An Unexpected Discovery at “The Experts Conference” 

In September 2023, I had the privilege of attending “The Experts Conference” in Atlanta, Georgia. Among the many sessions that unfolded during this event, one discussion led by Sean Visser and Gary Hughes from Quest Software caught my attention. Little did I know that what I was about to learn would challenge the conventional approach to Power BI migrations and provide a refreshing perspective on this intricate process. 

The Power BI Migration Conundrum 

Microsoft Power BI, with its incredible data visualization capabilities, has become a staple for organizations seeking to gain insights from their data. However, the challenge arises when you need to move your Power BI resources from one tenant to another. It’s like trying to transport a delicate and intricate piece of art – meticulous planning and utmost care are essential. 

According to a recent report by Gartner, for the sixteenth consecutive year, Microsoft has been positioned as a Leader in the 2023 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms.

“Currently, one vendor — Microsoft — dominates the market in terms of user adoption. The massive growth of the Microsoft Power BI cloud service has continued, fueled largely by the bundling of this product with Office 365 (at E5 license level) at a greatly reduced price. The increasing integration of Power BI with Microsoft Teams fuels further growth, given the importance of remote working.” 

With such popularity and adoption, it’s no wonder that many organizations are facing the need to migrate their Power BI resources to new tenants, either due to mergers and acquisitions, rebranding, or compliance reasons. 

The Complexity Quagmire 

Migrating Power BI isn’t a straightforward affair. It involves a multitude of components – workspaces, reports, data sources, gateways, sensitivity labels, and dataflows. To add to the complexity, each of these components has its own set of intricacies that must be navigated meticulously. 

  • Understanding Power BI Components: The first hurdle is gaining a comprehensive understanding of each Power BI component’s usage and significance. Without this knowledge, you’re essentially navigating in the dark. For instance, data sources in Power BI can be either imported or connected via Direct Query or Live Connection, each with its own advantages and limitations. Similarly, gateways in Power BI are required to enable secure data transfer between on-premises and cloud sources. These concepts may not be familiar to users who are accustomed to other BI tools. 
  • Identifying Stakeholders: In the migration process, it’s vital to identify stakeholders and owners who play a role. Without clear ownership, confusion can ensue. For example, who is responsible for creating and managing workspaces? Who has access to reports and data sources? Who can assign sensitivity labels and dataflows? These questions need to be answered before initiating the migration. 
  • License and Capacity: Ensuring that the licenses and capacity in the target tenant align with your requirements is akin to ensuring your vehicle has enough fuel for a long journey. You need to consider factors such as the number of users, the size of datasets, the frequency of refreshes, and the availability of features. You also need to account for any changes in pricing or functionality that may occur during or after the migration. 

Microsoft Platform Migration Planning and Consolidation

Simplify migration planning, overcome migration challenges, and finish projects faster while minimizing the costs, risks and disruptions to users.

The Eureka Moment: Pipelining Custom Applications 

While the session covered a plethora of invaluable insights, one revelation stood out as a game-changer – pipelining custom applications during Power BI and Power Platform migrations. This approach, though unconventional to most migration engineers and project managers, promises to be the silver bullet for a seamless and efficient migration process for large business-critical applications. 

Heard at TEC: Mastering the Art of Power BI Migrations using Development Pipelines 
Figure 1: Power BI Migration Layers

What Is Pipelining? 

Pipelining custom applications involves using standard development pipelines to move application components and code from the source to the target tenant. In essence, it’s like packing your precious artwork in a specially designed, shock-absorbing crate for a safe journey. 

The Magic of Pipelining 

Here’s why pipelining custom applications is a masterstroke: 

  • Standardization: It leverages the power of standard development pipelines, reducing the risk of errors and inconsistencies. By using tools such as Azure DevOps or GitHub Actions, you can create workflows that automate the migration of your application components and code from one tenant to another. You can also use version control and branching strategies to manage changes and track progress. 
  • Efficiency: By automating the process, pipelining reduces manual efforts and the likelihood of human error, making the migration more efficient. You can also use parallelism and concurrency to speed up the migration by running multiple tasks simultaneously. For example, you can migrate multiple workspaces or reports at once instead of doing them one by one. 
  • Validation: It allows for thorough testing and validation in the new tenant, ensuring that any issues are identified and resolved before they become migration roadblocks. You can use tools such as Power BI Report Builder or Power BI Desktop to preview and test your reports in the target tenant before publishing them. You can also use tools such as Power BI Service or Power BI Admin Portal to monitor and troubleshoot your data sources, gateways, sensitivity labels, and dataflows in the target tenant. 
  • Business Continuity: Pipelining ensures that critical applications remain operational during the migration, minimizing downtime and maintaining business continuity. You can use tools such as Power BI Embedded or Power BI Premium to embed your reports and dashboards in your applications and websites, allowing your users to access them without interruption. You can also use tools such as Power BI Data Protection or Power BI Backup and Restore to safeguard your data and resources from any potential loss or corruption during the migration. 

The Bottom Line: Simplified Success 

This session with Sean Visser and Gary Hughes at TEC 2023 offered a fresh perspective on Power BI migrations. While many methods exist for various migration components, pipelining custom enterprise applications emerged as an innovative and efficient approach that promises to simplify the journey. Pipelining custom applications allows you to leverage standard development pipelines, automate the process, validate the results, and ensure business continuity.  

Imagine your Power BI resources as pieces of priceless art, and pipelining as the specially designed crate that ensures their safe arrival at their new home. As organizations embark on Power BI and Power Platform migrations, embracing this unconventional method may just be the secret to a smoother, more successful journey. It’s time to master the art of Power BI migrations, one pipeline at a time. If you would like to know more, be sure to check out Sean’s blogs on planning, evaluating, and performing tenant-to-tenant Power BI migrations.  

About the Author

Richard Dean

Richard is a seasoned product leader and solutions architect with over 25 years in the IT industry, specializing in Microsoft Cloud & Hybrid technologies. As Quest's Senior Manager of Technical Product Management, he excels in managing complex Microsoft 365 challenges. Richard is a certified Microsoft Professional, speaker, blogger, and podcaster. He co-hosts the Practical 365 podcast, sharing insights on Microsoft 365. Recently, he co-hosted The Experts Conference (TEC) 2023 in Atlanta, GA, presenting on multi-tenant management solutions. Passionate about sharing knowledge, Richard helps organizations succeed in their digital transformation journey.

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