Power BI Dashboards are collections of visuals, charts and graphs that come from other reports within a Power BI workspace. They’re designed to allow snapshots of the most important KPIs or visuals for specific audiences. While they lack the level of detail of a full Power BI report, they’re easy to put together and can provide a quick snapshot of what’s going on in your business.
Dashboards are standalone items in a Power BI Workspace but are made up of elements that exist on Power BI Reports. If it sounds confusing, don’t worry. Even though the terms Report and Dashboard are often used interchangeably, they are distinct features of Power BI.
Let us explain!
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What are Power BI Dashboards?
Power BI Dashboards are single page collections of visualizations, charts, tables, and graphs. They’re designed to give viewers a quick overview of data that would otherwise require them to open multiple pages of multiple reports. A viewer can get a quick overview of data available in other reports, and drill into them as needed.
The image below is a Power BI dashboard that consolidates visuals that normally exist in different reports, and different pages. When a chart or graph is clicked on, Power BI automatically launches the report that the data comes from, rather than giving you the ability to drill into or explore the data directly on a dashboard.
The easiest way to think of a dashboard is that it is a collection of visualizations that otherwise exist in various reports that are designed to provide more comprehensive information on a specific topic. For example, you could have a multi-page report about Accounts Payable, another about Accounts Receivable and a dashboard that combines elements from each to give a snapshot of a company’s cash cycle.
Once they’re created, Power BI Dashboards show up in a workspace along with other elements, such as Power BI reports that are published from Power BI Desktop, and their related semantic models that contain the data transformations that feed into the report.
The hierarchy from the highest to lowest level is: Workspace > Dashboard > Report > Semantic Model
Now let’s take a look at why someone might want to use a dashboard and what sets them apart from Reports.
Benefits of Using Power BI Dashboards
To create a Power BI Dashboard, you first have to have reports to base them off of. Reports are what are created when you push the Publish button in Power BI Desktop. Once published, a report which usually contains multiple tabs of visuals, charts, graphs and the underlying data is pushed to the Power BI Service.
Dashboards are created by pinning individual visuals that are on reports to a single dashboard page for a quick snapshot view of items across reports. Dashboards have several benefits.
- Data is consolidated from multiple reports, saving users from clicking into multiple reports
- Dashboards can give a quick single page overview of a business
- Dashboards support subscriptions and can be e-mailed on a regular basis to report viewers
- Dashboards support mobile friendly layouts, giving access to summary data at a glance.
Now let’s take a look at how to create dashboards from reports in Power BI
How to Create Power BI Dashboards from Reports
To create a Power BI Dashboard, first publish one or more Power BI Reports from Power BI Desktop to the Power BI Service. Dashboards can only be created in Power BI’s Online Service. Go to a workspace, and either create a new dashboard, or open a report, select a visual, and choose “Pin Visual”. Pinning will attach a visual to a dashboard.
Here’s how in more detail.
Step 1.) Open a Power BI Report, Select a Visual and Click Pin Visual
The fastest way to create a new dashboard is to publish a report to PowerBI.com, and then open the report from the workspace. Once you’ve opened the report, mouse over a visual to select it and in the top right corner of the chart or graph there is a Pin Visual button that will appear.
When you click on the Pin Visual button, you will be prompted to pin the visual to a dashboard, or to create a new dashboard.
Step 2.) Create a New Dashboard or Pin to an Existing Dashboard
When pinning a visual to a dashboard, you can choose to either pin the visual to an existing dashboard, or a new dashboard. When you choose New Dashboard, you will have the option to give the Dashboard a name.
Dashboards are created in the same workspace that reports are published to. To view a dashboard, users will have to have access to the Power BI workspace that contains both the report and dashboard.
When creating a new Dashboard, you are also given the option to create a mobile layout, or go to the dashboard. Mobile layouts are useful if the intent is to give users a one page overview of data from multiple reports that can be seen like you would on a mobile phone app.
Once the dashboard is created, you can either go to the dashboard at this point or you can navigate back to the Power BI workspace and view or edit it from there.
Step 3.) Navigate to the Dashboard on the Power BI Workspace
Power BI Dashboards show up in Power BI workspaces. They have a different icon than Power BI Reports, and will say Dashboard under the Type column.
After selecting the dashboard from the workspace, you will be brought into the dashboard view. This is where the report elements that have been pinned will be visible.
This is also where you can setup subscriptions, and share with different users, or click on the three dots … to the right of the edit button to see related content and data lineage. These tools are useful to keep track of which source reports are feeding into the dashboard.
Step 4.) Pin Additional Visuals to the Dashboard
After adding one visual to the dashboard, you can go into multiple reports from the same workspace and pin them to the same page. Power BI automatically aligns and sets the visualization size. The specific layout can be managed by clicking the Edit button at the top right and moving the visuals around the page.
The options to edit visuals from a dashboard are fairly limited. Any visual specific formatting or view changes will need to be made at the report level meaning that dashboards will show you a pass through version of each visual rather than making a copy of it that can be fully customized.
Step 5.) Edit the Power BI Dashboard Theme and Layout
The formatting options of Power BI dashboards are limited compared to building a Power BI report. Some of this is intentional, as the dashboards are meant to be snapshots where you can click on a visual and go to the page of the source report rather than taking the place of Power BI Reports or Apps.
Click on Edit at the top right to adjust the Power BI theme. Themes include the ability to change from light to dark mode, along with an option optimized for color blind viewers, and a custom option to change background and font colors.
Adding Tiles to Power BI Dashboards
Another feature of Power BI Dashboards is the ability to embed items that are otherwise outside of published reports. For example, you can publish media items, such as web content, videos, images, text boxes, and live data streams which become embedded directly into the dashboard.
One of the more compelling use cases for adding additional tiles to a dashboard is the ability to pin Excel spreadsheets to a Power BI Dashboard giving developers the ability to present data across systems on a single page.
Limitations of Power BI Dashboards
It’s worth noting that there are a handful of things that Power BI Dashboards cannot do, and where consolidated data might be better presented using a Power BI App, that lets you consolidate multiple reports and pages together from different sources.
Some limitations of dashboards include:
- Single Page
- Not as Versatile as Power BI Apps
- Inability to Expand or Drill into Visuals
- Pinned Charts and Graphs Navigate to Source Report on Click-Through
Because of these limitations the use case for dashboards is mostly for presenting a page of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or brief charts and graphs for business managers to get a quick idea of how things are trending, leaving them to navigate to the source report for more detail.
Power BI Dashboards vs Apps
Power BI Dashboards are collections of individual visuals that make up Power BI reports, while Power BI Apps are collections of full reports and report pages. Both capabilities consolidate data from multiple base reports, but dashboards provide a one page overview of specific visuals while Apps combine full pages of report data.
An added benefit of Power BI Apps is the ability to create one consolidated report view that can be shared with different audiences. Think of this similar to row level security but at a page-by-page level. Adam from Guy in a Cube does a great overview of Power BI Apps and how to govern access to them.
Apps are a great addition to your Power BI toolbox and are another way that Power BI lets developers create content once and re-use it many times for different audiences.
Power BI Dashboards are designed to give viewers a way to see a range of charts and graphs that would otherwise be spread across different pages of different reports. By pinning visuals from reports onto a single page a dashboard viewer can get a high level view of what’s happening without clicking into various reports and hunting down data.
If a visual is pinned to a dashboard, a viewer can click on the visual and Power BI will automatically take you to the specific report and page that contains that visual which will give more information on the topic. Another way to think of Power BI Dashboards is as a landing page or a home page for all of the other reports that are saved within a Power BI Workspace.