Power BI development and Customer portal, PART 2
In my blog series part 1 I described some experiences from my embed projects and issues to consider like how to identify restrictions in Power BI to meet customer brand and functionalities not supported when content is embedded, to be prepared to manage expectations and agree on what areas in the solution are developed with Power BI. This second part I dedicated to collaboration as I see it being one of the most important areas in a project where Power BI reports are embedded in a customer portal.
Tight collaboration with stakeholders
This type of development work is not done by individuals. You need to collaborate tightly with different stakeholders. Collaboration with different stakeholders can be very intensive in different phases of the project.
For example, with a UX designer, you need to use more time at the beginning of the project to plan and test layouts, json file etc. Later you will need her/his advice or opinions randomly in smaller details occurring in agile development work of individual reports. And then for example with Power BI admin your collaboration is tight in the beginning to get all accesses, connections etc. and then again at the end of the project when planning go-live and support processes.
How to make use of Service/UX designers expertise and feedback
Make sure you understand Service/UX designers’ drafts (if available) and ensure these issues are discussed:
- Discuss with her/him about possible problems you recognize, like some planned layout plans are hard to accomplish in Power BI.
- If a customer portal will be used via mobile phone, check and test together what is possible and what might be hard to achieve within Power BI.
- Together test in Power BI different solutions to meet the brand requirements, but keep in mind also the usability and accessibility point of view.
- Together use the time to create a json -theme file and test the import.
During the agile report development, I collaborated with Service/UX designer to get feedback or suggestions to resolve smaller problems in visual positions, sizes or text sizes. After I had published a report for testing, the Service/UX designer looked at it “with fresh eyes” and usually noticed something I had missed.
What insight you need from Power BI admin
Ask from customer Power BI admin the options and possible boundaries, like
- How are they using Power BI Service?
- What license model is in use?
- Who can create gateway connections if needed?
- Who can create Workspaces?
- Does the customer allow custom visuals?
- Is it ok to use the deployment pipeline process?
- Will there be a dedicated premium tenant available?
- Where should backup .pbit files be stored?
Overall make sure you inform the Power BI admin about the progress of the development and ask for help well in advance. I also included my Solution Architect in these discussions.
In the end part of the project, I involved the Power BI admin to plan and decide on go-live tasks and support processes.
How to pair work with Software Developer
As Power BI content, report page/pages or individual visuals will be embedded in a UI/customer portal you need to test and try different solutions together with Software developers doing the embedding. Consider these:
- Clearly communicate the requirements for the Power BI embedded report to the software designer. Discuss the design and branding requirements, as well as any technical specifications, such as data sources and performance requirements.
- Agree on the storage location for Power BI reports and visual’s IDs and ensure a clear communication process of updates.
- Check how the report page fits into the UI and what is the best Page View option to be used.
- Ensure you use the correct canvas size according to brand, but also verify that it is the best from the point of view of the report users.
- Decide what areas are implemented in UI and what in Power BI. For example, a report header might be easier to maintain on the UI side if changes occur, Power BI page/sheet names need to be hidden in UI or some pre-selections in a date range are easier to do in UI.
- If a customer portal will be used via mobile phone, check and test together the best Mobile layout for each report.
- Review the report with the software designer and iterate based on testers’ feedback, both the technical and design aspects of the report.
During the testing phase, I noticed that sometimes for testers it was hard to recognize if the “bug” was related to Power BI or to UI. It helped to have weekly sessions with Business owner and testers. With the Software designer, I was able to smoothly discuss these in our daily sessions and/or in other communications tools.
How to ensure communication flow with Business owner
With the Business owner ensure the following:
- You both understand report requirements and specifications are clear.
- Reserve enough time and sessions with the customer to explore the old solution/customer portal.
- Show the first draft of the new report version in the early phase to get feedback.
- Ensure to have a communication channel open to ask questions and clarifications. Many times business owners forget to tell all the needed functionalities and during the development, you need to get more insights.
In my experience, it was a good practice to have the demo sessions for each report during the whole development phase in the project. In the testing phase, weekly sessions with the Business owner helped to keep track of the test results, “bug” reports and corrections.
Keep in mind other stakeholders
Some stakeholder cooperation is quite typical in all reporting-related development projects, so just briefly mentioning these:
- Make sure you have a solid communication channel with the Customers data owner/developer, who understands the database, data source structure and business logic. If you are able to utilize a data warehouse, you have more possibilities to discuss with e.g., the Data Engineer which calculation could be done there or what to include in the source views.
- If an old customer portal exists make sure you have contact persons to investigate and ask about the calculations logic done with the old tool. Sometimes contact can be a customer internal employee or another vendor’s representative.
- Make sure to keep the Project manager and Solution architect aware of the technical obstacles you are facing or problems with testing resources. These stakeholders usually take care of the communication with other stakeholders like the customer’s management or testers.
- Have recognized two other stakeholders, the Test manager/coordinator and Tester, but explain some insight related to them in the last part of my blog series.
I’ve collaborated with all stakeholders described above in my projects but this is not a complete list. For example, your customer organization model affects the number of stakeholders you need to collaborate with.
In the last part of my blog series I will tell you about my experiences in testing and support process planning for this type of solution.