Scoping a Power BI Centre of Excellence – Part 3 of PBI CoE Series.

Organisations come in many shapes and forms, so do their needs. Scoping a Power BI Centre of excellence is time sensitive, as nowadays, companies are in constant evolution. The BI journey has many milestones and stages that need to be considered and do affect the immediate and long-term benefits to realise and risks to face.

Just to prove the point made in this initial summary, in two and a half years of leading Power BI CoE and the PBI implementation in my organisation, I have presented, at least 3 different scopes and goals. All of them have strong commonalities, although perhaps 50% of the scope was noticeably different from one proposal to another.

This is not due to change of heart or direction, the differences were driven by the stage of implementation and adoption that we where in, therefore different needs at each point of time. Prioritisation at each stage was difficult, and actually, at the initial stages, we needed to promote adoption and freedom at the expense of governance, knowing what we were getting in. At that point, getting the organisation to know, use and trust Power BI so it would be the first choice when thinking Business Analytics, was more important.  

If the way that you get to form your PBI CoE is based on an approved business case, as described in my previous article Building the Business Case for a Power BI Centre of Excellence – Part 2 of PBI CoE Series, it makes only but sense that you scope the CoE based on the announced benefits to realise and risks to mitigate or avoid. If that is not the trigger for the formation of such CoE, still is a methodical approach to think about those benefits and risks (or in other words, your goals), and define the scope based on them, so it can be socialised, understood and supported.

It is very important that your goals are aligned to your organisation’s, and you have the support of your senior managers, which you can only attain if they understand those objectives and agree that are the right ones.

That being said, some of the principal areas that a CoE can have in mind when defining the scope are:

  • Architecture and Strategy, to take the right actions and decisions related, not only to Architecture, but to define the strategy for Business Analytics in your organisation.
  • Community of Practice, to support your organisations developments, providing guidelines and best practices and building a practitioner community within your organisation.
  • Governance, to put in place the relevant mechanisms so central decisions based on architecture and guidelines are applied. Also looking after security.
  • Run, to maintain a healthy platform, which is not underused, overused, or misused. Looking after performance, issues, cross charging, licensing, …
  • Development, either to lead or to support this activity.
Figure 1: Interrelation between different potential scopes and areas of interest for a Power BI CoE.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, although all areas can address common needs for companies using Power BI, depending on the context of the organisation and the stage of the implementation that this is in, some of these areas are less ready to be implemented or less relevant.

Now let’s review potential objectives and activities within each area.

Architecture and Strategy.

Strategy.

Think about this area as the heart, mind and soul of Power BI. The organisation needs to take decisions on what is the direction of Power BI, how it should be used, what are the principles, players, when to use PBI for business critical solutions, what is the level of investment to support the platform,… A myriad of decisions that must be taken, otherwise somebody else will decide or even worse, it will take random directions. Aligning to your senior leaders, gaining and maintaining their support, is also part of this scope.

Architectural patterns (Power BI + Azure + Power Platform)

Extremely important area considering the fast evolution of Microsoft’s cloud toolset. Decisions on what type of architecture should be used in what cases can dramatically affect to costs, speed to market and agility to adapt to change, alongside skillsets required and vendors to partner with.

Toolset selection

Some companies are open to use more than one tool in the same space (i.e. Reporting), some other are not. For the former, it is important always to advice on the right tool for each case, or providing guidelines to decide, and for the latter, it might be required to help the business understand that, although there are other tools in the market, using solely Power BI has its advantages, if that’s the case.

Partner Management.

Not all companies insource the development of BI solutions, and in those cases, it is beneficial to pre-select preferred vendors and manage the relation with them, to agree rate cards, discounts, resource pools, SLAs, NDAs, performance reviews, whatnot, …

Community of Practice.

Being Power BI a platform that serves both, business and IT, it is important to decide what level of support is to be given to the entire business.

Guidelines and Best Practices

Although there is a vast amount of material freely available, it is better to make things simple to your organisation. Also, there is always need for tailored guidelines to use Power BI alongside the rest of the company’s assets.

Power BI Adoption

There are multiple options to drive Power BI adoption and usage, which would lead to faster and higher benefits realisation. These options range from low to high effort, with different impact.

Power BI Training

Not a bad idea considering some internal or external dedicated training (classroom, virtual, self-paced,..). In my experience, business units will seek training, and if they don’t have guidance or support, they will have to find it on their own.

Internal Community

Despite there is an enormous public Power BI Community, when it comes to questions on how PBI is applied to their business problems, users are hesitant to go to the wider community. Any business networking tool can provide this safer space to seek peer support within your organisation, although it is needed that PBI CoE does moderate such forum and steers in the desired direction.

Expert Network

A step further to Internal Community. Power BI has the ability to generate enthusiasm and passion, and perhaps, some individuals in your organisation, outside PBI CoE, can help with adoption, training, … at no extra cost. Nurturing this Expert Network is also an option for the CoE.

Governance.

Govern PBI Content (Solutions’ Information)

PBI Content can grow exponentially during the period of high adoption rates, and before you hit that period, it is better (or at least an option), to think about how can you get your solutions’ owners to classify the content that is available.

Govern PBI Publishers (Skills and Certifications)

Another angle to governance is to implement some controls on what are the conditions that any individual needs to meet before sharing content with others in your org.

Govern Security.

To make sure that PBI solutions are secure and that your solutions’ owners understand the company’s policies and apply security mechanisms to adhere to them.

Content Certification

This topic deserves its own article (as many other in this list), which will come very soon. Power BI gives you the ability to elevate the visibility of certain trusted datasets, however this certification should be given to datasets that meet certain criteria, to ensure quality and reliability.

Run.

PBI Tenant and Capacities configuration

Power BI platform is not hard to configure, but needs to be done, nonetheless.

Landscape Management

As Power BI Premium does come with an extra cost, it is important that solution’s hosted in it are worth it and are not overusing nor misusing expensive resources. Also, we need to ensure that our Premium state is not massively underused.

Power BI Issues and MS tickets

We can also consider having a support function to address internal issues and managing cases with Microsoft support engineers.

Cross Charging

Mainly for Premium capacities, but also for Pro licenses and the newcomer Premium per User – any extra cost might be transferred to the different business units based on their usage of resources and licenses.

Development.

There are several degrees in which a CoE can get involved in development. These areas provide some options:

Design and Implementations Review/IT Project Governance

Either to define and enforce a project governance and/or work alongside projects during design and implementation phases to ensure quality and to avoid expensive mistakes.

Performance troubleshooting

It is common to see solutions that can be improved, in cases where reports performance is not acceptable, it is a good idea to provide support aimed to improve SLAs.

Design patterns and guidelines.

Also, in my experience, business seeks guidance when it comes to UI design, Dax, M query or data modelling, which is a good thing.

Solutions Implementation.

Some CoEs are scoped to deliver solutions some are not as such delivery is addressed with SI partners, and there should be a strategic decision what is the best option for a given organisation and how to implement such solution.

One last thought about detailed scope for a Power BI CoE: migration from legacy tools.

If your organisation has taken the decision to sunset some other reporting and business analysis tools in favour of Power BI, this initiative can be either, lead or supported by the Centre of Excellence. As the main experts in the area, CoE can add more value to a decommissioning activity, which is, more often than not, seen as difficult and not value adding.


Scope the CoE every year, but also adapt to needs within the year. Learning how PBI usage evolves in the organisation might affect priorities and objectives. Good to have a plan but also know when to go off-course for the best (understanding benefits and risks…).

Power BI Centre of Excellence Series Articles:

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