Power BI Self-Service in Practice

Note! Since this post was written Power BI Apps has been introduced. The approach is similar, but there are differences. Watch out for a upcoming post on the subject.

When Power BI is introduced in an organization as self-service platform, a number of questions arise on how to organize content in the best way. The challenge is to provide a framework that clearly differentiate between IT-governed and self-serviced reports. At the same time, we need to provide our end-users with the cleanest and easiest to use structure.


In Power BI, we have the two central concepts – workspaces and content packs. However, it is not always obvious how we should utilize them in the most structured way.

The following illustration shows my best-practice setup for self-service using content packs and workspaces in Power BI.



In most cases we are working with four different actors:

  • Consumer – only consuming information from reports and dashboards.
    Typically, 70-90% of the users.
  • Self-Service User – creating reports for consumers to use.
    Typically, 10-20% of the users
  • Data Scientists – creating new data models and introducing new data entities, for themselves or others to use.
    Typically, 0-5% of the users.
  • Developer – responsible for the whole analytics architecture, including the common analysis models and IT-governed reports.


You need to have at least one developer workspace. The purpose of this workspace is to structure and manage IT-managed content packs.

Furthermore, you typically create different workspaces for different information areas (finance, hr, sales, etc.). In order to differentiate between consumers and self-service users you need to create a separate self-service workspace for each information area. When new reports are ready in the self-service workspace they can be updated to the consumer workspace via a content pack.

Content Packs

There are two types of content packs – the ones that are managed by IT (A4) and the ones that are created using self-service (D). These content packs are updated individually and the responsibility for them are manage by different actors.

Detailed description of each step

(A1) The developer is creating reports in Power BI Desktop. In order to store the reports in some kind of source control repository, Power BI Desktop is currently a must. Power BI Desktop files is also key for being able to publish reports to different environments (dev/test/prod).

(A2) The Power BI Desktop file is published to the developer workspace.

(A3) The developer creates content packs from one or many published Power BI Desktop reports (and possibly dashboards).

(A4) The IT-managed content packs are made available for others to use.

(B1) The Data Scientist creates his own data model and report in Power BI Desktop.

(B2) The model and report is published to the self-service workspace.

(C) The Self-Service user is creating reports from existing data sources.

(D) The reports (and possibly data models) are made available in content packs for others to use.

(E) The published content packs are instantiated on consumer workspaces.

(F) The consumer uses the reports (coming from different content packs) in group workspaces or my workspace.


This structure is the way I have found being most efficient in managing IT-governed and self-service content in Power BI. It also provides the largest end-user group (consumers) with the cleanest workspaces.

Let me know what you think. How are you managing content in Power BI?


  1. Oscar Arnesson says:

    This is almost exactly as we are implementing our structure, with the only addition that sometimes the IT department can assist in quality assurance and be responsible for creating the content packs based on data scientist or self-service user content, i.e. a mix of A4 and D when needed.

  2. Alexei says:

    Really interesting stuff. We’re looking at how we structure self-service whilst using Power BI and currently aren’t using content packs or apps so we will explore these further.

    In your model are the ‘self-service’ users building reports within Power BI? If not what medium are these reports in?
    Currently we have a slightly messy split between self-service and “Data Scientist”/”Developer” where the self-service users are building/amending/prettyfying reports based on models built by us (Data Scientist/Developers)

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