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Using Power BI for SharePoint Analytics

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

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 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. Site usage reports are meant to be a quick snippet of very high-level information; no detail is provided.

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 displayed 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. It is intended to be very high-level and is only available to administrators of Office 365.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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. This makes it impossible to combine all sources of data together to view a quick summary snippet of your information.

There is no ability to set permission levels

Companies often want to set up SharePoint reports based on permission levels. For example, your CEO 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, ideally, by 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 and helping you make quick, informed decisions based on actual SharePoint usage. This reporting solution works for both SharePoint Online and On-Premise and combines Power BI and Azure Application Insights to deliver reliable SharePoint usage information.

By integrating SharePoint with Power BI you can track all key SharePoint metrics and determine which users are using/not using your sites, folders and files; which sites are getting used and which aren’t; which browser types are being utilized; what devices are connecting to which sites; or what is the number total users per day. In addition to that, the solution can be configured to collect other usage data that are important to your company.

SharePoint Site Usage Report in PowerBI

Click to enlarge. Reporting SharePoint Usage in Power BI

Benefits of Using Power Bi for SharePoint Reporting

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.

Only see the data that is important to you

Whereas the OOTB offerings 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.

Automate SharePoint Reporting

Thanks to Azure App Insights, the process of updating your data is completely automated and which means your reports are available on-demand anytime.

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.

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.

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, allowing you to 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.

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