Dylan Cruz/December 01, 2022 /Power Platform/Power BI/ 4 min read

Power BI dashboards vs. reports: Differences and similarities 

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A common question that arises in the world of Microsoft Power Platform’s Power BI is whether dashboards and reports are the same or if they are connected somehow. It is a fact that modern enterprises need to have a way to control historical data, visualize values and achieve goals. However, there’s a trend to think that dashboards and reports are transposable, avoiding their advantages and disadvantages.  

Understanding the difference between those two concepts will allow you to control them and know which will fit more to be used inside your enterprise. However, the recommendation is to use them both. 

Before discussing these differences and similarities, let’s start with what Power BI reports are for BI Desktop and BI Service. 

What are reports in Power BI? 

Reports, usually, are collections of data focusing on a specific topic. Most of them are static, using tables or text. Sometimes small charts and visuals are added to highlight important information. You can create simple reports in Power BI by adding visuals to the dashboard. Tables with multiple columns work as reports; they are simple and can be opened in focus mode. Also, they can be exported to Excel spreadsheets. 

There are some differences between creating reports inside Power BI Desktop and Power BI Online, such as:

Reports in Power BI Desktop

As mentioned before, Power BI desktop reports can be customized in multiple ways. The headers can have a specific color, total values can be deleted, and you can set cells colors rules. For example, if a case reaches more than six billable hours, set the column to a red color.

Reports in Power BI Service

The real-time connection is the principal difference between the Desktop version and the Service one. Power BI Service is where you publish your completed dashboards or reports. In this case, you’ll be unable to change the report columns. However, data is updated in real-time, so you can access data without needing to update manually.

After this information, we can suggest some things about reports:

Advantages of Reports

  • A simple and concise collection of data that can be analyzed easily.
  • They can be exported to spreadsheets.
  • Reports can be filtered and contain historical data.
  • They are static, offering a more dedicated analysis of the data.

What are Dashboards in Power BI?

Dashboards are visual tools that can be customized to analyze data interactively. A dashboard contains collections of charts, tables or images focused on a theme. They are updated in real-time and don’t have an expiry date.

Dashboards are useful when tracking real-time progress, letting organizations have visual information, and organizing their analytics.

Building Dashboards from Reports

Even when there has always been a disruption between Dashboards and Reports, the truth is that they are intertwined. As a matter of fact, Dashboard creation depends on the reports, basically because they’re dataset collections.

Every time you connect your Power BI dashboard to a static data source (for example, an Excel spreadsheet), you’re creating the dashboard from a report. Basically, to create dashboards from reports, you must use data documents, not real-time connections.

While connecting to a data source, you will be asked to select a Data Connectivity mode, which can be “Import” or “DirectQuery.” If you choose the Import mode, you’ll be automatically creating a report inside Power BI, mostly because this mode creates a snapshot of the data, which you’ll be able to modify as you want.

Also, if you’re looking to create dashboards, you can refer to our blog: 5 ideas and recommendations to create dashboards with Power BI.

In fact, we can define some important things about dashboards:

Advantages of Dashboards

  • They’re interactive and visual, and easy to analyze.
  • Dashboards can be customized to specific audiences to be more effective.
  • Dashboards can include multiple visuals simultaneously, for example, tables, charts, graphs, etc.
  • They have real-time data.
  • They’re optimal while tracking the daily progress of projects, cases, workers, etc.

Dashboards vs. Reports: Which one to use?

The answer to this question depends on the type of data that you’re willing to analyze. Both options are incredible, and the best part is that Power BI allows you to use both at the same time. Dashboards have great capabilities, and one of their main points is that they contain multiple visuals and charts that allow you to analyze important metrics inside your organization.

On the other hand, reports are usually plain tables that are mostly used by high-level organization users, basically because they are not used to seeing visual data but to seeing important information on specific topics.

Dashboards are created to be interactive. In this case, Power BI allows multiple filters that can be modified inside the same page. For example, a date or a button. One great capability is Power BI Tiles, which can embed dashboards inside PowerPoint presentations or Excel spreadsheets. Also, they can be shared through online service, allowing multiple users to see your dashboards.

Finally, it is important to know the data connection. If you want to track daily progress, a dashboard will be a good fit as it has a real-time connection, and the data will be constantly updated. Instead, reports contain historical data, which is used to see progress through time.

The bottom line

In the end, every analysis tool is a great option to maintain metrics inside your organization. A dashboard will be the best fit if you need daily progress, multiple charts and visuals, real-time data, dynamic interaction, and team sharing. However, if you need static information, high-level information, and study a specific area of your organization, a report will be more useful.

It’s worth noting that you can also bring all your data from Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, as well as Supply Chain Management, Marketing, Human Resources, and more, or embed dashboards inside Power Pages. Building automatizations and connections across the Power Platform allows you to create powerful dashboards that can be useful while seeking important data.

Thank you.

Power BI dashboards vs. reports: Are they really different? 2

I hope you've learned more about the difference and great advantages of Power BI dashboards and reports to bring more value to your business data.

Dylan Cruz

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