I don’t mind being wrong when I learn about something new and great. Currently it is not possible to directly create a new Power BI Desktop report that connects to an existing dataset already loaded to PowerBI.com.  This feature allowing you to connect to an existing dataset in the cloud was delivered in preview mode last week.   Regardless of this new preview feature, over time however there have been a few changes to PowerBI.com that mean it is now quite easy to achieve multiple new reports pointing to the same single dataset.  The key capabilities that have enabled the method I will show you today include:

  1. Good quality “new report” authoring from an existing dataset live on PowerBI.com.  Report authoring wasn’t always this good (in my memory anyway).
  2. Download the new report to your PC as a PBIX file and keep it as a backup.
  3. Make changes to the original data model using Power BI Desktop and make these changes available to the original reports and any new reports that point to the dataset.
  4. As a bonus, it is possible to co-author new reports with others in your organisation and download the collective efforts to a PBIX file.

I’m going to show you how to do these things today.   Incidental, I am using the multi browser tip I learnt from GuyInACube (also Chris Webb) that Adam discussed in this video here to create the screenshots for this post. In short I am able to log into multiple browsers as different users without having to struggle with multiple sign ins etc.  It is very useful.

The Scenario

In short, I am going to

1. Create a Report in Power BI Desktop.

2. Publish to a group workspace.

3. Share the workspace with another user (including edit rights).

4. Create a brand new report using the original data model as the source and co-author the new report.

5. Download the final authored report to the desktop.

6. Enhance the original dataset (created in step 1) in Power BI Desktop and make those enhancements usable in both the original report and the new report created in step 4.

Upload a Power BI Desktop File to PowerBI.com

To demonstrate the report authoring capabilities, I logged in as a user (Training20 shown as 1 below) and uploaded a PBIX file to a group called “Report Author Demo” (shown as 2).  You can see the dataset (shown as 3) and also the PBIX report (shown as 4 below).

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Share the Work Group

The next thing I did was to share this report with another user so we can author some reports together.    This is easy to do using the inbuilt sharing (Pro) features as shown below.

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I shared the workbook with another user (training19) and made sure that user can edit the content.

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Create a New Report

I then switched to the other user (Training19) using the Chrome technique mentioned at the start of this post.

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You can see that I am now user Training19 (shown as 1 above).  I clicked on the shared workgroup (shown as 2) and then selected the dataset (shown as 3).  Note this is a brand new report with new tabs (shown as 4).  I built a quick new report using the data set as shown below.

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When I clicked Save (shown as 2 above), a brand new report is created that is connected to the original Dataset.  There is no need to duplicate the dataset.

Collaborate on Report Design

For the demo, I then logged back in as Training20 (shown as 1) and made some minor changes to the new report shown as 3.

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Of course you can iterate with many users collaborating to build out reports based off the same source dataset.

Download the New Master File

The next thing I did was  to download this new report as a new PBIX file back to the desktop.  I simply clicked on the new report (shown as 1), clicked file (shown as 2) and downloaded the PBIX to the desktop (shown as 3).

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This new PBIX file can be opened in Power BI Desktop, and it includes the original data model as shown below as well as the new reports created in the cloud.

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Modify the Data Model in the Original Workbook

The next thing I did was to make a change to the original dataset (Adventure Works).  I added a new measure [Total Sales MAT] and republished the original report to PowerBI.com.  Of course the original report was updated as expected shown below.  The dataset (1) was updated, the report (2) was updated and the new measure was visible in the Fields list.

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And the really good news is the new report I created earlier (shown as 1 below) also now has access to the new measure (shown as 2 below).

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The implication is that I can create as many new reports online as a like pointing to an existing dataset, and I can update the original dataset and have these changes flow through to the new reports.

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Matt Allington

Matt Allington is a Microsoft MVP specalising in Power Pivot, Power BI and Power Query Consulting and Training based in Sydney Australia. Visit Matt's blog here. 

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. This is a great workaround for pervious versions of PBI. I haven’t tested it but I was under the impression that the latest version of PBI now allows the desktop client to connect directly to datasets loaded into the Service that I would imagine eliminates the requirement to perform this workaround?

    Have you tried out that new feature yet? You may need to enable it in the preview features option(s).

    1. So you are saying you have created a report in the service by selecting an existing dataset, then you change your mind and want to point it to a different dataset? I don’t think that is possible. But I assume the new dataset must be similar to the original one, so why not just alter the old one to resemble the new one and then republish?

  2. Very cool.

    I had seen this option of creating a new report from a dataset and was wondering what would happen when I updated the dataset.

    Very good to know that it will work fine 😀

  3. Great article Matt!
    Having played with the new service, I can say that it does not eliminate the need to do something like this for real co-authoring. The new connector to online PBI datasets is only useful for pure visualization (can’t add measures, can’t see data model, can’t query/add new data sources). Nevertheless, it’s a great direction for development (it’s only the first preview), here’s hoping MS keeps pushing the collaboration & reuse functionality forward.

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