Are you looking to get started on a Power BI project but not sure how to estimate project costs? This guide will help you understand many of the factors involved in the cost of a Power BI project and give you tips on how to mitigate some of those costs.
Factor 1 - Data Complexity
When business people think about Power BI projects, they tend to think that most of the work involved is in creating pretty charts and graphs.However, when Power BI experts think about Power BI projects they know that most of the work involves data massaging and formatting and a relatively small fraction actually goes into working within the Power BI interface.
While it is indeed possible to do data consolidation and manipulation within Power BI, doing so significantly raises the complexity of the reporting logic within Power BI. As a result, seasoned Power BI professionals prefer to work with data sets that are already “pre-digested” for consumption by the analytics tool.
Many projects that are called “Power BI projects” in name are, in reality, data warehousing / data mart projects where Power BI is simply the visualization tool placed on top of the data warehouse. This means that a substantial portion of the cost of the project will not be related to Power BI itself, but rather the process of extracting, transforming, and loading a data warehouse and massaging the data into a format that is easily consumed by the Power BI frontend.
Are all your data sources consolidated into one data warehouse, or are they scattered across databases, spreadsheets, and source systems? The least complex projects have all their data already integrated into one centralized data warehouse, and the role of the Power BI developer is to create views on top of that data store. Most organizations, however, turn to Power BI out of frustration regarding the availability of data, and come to realize that there are many more steps to traverse before they can even use Power BI in an effective way.
Factor 2 - Industry Complexity
If you need to create Power BI dashboards, chances are that you are seeking to solve a particular business problem. These business problems are often very industry specific and require the knowledge of business processes and terminology that might not be clear to the average Power BI developer. Though the Power BI developer/team might not need to know every aspect of the business processes, it helps for the developer to know basic terminology and the methodology and reasoning behind certain calculations. The complexity of this knowledge transfer might take additional time and meetings back and forth for clarification.
Factor 3 - Dashboard/Report Complexity
It is very easy to create simple reports in Power BI based on existing, pre-calculated data. Counts, averages, sums, even simple statistical measures are all built into Power BI for basic field data. Complications arise however if you want to create reports where calculations are based on multiple fields, and especially calculations based on multiple levels of aggregation. In these cases it is often preferable to run and store the results of your calculation in the backend data store rather than in Power BI. If it is absolutely not possible to perform these calculations ahead of time, be prepared for extra time and cost for these calculations to be performed in the tool itself.
Factor 4 - Report Distribution Complexity
The fourth factor that goes into determining a Power BI project pricing is where the solution will be hosted and how the resulting reports will be distributed.
Power BI Desktop
The simplest hosting/distribution model for a developer is to create the reports locally and then export those reports to PDF, Excel, Powerpoint, or other file formats that the target audience can open on their local machines. This approach is common in small organizations where there might be one data analyst who is producing and distributing reports to a relatively small number of people.
Server-Based Power BI Report Distribution
Hosting Power BI on a server has a number of benefits to organizations including easier report distribution, faster and more consistent connections to data sources, centralized security around reports, and potentially more extensive computing resources dedicated to the number crunching at the heart of Power BI. Power BI professional and above licenses come with the ability to create workspaces. These workspaces are hosted in Microsoft Azure and allow for the distribution of reports to other report developers and end users.
Embedded Power BI Reports
Sometimes organizations wish to take advantage of the richness of Power BI reporting within the context of other systems. Power BI provides the ability to display Power BI reports within the context of other web and desktop applications.
Power BI Report Server
A step up in terms of sophistication from Power BI Desktop is Power BI Report Server. Report Server is included with Power BI premium and is ideal for organizations that do not wish to move their Power BI reports to the cloud for any number of reasons (security, cost, personnel, compliance, etc).