Aveek Das
Edit Parameters

Getting started with parameterized Power BI reports

June 16, 2020 by

In this article, I am going to explain how we can develop parameterized Power BI reports locally and then migrate the same report across multiple environments, like development, QA, and production. Parameterized Power BI reports are essential because we can use the same report to develop the charts and the KPIs and then provide the same report to the QA who will test it on a separate environment and finally when the testing is completed, it can then maybe provided to an administrator who can publish it to the production workspace.

To develop parameterized Power BI reports, we would need to parameterize our data source connection in the Power BI reports while establishing the connection to the source databases. Another important thing to keep in mind for this is to have the source database schema the same across all the environments. This means that the structure of the tables and relationships in the databases must be the same in all the environments. If there are any discrepancies within the schema then the Power BI reports will fail and no longer work as intended.

Preparing the Database Environment

To develop parameterized Power BI reports, we would need to have three different data sources from which we can fetch data into the Power BI environment. Let us now go ahead and prepare our database environment first. In the database server, we are going to create three different databases, one for each development, QA, and production environments. Although in a real scenario, the servers and the databases will be in complete isolation, however, for the sake of this tutorial, we will keep the databases in the same server itself. Head over to SQL Server Management Studio and create the databases. I am going to call the databases as SQLShackDemo_DEV”, “SQLShackDemo_QA” and “SQLShackDemo_PROD”. You can run the following script to create the databases on your machine:

Creating the databases

Figure 1 – Creating the databases

Once the databases are created, let us go ahead and create the tables in it for development, QA, and production. To keep things simple, I am going to add a table called “FactSales” and add only one column “TotalSalesAmount” to all the three tables in the databases. You can add as many tables and columns as you want. Please note that it is extremely mandatory to have the schema exactly the same for the three databases or data sources in order to parameterize the data sources. If the schema is not the same, then the parameterized Power BI report would not be able to fetch the data and hence fail while refreshing the reports. You can use the script below to create the three tables under the databases and insert some test data into it:

With this, we have completed our database development. Now let us move to the Power BI Report development.

Developing the Power BI Report

Now that our database environment has been set up, we are ready to start working on the Power BI report. Open Power BI Desktop and click on File. On the menu that appears, select Options and settings, and then select Options. The Options dialog box opens up. Under the Global pane on the left, click on Power Query Editor, and under the Parameters heading, select the checkbox which says, “Always allow parameterization in data source and transformation dialogs”. Click on OK once done:

Enabling parameterized Power BI reports

Figure 2 – Enabling the parametrization in Power BI Desktop

Once the parametrization of data sources is enabled, let start to bring in the data from the SQL Server. Click on Get Data and select SQL Server from the drop-down menu:

Fetching data from SQL Server into Power BI

Figure 3 – Fetching data from SQL Server into Power BI

Now as you can see, we have a drop-down box available to specify if the data source is a simple text value or it is a parameter. Since we want to parameterize our data source, we will go ahead and select the New Parameter from the drop-down menu and click OK:

Parameterized Power BI Report

Figure 4 – Selecting New Parameter for data source

The Manage Parameters dialog box opens up. In this, you can name your parameters and provide values for the connection string as well. Since we are going to parameterize our data source, let us name this as “DataSource” and enter the Current Value as “localhost”. You need to provide the name of your server on which the database is created. Click OK once done:

Specifying the Data Source Parameter

Figure 5 – Specifying the Data Source Parameter

Repeat the same for specifying the catalog name as a parameter. Provide the name of the development database as the Current Value. Click OK once done:

Specifying Catalog Name as the parameter

Figure 6 – Specifying Catalog Name as the parameter

Finally, select Data Connectivity mode as Import and click on OK. This will bring in the data from the SQL Server into the parameterized Power BI report:

Import Data to parameterized Power BI report

Figure 7 – Import Data

Once the connection is established with the SQL Server database, you will see and option to import the tables that you need to import. Since we have only one table, we will go ahead and fetch it into Power BI. Click Load once done:

Fetch data from FactSales

Figure 8 – Fetch data from FactSales

Since we have only one field in the table (TotalSalesAmount), let us create a card visual to display the value. In the development environment, we have inserted the value as “100” which is visible in the report as follows.

Capturing data from Development Environment

Figure 9 – Capturing data from Development Environment

Changing the parameters

Now that our initial report from the development database is built and we can visualize the data, let us move ahead and try to change the connection parameters and point the data source to the QA database.

Head over to the Transform data tab on the menu bar and select Edit Parameters from the drop-down menu:

Edit Parameters

Figure 10 – Edit Parameters

In the Edit Parameters dialog box, alter the name of the catalog to point it to the QA environment. In this case, we will rename it to “SQLShackDemo_QA” and click OK. Finally, click on the Apply Changes button to go ahead and refresh the Power BI dataset:

Edit Parameters Dialog Box

Figure 11 – Edit Parameters Dialog Box

Once the dataset is refreshed, you can now see that the card visual has been updated, and now it reflects the value from the QA environment which is “800”. This is how you can use any data source to fetch data into Power BI without manually changing the reports:

Power BI Report from QA Environment

Figure 12 – Power BI Report from QA Environment

Repeat the same for the production environment. Let us go ahead and modify the catalog name to “SQLShackDemo_PROD” and load the data into the Power BI report:

Edit Parameters for Production

Figure 13 – Edit Parameters for Production

Once the dataset is refreshed, you can now see the values from the production database “5000” being displayed in the parameterized Power BI report:

Power BI Report from Production Environment

Figure 14 – Power BI Report from Production Environment

Conclusion

In this article, I have described how to create parameterized Power BI reports across different environments. This is done by parameterizing the data source connections while fetching data into the Power BI Reports. By default, this feature is turned off in the Power BI Desktop application, but it can be enabled later on if required. Using this feature can greatly help in using the same Power BI report over different environments without having to manually build the report separately for each environment. Also, using the parameterized data source connections enable the users to use the report and connect to any other data source as long as the schema of the database is the same.

Aveek Das
PowerBI

About Aveek Das

Aveek has been working as an Analytics Engineer for the past couple of years now. His main areas of interest are SQL Server, SSIS, and SSAS. In his leisure, he likes to keep his skills sharp by writing articles on his blog and other forums. He is also an amateur photographer and hops around to do street photography. You can find him on LinkedIn View all posts by Aveek Das

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