Many of us are overwhelmed with the number of items on our To-Do lists. Some tasks may take priority, such as filing taxes. Others are more routine, like taking out the trash. What about those repetitive tasks that take priority, such as updating a sales report every Friday afternoon? Wouldn’t it be nice if someone else could do that?
Maybe something can. By combining Power BI with automation, companies can free employees to work on higher-value projects. For example, sales staff do not have to stay late on Fridays to complete the weekly sales report for Monday’s meeting. The workflow is created with Power BI automation to ensure that the report is generated and distributed every Friday evening. This is just one example of the many uses provided by automated reporting solutions.
What Are the Uses for Power BI Automation?
Power BI Automation can insert a record in a database or distribute an email every Thursday. To get a better idea of what businesses can achieve, here are some examples of how automation can enhance operations.
1. Create a Task Workflow in Power BI
Suppose you’ve been tasked with responding to any new post on the company’s Facebook page. You could check the page every hour, or you could set up a task to notify you when one appears. To set up the task notification, you need to set a trigger.
A trigger is an action or event that when it occurs causes a workflow to execute.
In Power BI, start with My Flows to add a new, automated workflow. Then, set the trigger. The second part of the process specifies what happens when the trigger is activated. In this case, the Next Step is to determine the connectors and actions that begin to send the email.
Creating a template for the email stipulates what information to include in the notification. With Power BI, employees do not have to check Facebook throughout their day; instead, they can set a trigger to do the checking for them.
2. Set an Alert on a Dashboard
Dashboards simplify data. Employees may use the dashboard to track key performance indicators (KPIs) or monitor inventory changes. Warehouse managers use their dashboards to determine when they are low on inventory so that items can be reordered. Using Power BI, managers can set alerts to let them know when an item has dropped below a set threshold. These alerts free employees from constantly checking inventory status or worrying that an item will be out-of-stock.
Alerts notify individuals when data on their dashboard changes above or below set thresholds.
Two things to remember when setting alerts in Power BI are:
- Alerts only work on data that is refreshed.
- Alerts are set on pinned tiles.
Tiles are snapshots of data pinned to the dashboard from different sources such as reports or datasets.
To set an alert from the dashboard, select the ellipsis on the tile to display the dropdown menu. Select Manage Alerts. Set the threshold and frequency for notification, Save, and Close.
Adding Workflows to an Alert
Within the Set Alert function, there’s the option to set triggers through Power BI Automate for additional actions. For example, create a workflow to automatically reorder an inventory item when it reaches the alert threshold. By automating the process, warehouse managers are able to monitor inventory and reorder items while focusing on other tasks such as maximizing storage space or answering customer questions.
3. Push Data to Streaming Dataset
For alerts to work, data must be refreshed. That requires a flow that takes information from one source and pushes it to a REST API endpoint.
REST API refers to a standardized framework for the transfer of data from one application to another.
In the inventory example, warehouse managers were alerted when inventory reached a specific threshold. For that alert to work, inventory data sent to the dashboard had to be refreshed. The process of refreshing data is called “pushing data to a streaming dataset.”
The first step is to create a streaming dataset using the “Streaming Dataset” option, which requires:
- Type of dataset
- Dataset name
- Data fields to include
In this example, the dataset type is API.
The inventory management software updates its database whenever an item is taken out of inventory. Included in the record is a field for the remaining number of items. This numeric field is what is needed for the dashboard alert to work. The data fields might include the date, time, and number of items remaining.
Once the dataset is defined, a workflow is created with the following logic:
When a record is added to the database and the number of items remaining field contains a value, then the record needs to be converted into a streaming dataset and the dataset pushed to the dashboard for display.
Because the streaming dataset contains the number of remaining inventory items, the value is compared to the established threshold, resulting in an alert.
Uses of Power BI Automation
The above examples illustrate how Power BI functionality can be combined to deliver streamlined processes. By pushing inventory data into a streaming dataset that is delivered to a dashboard tile, an alert is triggered that results in an automatic re-ordering of low inventory items when a threshold is met. The only human involvement in this scenario was when the inventory item was scanned before shipment.
This example is only one of the hundreds of processes that can benefit from Power BI Automation. Other possibilities include:
- Posting adaptive cards to Teams when an alert is triggered.
- Exporting a Power BI paginated report for items in a SharePoint Online list
- Triggering a text message with a Power BI Alert
- Adding SQL Server table rows to a Power BI dataset on a recurring basis
- Inserting a row in Google Sheets when Power BI is triggered
- Understanding data analytics for process improvement
No matter the industry, Power BI automation can be used to develop new ways to streamline processes.