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How to Export from Power BI to Excel – An Overview of Methods

Whenever we talk about data tools we always joke about the time-to-Excel. It stands for the amount of time a user will be in the tool before they choose to export to a more familiar software like Excel to customize the data exactly the way they want. This happens more often than many would like to admit, and it’s hardly something to be shy about. If you’re wondering how to export from Power BI to Excel we’ve got a handy chart for you to compare the available methods. Below, I explain how to get from different parts of the Power BI ecosystem back to Excel when preferred.

Power BI, as a tool, is primarily meant for data exploration and analysis within the tool – that is, Power BI Desktop, the Power BI Service (powerbi.com), or other parts of the Power BI ecosystem. Exporting for further analysis is not the primary goal of the platform.

Luckily for those who would much rather work with the familiar worksheet view, there are ways to manipulate data from Power BI in Excel. I’ve listed them below in order from the easiest and most complete to the most difficult and least complete.

Exporting from Power BI to Excel

MethodRequirementsOutput FormatRow LimitOther LimitationsPremium/
Embedded
Pro
Connect to Data Mart/Warehouse Directly
(No Power BI)
View Access to Data Mart/WarehouseAny (as allowed by tool)NoneNoneNoNo
Export from Paginated Reports (Desktop)Paginated Report Builder, View Access to Data Source or Build Permission to Shared PBI DatasetCSV, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, PDF, XML, MHTMLNoneNoneNoNo
Export using DAX StudioView Access to Data Mart/WarehouseCSV, SQL ServerNoneLocal HardwareNoNo
Connect to Data Mart/Warehouse with Excel Power QueryView Access to Data Mart/WarehouseExcelExcel – 1,048,576None*NoNo
Analyze in Excel from Power BI ServiceView Access to Workspace or AppExcelExcel – 1,048,576NoneNoMaybe*
Export from Paginated Reports (Published to Service)View Access to Workspace or AppCSV, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, PDF, XML, MHTMLNoneUnable to change table structure from how report was builtYesMaybe*
Copy from Power BI Desktop Data View (Table View) to ExcelPower BI Desktop, View Access to Data Source or Build Permission to Share PBI DatasetExcelExcel – 1,048,576Local HardwareNoNo
Export from Power BI Service VisualView Access to Workspace or AppExcel or CSVExcel – 150k
CSV – 30k
Limited by Visual Summarization*NoMaybe*
Export from Power BI Desktop VisualPower BI Desktop, View Access to Data Source or Build Permission to Share PBI DatasetExcelExcel – 30kLimited by Visual SummarizationNoMaybe*

*Please note that the values above are for Import reports. DirectQuery reports have slightly different export limits when limited.

Further Reading:

Excel Power Query Limitations – https://support.office.com/en-us/article/power-query-specifications-and-limits-5fb2807c-1b16-4257-aa5b-6793f051a9f4

Paginated Report Limitations – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/paginated-reports/paginated-reports-report-builder-power-bi#limitations-and-considerations

Paginated Report FAQs – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/power-bi/paginated-reports/paginated-reports-faq

Helpful Links:

Power BI Desktop Download: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=58494

Power BI Paginated Report Download: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=58158

Excel Power Query Download: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=39379

 

Using Power BI for SharePoint Analytics

Here at DevFacto, we love SharePoint. But we also believe that its the value is fully realized only when users leverage it in their daily work.

The thing is that organizations don’t always know how their employees are using SharePoint. Luckily, there are various tools that can help you track SharePoint user adoption – in fact, Microsoft provides some valuable SharePoint Analytics right out of the box. However, if you’re looking for a more robust SharePoint reporting solution, you might want to consider integrating your SharePoint with Power BI. In this article we’ll show you how the built-in SharePoint Analytics stack up against Power BI, and which solution might be optimal for your organization.

To start, let’s take a look at the reporting capabilities that come with SharePoint out of the box.

