Understanding Power BI Workspaces and the Power BI Platform

Power BI workspaces are at the center of collaborating and sharing reports or dashboards with others in an organization. They’re hosted on PowerBI.com and serve as a common space to store reports as they’re being worked on and once they’re published.

Workspaces are a way to collaborate and share information with a curated set of people that have access to the files, data, or reports in a workspace.

We’ll explain what workspaces are and more importantly, how they fit into the overall Power BI platform. Power BI contains a number of related components from building reports and dashboards to publishing workspaces and apps on the Power BI service. They’re all inter-related and we’ll explain the use cases for each one.

Let’s dive in!

Components of the Power BI Platform

Power BI works by combining a number of different components. Data is imported or connected to using Power Query to transform and prep data. Data is used to create visuals, charts and graphs which are added to pages. Pages make up Reports that are published to Workspaces which can optionally be included in Apps or Dashboards.

The following diagram shows how the different pieces of Power BI fit together. The first several components from the Semantic Model to building a Report are done using Power BI Desktop. When publishing to the Power BI Service at PowerBI.com it goes to the workspace that can then further be shared using different distribution models.

Diagram of the different components of Power BI to explain where workspaces fit into the Power BI platform

When these components come together, they provide a full featured immersive experience for report viewers who can seamlessly interact with a report and explore data that’s presented on the Power BI Service at PowerBI.com

Power BI Workspaces vs Other Components

The world of Power BI can be somewhat confusing, the following section aims to compare and contrast the different parts of the platform and explain where they fit in.

Dataset or Semantic Model: The starting point of most reports, this is where raw data from SQL databases, Excel Spreadsheets or other sources are transformed and combined with other sources of data so it can later be added to visuals and reports.

Visuals: These are the individual charts, graphs and tables used to present data to the end user. They’re the building blocks of report pages.

Pages: A Power BI Report is made up of Pages. This is similar to how an Excel Workbook is made up of Worksheets. Each page is a different tab on a report that end users can navigate through.

Reports: A collection of pages, where each page represents a different concept or format of information to display to and end user that is made up for various visuals.

Workspaces: Reports are published to workspaces on PowerBI.com They are a collaborative area for creating, sharing, and managing Power BI content.

Dashboards: A single page or canvas that displays multiple visualizations and insights from one or more reports. This feature is only available on PowerBI.com after reports have been published to a workspace.

Apps: A packaged collection of related reports and dashboards that are published from a workspace and shared with end-users. They’re used to package up reports and other content like a one piece app providing a ready-to-consume data experience instead of having users navigate across multiple reports.

What is a Power BI Workspace?

A Power BI Workspace is an environment within the Power BI service (PowerBI.com) where users can collaborate on or share data sets, reports, dashboards, or apps. It acts as a shared folder or a project space where specific team members can work together or view reports.

Workspaces are designed to help organizations manage access to data and reports. Different Power BI assets are added into a workspace, and users are subsequently given access to the workspace. When a user has access to a workspace they can add edit or view the items in the workspace depending on the permission level they’ve been assigned.

The screenshot below shows a Power BI workspace available on PowerBI.com where a number of reports, dashboards, and semantic models have been published for users to work with or view.

Screenshot of a Power BI Workspace that has multiple reports, dashboards and semantic models available to users that have access to the workspace

The workspace model works great for teams that have a common set of reports that they work with and don’t want to manage access to each individual file. Users can have access to all of the information they need in one space.

How to Use Power BI Workspaces

All Power BI workspaces are managed through PowerBI.com and users must have an appropriate level of access to create or edit them. Here is a quick breakdown of how to perform some common functions to get you started with a workspace.

Create a Workspace

From Power BI Service, select “Workspaces” and select “+ New Workspace”. Name your workspace and define its description and access settings.

Add Members

Open a workspace, and select “Manage Access” to invite members to your workspace and assign roles based on their needs (Viewer, Member, Contributor, or Admin).

Schedule Refreshes

Once a report and semantic model are published to a workspace, you can hover over a semantic model and select schedule refresh to setup data connections and a refresh schedule.

Share and Collaborate

Reports and semantic models are published from Power BI Desktop. Dashboards and Apps are created in the Power BI workspace in your web browser. Sharing is also managed through the Power BI Service at PowerBI.com

With the recent introduction of Microsoft Fabric the number of things you can do from a Power BI workspace is becoming increasingly blended in with professional data engineering and data scientist features that previously required users to have an Azure Tenant making many capabilities more approachable than they previously were.

The difference Between a Power BI App and Workspace

Power BI Workspaces provide a place to publish reports, dashboards and semantic models where others can collaborate or consume the content. An App is a method to package up multiple reports or dashboards into one larger report eliminating the need for users to navigate between reports. Apps further allow you to curate the consolidated content for different audiences.

When an App is published it will look largely the same as a report that has been published to a workspace. The majority of the benefits are behind the scenes such as Apps allowing you to control who can see different parts of the app based on audience, an easier and simpler method of distributing packaged content to users.

Each workspace can have 1 app associated with it.

You can learn more about how to create apps from our comprehensive guide to Power BI Apps.

Conclusion

Power BI Workspaces are the backbone of collaboration and sharing on the Power BI platform. Workspaces exist within the Power BI Service at PowerBI.com. Reports are collections of visuals based on data that are published to a Workspace. Other users are added to a workspace where they can edit or view the reports based on the permission role assigned to their account.

Once a report is published to a workspace, you can further curate the content by using a dashboard to combine visuals from multiple reports in a workspace onto a single page for a quick overview of data that spans multiple reports.

You can also wrap multiple reports into an App so users can view all of the information they need without having to switch between reports. Once consolidated, you can control who can see which parts of the report based on the audience they’re assigned to.

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