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  • Ben Watt

Power BI: Smart Metric User Guide

Recently I built a dashboard for a client that sourced data from a large and varied number of data sources. It helped monitor a wide array of functions in a manufacturing plant with metrics to drive the audience to action where necessary.

Given the varied nature of both data sources and their refresh rates, I wanted to provide easy-to-consume documentation without having to make everyone read pages & pages of wordy explanations. The result was a metric-by-metric diagram that clearly explained both the source & refresh rates.

It landed well with the customer, I'll be using it again so I thought I'd share with you.

Take a look at the example below which allows you to select a metric & quickly understand how it's sourced & refreshed.

Sample Metric Smart Guide

Click on the metrics to see user-friendly doco on each one.

Know your audience

Firstly, this page is designed 100% for business users and 0% for BI developers. It's not a data lineage diagram! As such, I don't use technical terms like ETL & Dimensions or mention BI products like Power Automate & Azure Data Factory.

I do talk about business systems like Dynamics CRM or SAP which users can relate too.

Consider these two sentences, and then decide which a business user is going to absorb:

"The nightly ETL process loads loads last 24-hour transactions from SAP table T042S and does an incremental load and merge into the FactExpense table in SQL Server. A Power Automate Flow is triggered when the Forecast Excel file is updated and copies the file to Azure storage"


"We grab the expenses and forecast data overnight"

How did I build it?

I create the diagrams in PowerPoint, using icons and some descriptive text. Between the Azure icons page and PowerPoint's built-in icons, I have plenty of images to choose from. When your image is finished you can select all of the objects and Save-As Picture.

Each image is saved to an Azure storage account, with a container created specifically for hosting images. The container Public Access Level is set to "Public read access for blobs only". This allows Power BI to use the images on the report page.

I create a table using DAX to list out each metric & it's associated Image URL in the storage container. This step could be done in Power Query, or indeed maintained in a Excel file if there's a lot to manage.

Smart Metric Diagrams = DATATABLE(
    {1, "Delivery Times","https://yourcontainer/image1.png"},
    {2, "Sales Metrics","https://yourcontainer/image2.png"},
    {3, "Expense Metrics","https://yourcontainer/image3.png"}

On the report page I use two custom visuals. The Chiclet Slicer and Simple Image. I add some descriptive & friendly text to let the user know what the page is, and they can go ahead & click through each metric to see how its made.

Sharing is Caring

I've uploaded an example Power BI and PowerPoint file I used to create this example to my Power BI Gallery. Have a look & you can try this yourself.

Also, take a look at the Azure icons page in the gallery I shared ages ago. It might help you find what you need: Azure Icons Power BI Gallery


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