Built-in SharePoint Reporting Capabilities

Depending on whether you are using SharePoint Online or On-Premise, your solution will have some form of built-in analytics:

Usage Reports

Usage reports are meant to show statistics about how visitors have interacted with SharePoint content. All usage reports are broken down per event usage. This means, for example, that you are able to see the number of views or number of recommendations displayed for an item. The two main reports included are the Most Popular Items and Popularity Trends. This offering is only available in SharePoint On-Premise.

Site Usage

Site usage visuals are available to all users on your SharePoint site. The site usage visual shows information such as unique viewers, total site visits, site traffic insights, as well as what’s being shared with external users. These reports don’t offer details, serving rather as a quick snippet of very high-level information. Here is an example of what a Site Usage report looks like:

SharePoint site usage report

Click to enlarge. SharePoint site usage report

Site Activity Web Part

The site activity web part can be added to a modern web page on your SharePoint site. It shows documents that are being edited, added or deleted within your SharePoint site.

Audit Log Reports

The audit log reports are meant to track who is opening SharePoint files and folders in any site, and what they are doing with those files. Not all information tracked is available in SharePoint On-Premise and SharePoint Online. These audit log reports are very detailed and display information in a line-by-line format.

Office 365 Admin Center Reports

The Office 365 admin center reports are only available for SharePoint online. In the O365 Admin Center you can view application usage on a user-by-user basis, however the information is limited and does not offer usage insights. This is a high-level report that is only available to administrators of Office 365.

For us at DevFacto, this is what an Office 365 admin center reports looks like:

SharePoint Admin Center Report

Click to enlarge. SharePoint Admin Center Report – Site Usage by User

Office 365 Adoption Content Pack

The Office 365 Adoption Content Pack is a detailed Power BI report created by Microsoft. It visually shows summary analytics about Office 365 adoption. However, it is only available for SharePoint Online with Office 365. While only Office 365 administrators have full control over the information, they are able to grant permissions to various people within the company. This is what an out of the box Microsoft 365 Power BI report looks like:

Microsoft 365 Usage Analytics - O365 Adoption Content Pack

Click to Enlarge. Microsoft 365 Usage Analytics – O365 Adoption Content Pack

Limitations with built-in SharePoint Analytics

Although the out of the box offerings for SharePoint Analytics provide a lot of information, they do come with some limitations:

1. The data isn’t quite what you need to make quick decisions

All these offerings are presented either as a generalized summary analytics or as un-summarized information. For example, the Site Usage visuals show quick summary charts that don’t give you in-depth detail, while the Audit Log Reports show line-by-line data but no summary analytics. Depending on your situation, you may want to view summary and drill-down into detail, or vice versa.

2. The most detailed data available isn’t the right detail

Understanding how the users interact with SharePoint content is the most important aspect of adoption monitoring. You may want to know which users are visiting which sites, which users are not using any sites, which sites are visited the most, which devices are being used to access your site, etc. However, none of the OOTB offerings show the detail that you might be searching for, which likely means you will have to come to conclusions on your own or summarize the data yourself.

3. No single spot for conclusive insights

Since the six built-in offerings all show different data, you may find yourself going to different spots track down information. This means sifting through large volumes of data, just to find relevant insights. In addition to that, some of the offerings are available only on SharePoint Online or only on SharePoint On-Premises, but not both.

4. The data comes in all forms

Some of the data comes in the form of excel spreadsheets, while other in the form of online charts or visualizations. For this reason, it becomes impossible to combine all sources of data together and to get a quick picture of the situation.

5. There is no ability to set permission levels

Companies often want to set up SharePoint reports based on permission levels. For example, your CIO may want to view all summary information to understand how the company is adopting SharePoint. On the other hand, your Operations Manager may want to view a slice of detailed information related to everyday operations. Unfortunately, this kind of functionality does not currently exist in SharePoint out of the box. While some reports (such as the audit reports) are only available to admins, they aren’t easily accessible to others in your organization.

