Microsoft Previewing New Workspace Experiences in Power BI

After getting feedback from Power BI users, Microsoft is making changes to make it easier for users to create and use App Workspaces.

Power BI

Microsoft is rolling out a public preview of new App Workspaces changes being made for Power BI users that will make it easier for them to create and manage access for workspaces, while also adding some new tools for administrators.

The preview, which is being rolled out through Aug. 11, is designed to make it easier for enterprises to manage Power BI at scale, according to an Aug. 7 post by Lukasz Pawlowski, a Microsoft senior program manager, on the Microsoft Power BI Blog.

The changes included in the preview version of the new features came from Power BI users who offered ideas on how to better enable collaboration and content management of Power BI content, wrote Pawlowski.

"When we introduced App Workspaces in May of 2017, we focused on the importance of enabling a data-driven culture, so business users can make better, faster, data-driven decisions," he wrote. "We've seen Power BI apps take off, with tens of thousands of apps being installed monthly."

One of the new improvements is the ability to manage access to workspaces more easily using security groups, distribution lists and multiple Office 365 Groups, which were not previously possible. Power BI administrators are also now able to create a workspace in Power BI without having to create an Office 365 Group using the preview version.

For Power BI administrators, several new tools are designed to make things easier to create and manage, according to Microsoft. Administrators are getting new Power BI Admin REST APIs and PowerShell commandlets to manage the workspaces, instead of creating Office 365 Groups as in the past, wrote Pawlowski. Those controls will be used from within the Power BI Admin portal.

More options and features will be added to the portal as the preview continues to develop, according to the post. Those changes will help ensure that administrators will be able to delete and restore as well as add or remove Admins in workspaces when using the new workspace experience.

To make the transition to the new workspaces in the public preview, App workspaces built on top of Office 365 Groups will now be the default and users can opt-in to create workspaces using the new workspace experience, wrote Pawlowski.

"When we reach General Availability (GA) for the new workspace experiences, all workspaces will be created using the new workspaces infrastructure," he wrote. "We will discontinue the ability to create workspaces that create an Office 365 Group."

Instead, project developers will add a setting to the new workspace experience that will allow a workspace in Power BI to be associated with an Office 365 Group, he wrote. That will enable similar capabilities in today's App workspaces, including being able to see the Office 365 Group's OneDrive in the Get Data menu and the Files menu for quick access to OneDrive, he wrote.

"Additionally, we'll start offering the ability for users to migrate their existing Office 365 Group based workspaces into the new workspace experience," which will start as an opt-in migration for administrators. "Based on customer feedback, we will then announce when we will automatically migrate all App workspaces built on Office 365 Groups into the new workspace experience."

Another coming development is that content packs will no longer be available in the new workspaces experiences once they are being used. Instead, a wide range of new Power BI apps will over time replace the content packs that were available to users. The move is being made because it is easier for users to locate needed apps through a centralized apps list, wrote Pawlowski.

Since all the Power BI apps are not yet ready for users, Microsoft will continue to support content packs for now in app workspaces built on Office 365 Groups so existing processes are not impacted for users, he wrote.

"With the new workspaces experiences, we're starting our journey to discontinue content packs and fully replace them with Power BI apps," wrote Pawlowski. "We've said in our documentation this would happen, but now with this preview we're taking the first concrete steps in that direction."

Other new features in the preview include the ability to personalize content from within a Power BI app by saving a copy of a report or dashboard to workspaces; new dataset discovery experiences that enable searching for datasets in other workspaces; and the ability to build reports and dashboards from datasets in a different workspace. Users are also now able to copy reports and dashboards between workspaces.

To try the new workspace experiences, users can start by clicking the Create app workspace tab, then click "Preview improved workspaces" and click "Try now."