Power Bi is a business analytics and intelligence software by Microsoft. It allows businesses to visualize their data and compile a lot of data points into easy-to-read reports and dashboards.
There are a few ways to use Power Bi. One way is to use their dashboards to quickly visualize a lot of data points and track certain metrics easily.
Another way is to use reports to get an idea of the performance of your business or organization for specific datasets.
Which type is better? What is the difference between dashboards and reports?
Today, I will be exploring the difference between Power Bi dashboards and reports. I will help you understand what each one looks like, what each one does, when to use dashboards, and when to use reports.
Let us get into it.
Power Bi Dashboards are single pages that compile a few different reports into one page. Each report has one dataset, and Power Bi dashboards allow you to see all those reports on one page, making life a lot easier for you.
Power Bi dashboards have unique features, and they have some customization options that Power Bi reports do not. As you read through this article, you will learn about some of the advantages of using dashboards over reports.
On the other hand, Power Bi reports contain one dataset only. While the dashboard is compiled from several reports, each report only focuses on one dataset.
However, while a dashboard is one page, a report can have many pages.
Basically, the difference is simple: A report can be used to delve deep into a specific data set. You can filter your results and analyze the dataset from many different angles.
Power Bi dashboards are meant to take a broader look at things. Instead of focusing and analyzing a single dataset and delving deep into it, you can zoom out and get a birds-eye view of your business overall.
You can see many reports on one page. Each report will be a synopsis of the dataset – the most important data that you need to know.
You won’t necessarily get the depth you will get in a report, but you will be able to see many reports at once, giving you a better understanding of where your business is holding overall, not just in terms of one dataset.
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How big is each report or dashboard? How long will it take to go through them, and how many pages will you have to scroll through?
Power Bi dashboards are single page only. That is the appeal of the dashboard: The ability to view everything you need to know about your business – or at least the most important things – in a single place, without going through pages and pages of data.
On the other hand, Power Bi reports can be made up of many pages. The goal of a report is to delve deeper into each dataset.
You can have many visuals in a report. Each visual can represent more data and different findings from that dataset.
The report will present many findings from a dataset – many more findings than you will ever see in a dashboard. However, the dashboard is only a synopsis of that data, while the report goes deeper into each dataset.
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Can you filter and slice data on either dashboards or reports? For example, can you exclude certain datasets so that you only view partial data?
Unfortunately, dashboards do not give you a way to filter or slice data. On the other hand, that’s not really the point of dashboards – your goal is not to do in-depth research but to see briefer summaries of different datasets in one place.
There is one way to filter dashboards, however. Find the More Options menu (look for three dots at the top of the screen) and select Open In Focus Mode.
Once the dashboard is being viewed in focus mode, you will be able to apply filters. You will see a filter pane on the side, which you can expand or collapse.
While you can modify the filters, you can not save your modifications like you can on a report. So, while there is a way to filter data on dashboards, the best way to filter your data would be to go to a report.
Reports, on the other hand, do give you many ways to filter or slice data, allowing you to get a better understanding of what you are seeing.
For example, you can filter by region, manufacturer, time, and a lot more. Both basic filters and advanced filters can be applied.
You can apply many filters at once to get better insights. You can use any of the filters that the report designer added to include or exclude information, and you can manage all of your filters and their application in the filter pane on the side of the report.
I invite you to check out this page for more information on how to use filters in data reports on Power Bi and the different ways you can cross filter and slice data.
Power Bi can be used in a few ways. The free version is called Power Bi Desktop, which is a free software application that you can download to your desktop to start using some of the features of Power Bi.
Unlike Power Bi Pro, which requires a license and gives you access to the full Power Bi platform and features, Power Bi Desktop is a watered-down version of Power Bi.
Unfortunately, there is no way to use dashboards on Power Bi Desktop. If you only have a Power Bi Desktop, you will be able to use reports, but you will not be able to use dashboards.
On the other hand, you can both build and view reports on Power Bi Desktop. So, if you only need to view reports, Power Bi Desktop will be enough for you.
On the other hand, if you need to view dashboards as well, Power Bi Desktop will not be enough for you.
Power Bi has a feature called natural language queries, or Q&A. Natural language queries help you arrive at important insights using natural language queries to receive answers from your data.
You can type your own questions or use the suggestions that the Q&A tool gives you. Some types of questions you can ask are:
- Which products are the highest performing?
- Which sales bring in the most revenue?
- Which sales come from a specific country?
Each question can lead to another question. As you ask natural questions, you can start getting a deeper understanding of your data.
When you type in questions in the natural language search bar, you will notice that suggestions pop up automatically. It is kind of like when you are using Google.
Use these suggestions to guide your searches and help you dig deeper into what your data is telling you.
Some words or queries you type into the tool will even be underlined in different colors. This color system is used to show you the confidence level of the query – in other words, how specific the query is and whether you can actually get specific data from that query.
Dashboards allow you to ask natural language queries.