Automating SharePoint Analytics with Power BI

So, is there a better way to report SharePoint usage? And, ideally, can you do it using the tools you already have? Being huge fans of simple, user-friendly Power BI dashboards we developed a solution that integrates these two applications giving you full visibility of your SharePoint metrics in one centralized location. By far, the best thing about it is the ability to monitor all your key SharePoint metrics at a glance and drill into detailed data when needed. The dashboard makes it easy to understand you organization’s SharePoint usage and to make quick, informed decisions based on your own data. What’s more, our reporting solution works for both SharePoint Online and SharePoint On-Premise which means that you can get the insights you need no matter which version you’re using. This solution combines Power BI and Azure Application Insights to automatically deliver reliable SharePoint usage information.

What kind of data can you track with by integrating SharePoint with Power BI? Here are some examples of insights you can get from this automated SharePoint analytics solutions:

  • The total number of users per day;
  • Users are using or not using your sites, folders and files;
  • Sites that are used the most and/or the least;
  • Browser types used to access SharePoint;
  • Types of devices that connect to your sites.

In addition to that, the solution can collect other usage data that are important to your company.

Here is what our DevFacto SharePoint usage dashboard looked like at a point in time:

SharePoint Site Usage Report in PowerBI

Click to enlarge. Reporting SharePoint Usage in Power BI

Benefits of Using Power BI for SharePoint Reporting

Here is how you can benefit from leveraging this Power BI and Azure App Insights based solution in reporting your oranization’s SharePoint usage.

1. Get the right depth out of your data

By integrating SharePoint with Power BI you can access both summary statistics and in-depth data about your SharePoint adoption. You can choose which view is the most important to you and dive deeper when you see appropriate.

2. Only see the data that is important to you

Unlike the OOTB offerings that show you all of the available data regardless of your needs, Power BI dashboard is easily tailored to your actual usage. This means that you can choose to see only the data that matters to you, and nothing more.

3. Automate SharePoint Reporting

Thanks to Azure App Insights, your data updates automatically, which means your reports are available on-demand anytime.

4. Set permission levels and change views

With different user types you can tailor access to data based on job needs giving the right data to those who need them.

5. Access all SharePoint usage data is in one place

By using Power BI for SharePoint analytics you can access all your reports in one central location eliminating redundancy.

6. Leverage the Microsoft Stack

All technologies involved in this solution are a part of the Microsoft stack. This means no additional enterprise agreements and little to no added ongoing costs.

Best of all? This solution is simple and inexpensive, so you can get started quickly.

 

Need help with gaining deeper business insights from your SharePoint analytics? Get in touch. We can help you integrate your SharePoint with Power BI for reliable and accessible SharePoint usage metrics.

Surfacing On-Premise Data in Power BI

If you have been looking at Power BI, or are in the process of implementing it, one of the things you have undoubtedly wondered about is whether you can surface your on-premise data in Power BI. The short answer is yes, and in this blog post, I’m going to walk through how that is done within the context of Power BI. I’ll talk about the difference between accessing on-prem data using Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service. I’ll also talk about using the Power BI Personal Gateway and the Power BI Enterprise Gateway to give Power BI Service secure access to your on-prem data.

Before we dive in, I must point out that Power BI is an ever-changing tool, and the information in this guide at some point might go out of date. We do our best to keep this post current, but if you notice that there’s new information that’s missing, let us know in the comments.

Desktop vs. Service

When it comes to Power BI, there are two main ways to use it: Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service. Power BI Desktop is a free desktop app you can download to your computer. In this app, you can connect to data and create reports and dashboards. Power BI Service is a web app within Office 365 that you log into and do the same kinds of things as you did in the Desktop version. In addition to that, you can also publish from Power BI Desktop to Power BI Service and share your dashboards with others. There are some differences between the two products, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. What’s important to know is that there are two pieces, and they can be used separately or together to super-charge your Power BI experience.

