Workspaces are another way of sharing Power BI content with other people. The benefit of this sharing approach is that you can share content with a group of people and create a collaborative development environment where everyone can access it. In this article and video, I get you through sharing with workspaces, what the limitations and advantages are, and how it is different from dashboard sharing, and you will have a complete understanding at the end of this article which scenarios are suitable to be used with this method of sharing.
What is a Power BI Workspace
Workspace is a shared environment for a group of people. You can have multiple Power BI content in a workspace. One workspace can have hundreds of dashboards, reports, and datasets. Certain objects in the Power BI ecosystem can only exist within the context of a workspace, such as Dataflow and Datamart. You can add people (or Power BI accounts) to the workspace and allow them to edit or read the content. In other words, Workspaces are like shared folders for the Power BI content within your organization.
One account may be part of multiple workspaces (screenshot below) or various accounts to have access to one workspace. Everyone has a workspace named “My Workspace.” This is similar to your “My Documents” folder on your machine. “My workspace” should never be used for sharing content with others except for testing because it is your personal workspace.
If you want to share content with others, your starting point can be creating another folder, which in Power BI terminology, we call Workspace. Workspaces are also called “App workspaces” or “Organizational Workspaces” because you can create an app based on them and are part of the organization’s tenant.
Workspaces are best used as a collaborative environment to share content between people in a team. Let’s now look at how we can use workspaces.
How to create workspaces?
Creating workspaces is easy. You need to do that from the Power BI Service. Log in to the service, and click on workspaces.
If you are already part of one or more workspaces, you’ll see them in the list of workspaces. Click on Create a workspace. When you create a new workspace, you need to assign a name to it. The name of the workspace would be the name that others will see when joined to this workspace.
The basic settings for the workspace just include the name, the description, and the image for the workspace. You will be the workspace administrator (because you are creating it). You can use the Advanced section to go into more detailed settings for the workspace, such as capacity settings.
The advanced settings for the Power BI workspace have some sections; one is the contact list of the workspace. The workspace security settings will be set up later; this is just a contact list.
Another critical aspect of the workspace is assigning it to a premium workspace. If your organization has purchased a Premium capacity or uses a Premium Per User (PPU) license, then you can set up the premium configuration in this section. Assigning a workspace to a premium capacity will enable you to use all the premium functionalities in this workspace (such as Datamarts, AI functions inside the Dataflow, Computed Entities, etc.).
If you want to use a OneDrive as a shared folder for the users of this workspace to share content (not just Power BI content, but any files), then you can use the Workspace OneDrive textbox.
After creating the Workspace, you will be automatically navigated from “My workspace” to this new workspace. However, this workspace doesn’t have any content (dashboard, dataset, or report) yet.
How to add content to a workspace
There are many Power BI objects that exist inside a workspace. Some of those can be created directly from the service, such as Report, Dataflow, Dashboard, Dataset, Streaming dataset, Datamart, and Paginated report. And some can be published through other applications, such as Power BI Desktop.
When you have a Power BI file opened in Power BI Desktop, you can click on Publish, and if you are part of a workspace, you will see a popup window asking which workspace you want to publish the report to it. You can select the “radacad sample workspace” we’ve created above.
After publishing the content to the workspace, you and anyone else who is part of that workspace will see that content. Below is an example of content in a workspace:
Let’s now talk about the access levels for the workspace users.
Four Levels of Access
With workspaces, you can provide four levels of access. Three provide Edit access, and one read-only;
Here are details of what each level of access can do.
- Viewer: can view the content in a read-only mode.
- Contributor: Create, edit, publish, and delete content in the workspace. It cannot modify users or cannot publish an app.
- Member: Publish and update an App. Share or allow others to reshare items. Add members or others with lower permissions. Plus everything, contributors can do.
- Administrator: Delete and update the workspace. Add and Remove members (or even other admins). Plus, everything members can do.
Tenant Admin Control for Workspace
Power BI tenant administrator can control some settings for the organizational workspace through the Tenant Settings. In the Tenant Settings, the Administrator can control who is authorized to create a workspace and if the users can use a dataset across workspaces.
