Saturday, November 26, 2016

Power BI Content Packs

What are Power BI Content Packs?
For popular SaaS applications like SalesForce, Dynamics 365, Google Analytics, etc., Microsoft has built a collection of data models, dashboards, and reports and made them available for Power BI users to consume. This pre-packaged collection of data models, dashboards, and reports is called Content Pack. Simply put, Content Packs provide out-of-the-box connectors to popular SaaS applications with a prebuilt data model, reports, and dashboards; these dashboards and reports can be customized (“personalized”) if required to fit our own requirements. In just a matter of a few minutes, you can use content packs to get immediate insights into my data. Another great thing about content packs is that you do not require Power BI Pro to be able to use them (Power BI Free can be used).

Limitations of content packs
The following are some of the limitations of content packs:
1. Generic: Content packs are generic in the sense that they only include standard entities from the SaaS applications. For example, if you are using Dynamics 365 CRM content pack, you’ll find that it only includes the standard, out-of-the-box entities from your CRM system – any custom entities/tables from your CRM system are not included.
2. Lack of extensibility: Content packs are not customizable. The reports, dashboards in the content packs can be customized but the data model can’t be modified. For example, if you are using Dynamics 365 CRM Content Pack and you want to add custom entities from your CRM, you are out of luck.
Update – Microsoft recently published an article that explains how to customize Dynamics 365 Content Packs - Customize Microsoft Dynamics 365 Power BI content packs

You can get around these limitations by creating your own content packs and sharing them with your co-workers - these are called Organizational Content Packs. The main difference between the “standard” content packs from Microsoft and the organizational content packs is that the standard content packs are built by Microsoft (soup to nuts), whereas the organizational content packs are something we’ll have to create on our own, from scratch. Organizational content packs require Power BI Pro (paid license).

Accessing/consuming content packs
The standard content packs provided by Microsoft can only be accessed using Power BI Service (they are NOT accessible using Power BI Desktop). Follow these steps to connect to/consume a content pack.

1. In Power BI Service, click on the Get Data option in the navigation bar

2. Under Content Pack Library, click on Services. Below is the screenshot for step #1 and #2.



3. The Power BI AppSource window opens up. Locate your content pack or search for one in the search box.



4. Click on the Get button on the selected content pack. The screen shot below shows a content pack for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.



5. The next dialogue box asks for the service URL as shown below. Enter you Service URL and click next.



6. In the next dialogue box, select the appropriate authentication method (for my CRM Service, I've selected OAuth2) and sign in using your account.



7. Once you sign in, Power BI will establish a connection with your service (in my case, with my CRM Online instance), and will import all the required data. In just a few minutes, all the reports, dashboards, etc. will be ready for use. 

Note: The dataset from the content pack will automatically refresh once a day and you can schedule it to refresh at a particular time (click on the ellipsis next to the dataset and select 'Scheduled Refresh'). You can also refresh the data more frequently than once a day if you have Power BI Pro.

Hope this is helpful. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

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