Sunday, May 31, 2020

Power BI Governance & Administration - Organizational Visuals

As the Power BI Service and Power Platform Administrator at Van Lanschot Kempen I often run into things related to governance and administration of our Power Platform environments. I plan on doing more of these posts, including, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • Workspace upgrade to V2
  • Refresh a dataset with Powershell (and a service principal)
  • Power BI Premium monitoring
  • Workspace and Gateway administration
    • Naming conventions
    • Update frequently
  • Tenant settings
  • Power Platform environments

If you're interested in any of these or other related topics, please let me know, below in the comments or on Twitter!


Power BI Visuals

Now on to the topic of this post: out-of-the-box, custom & organizational visuals. The main topic of this post will be organizational visuals, but let's start basic and begin with the regular visuals. Because there are quite some out-of-the-box visuals in Power BI, that have a pretty diverse use case.

 


 

Next to all the basic visuals there are also quite some custom visuals in themarketplace, 253 at the time of writing, to be exact.

When you want to use custom visuals in Power BI, please take the following points into consideration:

  • Make sure you trust the author and the source of any custom visual, it can contain code with security or privacy risks.
  • Do you know what data is send over the internet? And where is your data send to?


When to use what visual?

But how do I choose between all these visuals? When do I prefer a line chart over a table visual or a pie chart? Well, the answer to the last one is simple: don't use pie charts. Like never. Even Wikipedia mentions many experts recommend avoiding them, among which Stephen Few.

 

Now we're clear on that, let's look at a few examples of how to choose the best chart/visual for your data:


Organizational visuals

At Van Lanschot Kempen, in the end of last year we introduced the use of Organizational visuals. This allowed us to deploy and manage Power BI visuals inside our organization. The mean reason for us for doing this was to block all, except the certified custom visuals, mainly because:

  • The Admin can control which custom visuals are available in the organization
  • Better security as those visuals will only be allowed for organizational members that are logged in
  • No need to share visual files (when using private visuals)
  • Everyone uses the same visual version (controlled by the Admin)

 

Tenant settings

In the Power BI Admin portal there are 2 Tenant settings that you can use to adjust the use of custom visuals to the needs of your organization. Because by default all members of an organization can add and use all Power BI visuals including imported private files.

 



If you think these settings were previously called different, that's correct. I believe they renamed them last week, this were the old names for the settings:



 

The 2 settings are used as follows:

  • Allow visuals created using the Power BI SDK
Pretty straight forward: allow or disallow the use of custom visuals, either for everyone or (not) for specific security groups

 


 

  • Add and use certified visuals only (block uncertified)
If the first setting is enabled, you can either enable or disable this setting.

 


 

Please be aware that when you enable this (last) setting, all uncertified visuals in current reports will be blocked (in the service). Enabling the visual through the Organizational Store again doesn't help, because in that case the visual uses another ID, as you will see later in this post.

 

In addition to blocking the use of certain visuals in the Service, Power BI Desktop supports using a Group Policy to apply these 2 settings also locally:

  • EnableCustomVisuals
  • EnableUncertifiedVisuals

You can read how to exactly enable this setting in the PowerBI visuals settings of the Admin Portal documentation.


Organizational visual administration

The organizational visuals can be managed from the Admin Portal.

An important note: organizational visuals are visuals that are handpicked and managed by the admin. None of the Tenant settings above are applied to the organizational store. Disabling the visuals in the organizational store must be done manually by the admin in the Admin Portal.

These are the organizational visuals we currently have deployed in our tenant:

 


 

As you see we also have the Hierarchy Slicer (by Jan Pieter Posthuma), because at the time we implemented that visual into the organizational store, it wasn't certified yet (it was certified on January 7, 2020). We still have to do an impact analysis to see if we can switch back to the regular (certified) visual, because then it will update itself again via the regular visuals store and can also be exported to Power Point for example.

 

 

Adding organizational visuals

In the Power BI Admin Portal you can Add an organizational visual in the Organizational visuals section.

You can provide the following properties for a visual:

  • .pbiviz file (mandatory): you can download this file from AppSource.
  • Name: You can give it any name you want, just be aware this name is not used as the name of your visual in Power BI Desktop, only in the My organization tab in Power BI Desktop
  • Icon: Again, this is only the icon displayed on the My organization tab in Power BI Desktop, the icon in the  visualizations pane is still managed by the .pbiviz file.
  • Description: duh :-)
  • Access: you have the possibility to disable a visual currently deployed to the organizational store.

 


 

For more information on adding an organization visual please visit Add a new custom visual.


Using Organizational Visuals

As I mentioned earlier, when you are using organizational visuals they are different from the "regular" visual with the same name. They are managed in the Admin Portal and have a different ID from their regular counterpart. You can check this in Power BI Desktop if you right-click a visual in the visualizations pane.

 

Organizational visual


 

Regular visual, tied to AppSource

 

Now when I publish this report to the service I will see the following error on my report:



Recap and limitations

There are quite some Power BI visuals available for you to use: be it out-of-the-box, custom or organizational visuals. However, you can have good reasons not to open up the world for the Power BI report authors, so you start with taking a look at the Tenant settings.

Don't forget to plan for updating the used organizational visuals and communicating to the organization you're limiting the use of certain visuals for the end users.

 

Also, you might want to take a look at a few important limitations mentioned in the documentation, of which I'd like to highlight the following:

  • If a custom visual is deleted from the repository, any existing reports that use the deleted visual will stop rendering. Deletion operation from the repository isn't reversible. To temporarily disable a custom visual, use the "Disable" feature.
  • Organizational Power BI visuals are private visuals imported from the organization repository. As any private visual they can't be exported to PowerPoint or displayed in emails received when a user subscribes to report pages. Only certified Power BI visuals imported directly from the marketplace supports these features.

Resources and further reading:

 

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Nicky