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February 01
Building Dashboards: SharePoint On-Premises, Office 365 & Power BI

​Business Intelligence Dashboards allow organizations to provide business stakeholders with insights into their organization’s performance by organizing unstructured data and displaying it through a clear and intuitive visual interface. By displaying this data, organizations can visually capture and represent both performance trends and real-time metrics that will help drive effective decision making.

Over the past few years, more and more organizations have asked us how to build visual dashboards to display important data and information. With all the different platforms, applications and tools available today, I wanted to provide an overview of each option and which would be most beneficial to your organization.

SharePoint On-Premises has contained core features for dashboards based on components such as Excel Services (not SharePoint 2016) all the way to PerformancePoint. Each one has its merits and serves its purpose. The benefit of utilizing Excel Services is that most users already know how to create an Excel chart or list of data.

This is isolated to Excel files, although you can consume external data through Excel. But, if you are moving to SharePoint 2016 this is not your option, as this function has been moved to Office Online Server now.

Not long ago, Microsoft released PowerView and PowerPivot, which allows the data you have to be sliced and diced to allow creation of rich charts as part of the dashboard. However, the issue here is that it is often limited to creating them using client software and then consuming something like a spreadsheet within Excel Services.

Microsoft added, PerformancePoint, its own Business Intelligence solution into SharePoint. It offers a rich experience through its “Dashboard Designer” and is an Office type application ready to configure your data connections and layouts.

Using this tool, you can create the data models that connect to your data, whether it is a spreadsheet, a database or even an Analysis cube. Users have the ability to create reports which can include any type of ODBC data connection allowing for a rich dashboard. What’s great about this is that SharePoint List data can be consumed easily and then used to create the reports and charts you need. The core components are scorecards, reports and filters.

Using this data, it can then be transformed into a chat that allows for drill down as well as other filtering, however this needs to be all done manually. The big key here is that the data has to be crafted into a format that is conducive to the types of reports and displays that you wish to create.

An approach that has been around for a while is to utilize SQL reporting services, directly connected and surfaced through SharePoint.

On-Premises SharePoint as a product is a little limited on what can it can do. Most of the Business Intelligence components have not received any updates even into SharePoint 2016. However, Office 365 has received all new features such as Power BI that allows greater design, creating and publishing of dashboards using On-Premises data via the Data Gateway or cloud data using in-built connectors.

Power BI truly is the way the I would recommend you create dashboards, especially as you can embed them into your SharePoint site. In fact, if you have moved to SharePoint 2016 and also SQL 2016 with SQL Reporting Services 2016, then elements of the reports can be embedded into the On-Premises and into Power BI. Microsoft also enhanced this further by releasing a preview of Power BI On-Premises, more details can be found here:

Once data has been added to Power BI either online or through the desktop application you can layout the different controls as needed.

Drill downs are easy to create as they are tied to the component you determine that needs it.

With the intersection of On-Premises SharePoint, Business Intelligence solutions that span both the On-Premises and Cloud components are more important than ever.

SharePoint 2016 On-Premises in a Hybrid configuration to Office 365, combined with Power BI On-Premises, SQL 2016 On-Premises and Power BI in Office 365, is a great stack that organizations of any size can utilize to create great dashboards and reports.

To learn more about Dashboards and Business Intelligence, contact us at

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