Power BI provides multiple ways of sharing content with users. Each sharing method has pros and cons and can be used for specific scenarios. Some sharing methods can be used together to build a framework for sharing. This article and video discuss the most basic way to share Power BI content. This method is called Dashboard (or Report) Sharing. Dashboard sharing is the easiest way of sharing; however, it may not always be the best way. In this article and video, you’ll learn how this method works, you will learn about the pros and cons of this method, and the scenarios of using it.
Power BI Content Owner
Before going through the dashboard sharing, you need to understand the content security in Power BI. When you publish a *.pbix report to Power BI Service, especially when you publish it under “My workspace,” no one else will see or have access to your report. It would be only you who has access to it. Then you can decide with whom you want to share this report.
Every Power BI content (report, dashboard, or dataset) has an owner; the content owner is the person who created and published that content into Power BI. The owner has full access to the content of Power BI. One of the owner’s accesses is sharing the content with others.
How does Dashboard Sharing work?
Dashboard or Report sharing, as the name explains, is based on a dashboard. You can only share a dashboard or report with this method, not a Dataflow or Datamart. Consider that you have a dashboard like the below screenshot, and you want to share it. There is a share link at the top right corner of the dashboard.
Dashboard sharing has few options to set and is very simple to configure. You need to add the email address of the people with whom you want to share this report. You can also write a message for them to know that this report is shared with them. If you are sharing a report or dashboard, you may get two slightly different options. If you share a dashboard, you will get an option like this.
There are two options to set;
- Allow recipients to share your dashboard
- Allow recipients to build content with the data associated with this dashboard.
- Send email notifications to recipients.
And at the top, you can enter the email of the people you share this dashboard with. For report sharing, the options are also similar with a small difference;
By default, as you can see in the screenshot above, the “People in your organization with the link can view and share” is selected. This can be modified, but by clicking on it, you will then have options like the below;
You can choose whom to share the report with (the entire organization or specific people), and you can choose the access level of the audience to view, or plus reshare, or even plus build.
There are also options to share in multiple ways; Copy link, Mail, Teams, and PowerPoint.
After configuration, then you can click on the Share button. The recipient will immediately have access to the report. If you select “Send email notification to recipients,” they will receive an email. Otherwise, they get a notification in Power BI itself. When they log in to the service (or in the mobile app for Power BI), they can find this dashboard or report under the Browse and then “Shared with me” section.
The recipient can also access the report or dashboard through the link. An important point here is that those with whom the report is shared should have a Power BI Pro or PPU account to see the content (this is one of the limitations of this method of sharing).
Three Levels of access
With dashboard (or report) sharing, users will have three levels of access; Read, Read and reshare, and Build. If you give them access without selecting the option “Allow recipients to share your dashboard, ” this access is Read. If you choose the option mentioned above, the access is Read and Reshare. And to give the Build access, you need to select “Allow recipients to build content with the data associated with this dashboard.”
Build access provides the ability to connect live to the dataset. This live connection can be done through the Power BI Desktop, through a new report inside the Power BI service, or using Analyze in Excel. The live connection to a dataset in Power BI is a great step towards a multi-layer architecture for Power BI development.
Another way of setting access is through Manage permission in the dashboard, report, or dataset. If you share a dashboard, by default, the report and the dataset will also be shared as read-only for users. Users can click on the dashboard and go to the report; they can interact with the report quickly. However, they cannot Edit the report. Access to edit reports cannot be provided through this method.
To manage permission on every item (dashboard, report, or dataset) individually, you can go to Manage Permission in the more options of the object.
Manage permissions will show you a detailed access list to the dashboard, reports, and datasets. You will see related reports and datasets on the left-hand side of the Manage Permissions section. You can click on the report.
Access can be seen through links or Direct access (directly authorized through the Manage permissions). You will see the permission specified for that object by clicking on a report or dataset. And you can change it. For example, user firstname.lastname@example.org has access as Read to the report in the below screenshot (because we shared this dashboard with him, the report sharing happened automatically after that). You can remove that access by clicking on more options.
You will see the Remove access window, which asks whether you want to remove access to some of the related content or not.
If you remove access to other items, you should be careful because that item might be used in multiple other objects. For example, if you remove access to the dataset, that dataset might be used in multiple reports.
If you shared a dashboard with a user but removed access to the report or dataset, the user will see the error message for tiles coming from that report when logged in and accessing the dashboard. Users cannot drill into the report because they don’t have access.
Licensing part of this sharing
Dashboard or report sharing, like many other Power BI methods, is a paid feature. The account sharing the content should be a Power BI Pro account (Or PPU), and people using the shared content should be part of a paid account Power BI Pro account or PPU. Free users cannot leverage content shared with this method of sharing.
Advantages of Dashboard Sharing
Dashboard (or report) sharing is the most basic way of sharing content in Power BI. This method is quick and easy to set up. You don’t need to have a lot of steps to set up sharing of the dashboard. The ability to share it very quickly makes this method the most common method of sharing for testing.
If you have created a Power BI content and want to share it with others easily just for Testing, one of your first options in Dashboard sharing.
Disadvantages of Dashboard Sharing
Dashboard sharing is simple; however, it has many drawbacks, which make it hard to be used in production. I do not recommend using this method to share Power BI content with users in a production environment because of the reasons mentioned below;
No Edit Access
With Dashboard sharing, you cannot specify edit access. For end users, you never want to give edit access; however, if you are working with a team of developers and want to provide them with access to edit the content, you cannot do that with dashboard sharing. You have to use other sharing methods, which will come in the next few articles.
Share Objects one at a time
You can only share one dashboard at a time. What if you wanted to share hundreds of dashboards? You must go to each dashboard and share items individually. Sharing every dashboard would add a lot of maintenance overhead to your work. The best would be having all contents under a group and sharing it with others at once.
Licensing for a Large user base
If you have thousands of users to share the Power BI report with, Then this method is expensive. A Power BI Premium capacity can be set at the workspace level, and then Free Power BI users can consume the content using Power BI Apps, which is a more cost-effective way.
Dashboard or report sharing is straightforward; it has three access levels: Read, Reshare, and Build. You can use this method efficiently for test scenarios. When you want to share a dashboard with a user for testing, Dashboard sharing can be one of the best options.
Dashboard sharing, however, has some disadvantages. There is no Edit access to this way of sharing, and on the other hand, if you want to share multiple items, you have to go to each dashboard and share individually from there. Because of these two significant limitations, dashboard sharing is never used in the development or production environment of Power BI implementation. Other methods, which I explained below, can cover these limitations.