In April 2019, Microsoft also released Power BI Report Builder, a new desktop application focused on building paginated reports that can be hosted in the Power BI Service. This is a separate application from Power BI Desktop, and is effectively the SSRS report builder for connecting to Power BI datasets.

On-Premise Data Using Power BI Desktop

If you are already using Excel to connect to these data sources, the idea is the same. When you’re inside your corporate network, you can easily use Power BI Desktop to connect to your data sources. However, once you leave your network, there would need to be external connectivity enabled for the on-prem data source. Sometimes, though, how you connect can change depending on whether you are in the network or not. This means you might need to make some adjustments every time you move. For example, when you are at work, you connect to the sales database by connecting to “SalesDB”, but when you are working from home, you might need to type “sales.apps.contoso.com” to get the same access. What you need to consider when using Power BI Desktop is where the data is stored and how it is accessed.

Power BI Service

If you are already using Office 365’s Excel Online to connect to source data, the procedure you’ll follow for Power BI Service will be the same. There is a shared workspace in the cloud that people can connect to and access files. This data needs to be refreshed for all users, which means the data source needs to be accessible from that server. In Power BI Service, you would use a Power BI Gateway to allow Power BI Service to access your data in a secure fashion. For data sources that are not externally available, you would install a gateway on a machine (typically a server) in your corporate network. Once the gateway is configured, it acts as a go-between for the Power BI Service and your data. When the Power BI Service needs to get data, it asks the gateway for it. This means you don’t need to expose your data to the entire internet or change authentication mechanisms to get at it. The one thing you need to consider with Power BI Service is how you’re going to access data from outside your organization.

Enterprise Gateway vs. Personal Gateway

There are two choices when it comes to gateways: Enterprise Gateway or Personal Gateway. The difference between these two options comes down to governance and data sources you can use.

Let’s start with the Personal Gateway. The user installs the Personal Gateway onto a personal use computer, usually a desktop or laptop machine, and points the gateway to any Excel workbooks or Power BI Desktop files used as sources. An example would be a user with a desktop computer at work who needs to surface a list of third-party vendors. Once the installation is complete, the gateway will refresh data and send it to the Power BI Service to be used in the corresponding reports.

The Enterprise Gateway does all of this and more. With the Enterprise Gateway, you can have an administrator centrally set up connections to data sources in the company (both files like Excel workbooks but also to databases and cubes), and then specify which users get to use that connection. IT can also see statistics about how these connections are being used. Lastly, these connections can be used for live data access. This means that when a dashboard or report is accessed, the data is pulled live from the on-prem data source instead of from a stored version retrieved with a refresh schedule.

You can use both types of gateways in your organization. By doing that, you maintain governance over important or sensitive data sources with the Enterprise Gateway and ensure that users have the flexibility to collaborate by leveraging the benefits of the Personal Gateway.

Power BI Report Server

For some organizations, publishing their reports to the Power BI Service is not practical (or not allowed) even if the data stays on premises (which is the focus of this post). Power BI Report Server is an option in this scenario because it allows to connect on-premises data in published reports without using any cloud services. Power BI Report Server does not have all the functionality of the Power BI Service, nonetheless it’s a useful tool for sharing and securing data and reports for users.

In Summary

In this post, we talked about Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service, and how the two are different when it comes to accessing on-prem data. We also covered the differences between the Power BI Personal Gateway and the Power BI Enterprise Gateway. If you want to know more about Power BI, or you have questions about the material I discussed in this post, reach out to us.

Resources for Power BI Desktop:

https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/powerbi-desktop-getting-started/

https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/powerbi-desktop-data-sources/

Resources for Power BI Service:

https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/powerbi-service-get-started/

https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/powerbi-service-get-data/

https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/powerbi-personal-gateway/

https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/powerbi-gateway-enterprise/