Also, the administrator can control whether users can assign a personal workspace to a premium capacity. This last option also allows the tenant administrator to set a location for personal workspaces throughout the organization.
Another important option for the tenant administrator is connecting to personal workspaces throughout the organization and gaining access to those. This is particularly helpful if the employee the workspace belongs to has left the company and the Power BI content is left in his or her personal account without anyone else having access.
Administrators can also restore the deleted workspaces.
Restoring a deleted workspace is only for workspaces up to 90 days after their deletion. During this period, the restore can be done through the Admin Portal.
Advantages of Workspaces
Sharing multiple Contents with the Team
You may have shared a dashboard with a couple of your colleagues in your organization, but after a few weeks, a need for a new dashboard comes up, and you share that dashboard with them. A couple of months later, another team member asks for access to a Power BI dataset to create a report and share it with others. Power BI workspaces enable you to share content (dashboard, report, and data set) with all group members. You don’t need to share each dashboard with each user; groups made it easy for you.
Sharing all types of objects
The dashboard only allows sharing the Power BI report, dashboard, and dataset. However, sharing through the workspace allows all the content to be shared. This includes but is not limited to; Dataflows, Datasets, Datamarts, Dashboards, Reports, Metrics, Paginated Reports, etc.
It is hectic when you are part of multiple teams, and each team has its own dashboards, reports, and datasets. Your “shared with me” section in Power BI will be hundreds of items, and find something. There would be a problem. Power BI workspaces create a separate environment for all members of the group. You can easily switch between workspaces in Power BI.
Isolated User/Group Administration
When you share content with an individual in the organization, if that person leaves the company or is replaced by someone from another team, you have to remove sharing from a previous user account and assign it to the new user account. The best practice is to share content with groups. And members of Workspaces then easily can be managed by an administrator. Power BI workspaces can be shared with Office 365 groups. Once you use a group in Power BI, it is only an admin’s task to add/remove members.
Best Developer Environment
You need an environment to share multiple Power BI content for a team of developers. Everyone needs to have edit access to the content provided by the team. Power BI workspace is the perfect solution for the development environment. You can create a workspace as a development environment and then share it with other developer team members with Edit access. Then you all have access to the same content in your development workspace.
Power BI workspace is the perfect solution for development environment
Disadvantages of workspace
Workspaces are helpful because of the reasons above. However, there are some drawbacks.
Not suitable for End Users
Workspaces are not suitable for sharing content with end users. You may wonder why that is. You can give users of the workspace read-only access to the content. However, this is half of the requirement. In an end-user sharing environment, one of the primary requirements is to have the development and user environment separated from each other.
Assume that you have created a workspace and shared it with end users. If you suddenly make changes in the workspace while they are using it, then their view of the world breaks and changes.
With one workspace your development, and user environment are the same.
You cannot use one workspace to be shared between developers and users. Creating multiple workspaces also brings another challenge. To overcome this challenge, we use Apps on top of the workspaces for sharing the content with the end users.
Complications for the workspace structure
Setting up a good workspace structure is a challenge. A workspace structure that covers the development, user needs, and deployment structure. I have explained in another article what are things to consider for setting up a workspace structure. This is more of a caution than a limitation. Use workspaces with care, and make sure you have a good setup.
Power BI Pro or PPU
Creating Power BI workspaces, or even being part of it (even as a Viewer access level), requires a Pro or PPU option and is not part of a Power BI free user account. However, it is possible to create an app for the workspace in a premium capacity and assign free Power BI users to it. This limitation is one of the main reasons this is not the most cost-effective option for sharing the content with the end users.
Power BI workspaces are a great way of sharing multiple Power BI content with users. If you have hundreds of dashboards, reports, and datasets, you can easily share them through a workspace with others.
Workspaces provide Edit access and Read-only access. Because of that, Workspaces are a great way to create a collaborative development environment. Multiple developers can access the same content in a workspace with edit access.
Workspaces are better used for a development environment but not for the end-user environment. The main reason is that having one workspace for the dev or user environment makes it hard to develop if a developer makes a change, the end user will be affected immediately. Managing multiple workspaces is not also an easy job.
Other sharing methods are explained below.