setup and workspaces.

Fun fact: All three of these sections are written by MVP Melissa Coates of Coates Data Strategies. The Power BI CAT team is involved end to end, but we’re delighted to work with Melissa for this guidance.

If you’re reading this blog[6], you probably want to get the most from your personal and organizational investments in Power BI. If you do, you owe it to yourself to head on over to the Power BI guidance documentation right now.

[1] Yes, I know that the T in CAT stands for Team, so saying CAT team is redundant. No, I don’t care.

[2] If you’re reading this and asking yourself “how do I get the Power BI CAT team to help my organization?” the short answer is that you should work with your Microsoft account team. They’re the first line of defense, and are more than equipped to help with most Power BI challenges. If they need help, they have channels of escalation that include the CAT team.

[3] This may come as a surprise, but we want to make this as simple as possible.

[4] For once, pun not intended.

[5] As of July 2022, the Power BI implementation planning guidance is still a work in progress. There’s a lot of great content already published, but we’re less than halfway done. There are more usage scenarios and subject areas coming in the months ahead, so be sure to check back regularly.

[6] And I have every reason to believe that you are.

10 thoughts on “Power BI guidance from the CAT

  1. Thanks so much for sharing these resources. I have been studying the implementation roadmap and usage scenarios lately, which are so good they almost feel like cheating!

    I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t realise that they fitted into this broader guidance documentation. New bookmark added…


  2. Zack

    Re “…the value of separating reports from data models in the Power BI service.”

    I should probably submit this feedback somewhere, but I’ve always found it odd that there’s so much high-level guidance to do this, while the product continues to bury the capability and requires constant vigilance to preserve it when used.


    1. Please do submit this feedback on the ideas site…

      …but with that said, this is a tough nut to crack. It’s not just a matter of “unburying” the capability for the people who need it, it’s also a matter of doing so without making Power BI harder to use for the people who don’t need it. There’s a complex balancing act here that makes this a more difficult problem to solve (to solve WELL) than it might look at first glance.


  3. Pingback: Power BI CAT Guidance – Curated SQL

  4. Pingback: Power BI guidance documentation | James Serra's Blog

  5. Thank you so much for sharing the extremely helpful resources. I am currently dealing with a client who has approx. 800 workspaces and follows a decentralized BI approach. Creating AAD groups for various roles for 800 workspaces is too much for IT to handle. Wondering if there is any guidance on what would be best practices to manage permissions for a large number of workspaces. Currently, the workspace admin assigns individual users to member role. Thank you in advance.


    1. Thanks for the feedback and for the question!

      The direction I’d suggest you look is at AAD self-service group management: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/active-directory/enterprise-users/groups-self-service-management

      Using these capabilities it’s relatively straightforward for IT to define the necessary groups, and then allow the business owners to handle ongoing group management responsibilities.

      800 workspaces is still a lot of groups to manage, but there may be existing role-specific AAD groups that can be added to take care of most membership requirements at the beginning. Either way, managing group membership is probably easier than managing workspace roles at this scale…

      Liked by 1 person

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