Building the Business Case for a Power BI Centre of Excellence – Part 2 of PBI COE Series.

In my last article, POWER BI CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE, WHAT AND WHY – PART 1 OF PBI COE SERIES, we had a very brief description of the purpose of a Power BI CoE and some deeper explanation on why, some organisations, might need one.

Concluding that there is significant benefit from having a PBI CoE and getting one set up, are two completely different things.

To realise the vision of a CoE, a common and fundamental requirement is to have support from your organisation’s leadership. CoE is no different from any other investment within a company: you will need to justify its value and why your org needs to invest in it instead of something else: you need a business case.

There always is a business case for “purchasing and implementing a new platform or technology”. Most of the time this case is driven by “acquisition and running costs” vs what the organisation already has, alongside other considerations suck as the risk of not evolving existing technologies, alignment and integration with the rest of the landscape, side benefits and risks of new technologies and so on.

The business case for a Power BI CoE investment is not as easy to define, why is that? That is because depending on your type of organisation, use of data, users’ profile and how this technology fits in the overall landscape, the benefits to realise and risks to minimise will vary and not be easily quantifiable, which makes harder to justify a PBI CoE.

Instead of focusing the business case on economical ROI, I would focus on Objectives and Activities, their Benefits (business impact) and Risks associated, if those activities are not run to meet such objectives.

From a holistic perspective, there are a few areas in Power BI platform, that require attention and action. Those areas are (in no particular order):

Let me briefly elaborate each point with related benefits and risks.

Architecture and Strategy.

The objective is to, not only decide on suggested architectural patterns based on different BI solutions´ requirements, but how those architectural patterns need to evolve rapidly alongside Power BI features.

It would cover everything related to solution’s architecture and its evolution. Given the fact that Power BI is well integrated to O365 and Azure products (and can integrate with other technologies, i.e. using XMLA endpoint, Power BI Embed,…), there are multiple feasible combinations and patterns to deliver one solution. However not all feasible approaches will be optimal and there will be no just one architectural pattern for all solutions.

Clearly, having and evolving architecture and strategy as the Platform does, has a high impact on the business via optimal (performant, cost-effective) solutions. And the risk (impact and likelihood) of not having this, is high, mainly due to the fast evolution of cloud solutions (mainly Power BI), that can lead to higher development and run costs and a sooner technical debt.

Community of Practice.

The endgame is to ensure that the PBI community (IT or business self-service) in your organisation delivers optimal and reliable solutions in Power BI and gets best value from the platform. This implies creation and distribution of guidelines and best practices (aligned with recommended architecture), adoption promotion, development of an internal PBI forum, training, internal support, creation of a Power BI Expert Network, …

Both, impact and value are high, as this will ensure quality of products and knowledge available to all PBI practitioners.

The larger is the practitioner community, the larger the impact is and so is the risk, which is, in essence, the uncontrolled delivery of suboptimal products, which can cause additional costs (infrastructure, rework), unacceptable performance, PBI products seen as unreliable (and the platform), all this leading to loss of credibility and adoption, and ultimately benefits not realised from the original investment in the platform.

Governance.

Extremely important topic: areas to govern are users, content (and content certification), security and stakeholders. You need to govern your users to make sure that they understand and apply best practices and guidelines and security policies. Also understanding what content is hosted in Power BI (reports and datasets) recording relevant information about solutions helps its management. Security should be a high concern for all organisations, and there should be controls to make sure that content is as secured as it can be. And finally, stakeholder management is important as PBI platform can deliver business critical solutions.

Governance is the one area that you can neglect for a while, without being impacted immediately, but the longer it is unwatched, the larger will be the consequences.

Run.

Platform needs to be managed, and although the level of management required is lower than traditional BI platforms, is still required. This is true mainly if you have Premium state, whereas if you only use Shared Capacity (Power BI Pro), the run requirement is different.

Let us be briefer in this area, as benefits and risks are similar to other BI platforms. Instead I will just mention that for Shared Capacity, you still need to configure your tenant, to decide what features are open (i.e. you might want to close from the beginning the “publish to web” feature due to its inherent security problems. For Premium capacity, the problem is much bigger as not managing its content, will incur in higher costs.

Development.

Regardless of who is delivering business intelligence solutions (internal or external to your org), such delivery needs to be overseen, and ensuring solutions’ quality and alignment to recommended architectural patterns.

The objective is that development is executed under the agreed architecture, guidelines and governance, hence is, to great extent, the “materialisation” of these areas, and therefore, benefits and risks are inherited from them.

As a very brief summary: drive your business case for a Power BI Centre of Excellence based on areas of attention, their objectives and activities, and more importantly the business impact of their benefits and the risks associated to not having them.

Power BI Centre of Excellence Series Articles:

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