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Easy As Insights — Part 1: Taming Power BI Maintenance — Insights Template

In a corporate environment (for that matter any size of organisation), if the BI team does not follow development standards and best practices, soon the sheer number of insight reports and the different standards each developer might follow will create a maintenance nightmare and in worse case complete breakdown of the deliverables.

I will keep the articles short to make it focused on a topic so that it will be easy to follow.
I am using Microsoft Adventure Works database for this example. The below sample screen contains 35 visual elements including some hidden buttons and visuals which will be useful when we are looking at performance in later articles.

Standardize Insight Report Templates
It is best to standardize on one or more templates for insights across the organization.
Sometimes it is not possible to have one template file for the whole organization. It is a balancing act of user requirements vs maintenance. But for the sake of ease of maintenance try to keep the template files to as few as practical.
Standardizations across all templates
When you have more than one template file there are few thing that you can keep consistent across all templates.
1. Standardize insights report page size
When you have standard page size across all templates it makes it easy to copy and paste visual elements from one file into a another. Ability to copy and paste visuals from one report to another with the formatting unchanged is a very big advantage.
Please note this is possible only if the query and columns used in the visuals are consistent in both reports. If not for obvious reasons the visual cannot display the data.
Presently there is no way in Power BI to copy the whole tab/page with Filter Pane elements. Therefore the Filter Pane elements related to the visual will need to be manually added.

2. Drilldown indicators
One of the very useful and powerful feature of Power BI is the ability to have Drilldown functions in the visuals.
But unfortunately in Power BI you have to hover over the visuals to find out whether the drilldown buttons appear to know which visual has drilldown capability. This is not very user friendly or downright impossible way for user to know which visual he/she can drilldown.
To make the user experience better it would be useful to add an image to the visuals which has drilldown capability. This way the user does not have to guess or hover over each visual to check which ones have drilldown capability.

3. Drill Through indicator
Another very useful Power BI functionality is the ability to Drill Through from one visual to another page.
Adding a standardized icon to indicate that the visual has drill through capability make a good user experience.

4. Use unique Report ID for each tab/page
Maintain a register of unique Report ID for each insight tab/page you develop. For example if one report file (.pbix file) has 3 reports it will have RPT001, RPT-002 and RPT-003. A second report file may have two tabs/pages and will have RPT-004 and RPT-005.
Decide on any suitable UNIQUE Report ID format for each tab/page and use it in your insight reports. Make sure the tab/page name starts with the Report ID as the prefix. e.g. RPT-001 Sales

This becomes very important when using bookmarks as explained in Part 3 of this series.

Standardizations for individual templates
There are other standardizations that may not be able to be implemented across all templates. For example different departments may request to have their own look and feel.
But it is good practice to maintain these standards for each different type of template.
And remember — maintain only as few templates as possible!

1. Standardize text size and color schemes
Have standard color scheme for the templates.
The color standardization can extend to visuals as well. For example text attributes and color for header text for each area, visual header text attributes and color, data and visual axis text attributes, etc.
If possible create a “Custom Theme” for the Power BI templates. Custom Theme development is a separate specialist area and may not be practical for everyone.

2. Standardize the header area look and feel
For each type of template standardize the header area look and feel. In the example we have two bands and non-band areas. The color scheme follows shades of blue.

3. Standardize what information goes where in the header area
When you standardize the information in header area and what goes where, it makes development a lot easier as each developer does not need to figure out where to display a given information. For the users it becomes easy to use the report as they know where to look for a given piece of information as it is always in the same place.

4. Standardize visual look
Standardize visual looks depending on the functionality. For example, all visual will have rounded corners, emphasized visuals will have shade, etc.
What is your favorite Power BI Feature release this month?