On the other hand, reports don’t generally allow you to ask natural language queries. However, if you have edit access to the report and the datasets, then you can ask natural language queries.
However, if you can only view the report, you will not be able to use the Q&A feature, which is a downside that reports have compared to dashboards.
Can you set any dashboard as your featured dashboard? What about reports?
Yes, you can set a dashboard as your featured dashboard. If you want one dashboard to be featured so you can view it quickly, you can do so.
Reports, on the other hand, can not be set as featured. You can not have a featured report.
Can you set up alerts for your dashboards or reports? For example, if a certain metric reaches a certain threshold, can you get an email alert notifying you of that?
With a dashboard, you can set up alerts for when a tile reaches a certain threshold. This way, you won’t have to keep checking back on the dashboard to see if the tile has reached that threshold.
Instead, you will get an email alert when that happens.
Unfortunately, there is no way to set up an alert for a report. So, you will have to keep checking back on the report to see if the metrics you are tracking have reached a certain threshold
You can not get an email alert about it.
In this section, I will talk about the benefits of Power Bi dashboards vs Power Bi Reports, when you should use each one, and how to use each one to gain insights about your business and help your organization improve.
To create a dashboard, you will need Power Bi Pro. You can’t create a dashboard on Power Bi Desktop, nor can you create one on Power Bi mobile, but you can view them on Power Bi mobile.
To create a dashboard, you will need to pull data from various datasets and add them to your dashboard. You can go to this page to learn how to create a full dashboard from reports.
Each report includes one dataset only. As mentioned, the report goes in-depth into each dataset, allowing you to filter and slice information to get better insights.
However, the dashboard only pulls a synopsis of each report and puts that synopsis into a tile. Each dataset tile will show you the most important highlights from the report, so to speak, so you can see all of your reports in one place.
The tiles are updated in real time, so they will keep changing as new data comes in.
The benefit of a dashboard is that it allows you to keep track of your business overall. For example, if you run an organization, you can view many metrics at once, in place, including:
- Customer acquisition
- And a lot more
Obviously, each of those datasets has its own report that will delve deeper into it. But, in the dashboard, you will be able to see your overall performance in each metric, allowing you to get a better idea of where your business or organization is holding and in which direction you are heading.
You don’t have to create the dashboard yourself to edit it. If you are added as an editor to the dashboard, you will be able to do things like pin tiles.
You can pin tiles to a dashboard from various sources. You can pin an entire report page to a dashboard, for example.
When you do that, the tile will be updated in real time, as data in the report gets updated. Also, you can click the tile to open the report.
To pin a tile to a dashboard from a report, go to your report and click on the pin icon that appears when you hover your mouse over the visualization you want to pin. If you want to pin an entire page, you can go to the top of the page and select Pin Live Page.
You can also pin tiles from one dashboard to another, to a dashboard from Excel, and more.
On the other hand, if you only have viewing access, you will be able to view the report, but you will not be able to edit it in any way.
You can create a theme for your dashboards. Certain themes are a great way to quickly separate one dashboard from another.
You can create one color theme for one dashboard and another color theme for another dashboard, for example. Or, you can create a color theme related to your business and logo.
The default theme is light, but you can change it to dark, a custom color, or a custom theme by uploading a JSON file with the colors you want for your theme.
Not only can you view Power Bi dashboards on mobile devices, but you can create a custom view for mobile devices.
Reports allow you to go deeper into a specific dataset, slicing data to get a better understanding of how your business or organization is performing in a specified dataset.
You can create many pages on each report. Each page can have one visual or many visuals, depending on how much information you would like to see.
You can personalize the visuals to see custom information or to set the visuals up a certain way.
You can also export data from a visual to Excel.
For a full guide on how to create and use reports, including how to add data to reports, click on this page. You can track various KPIs on your report.
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I would recommend using both dashboards and reports. If you use only reports, for example, you won’t be able to quickly view all of the data you need to know in one place.
On the other hand, if you only use dashboards and never look at reports, you will not be able to drill deep into each dataset. You will also not be able to filter and slice your data in the same way to get deeper insights.
By using both dashboards and reports, you can drill deep into your data and also quickly track your organization’s performance. You will be able to filter and slice data and also set up alerts via email so you get notified when a data field reaches a certain limit (a certain number of sales, for example).
You will not be able to create both dashboards and reports if you only have Power Bi Desktop. You will need to sign up for Power Bi Pro.
So, if you only have Power Bi Desktop, you will have to make do with reports. While Power Bi Desktop is free and good, if you really want to track your organization’s performance, I would recommend signing up for Power Bi Pro.
You will need a license for Power Bi Pro, but pricing starts at just $9.99/month per user. Check the pricing page for updated pricing data as prices are subject to change.
Benjamin Levin is a digital marketing professional with 4+ years of experience with inbound and outbound marketing. He helps small businesses reach their content creation, social media marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising goals. His hobbies include reading and traveling.