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Power BI development and Customer portal, part 3

Reeta Lempiäinen Analytics Consultant, Solita

Published 16 Jun 2023

Reading time 8 min

Testing is always a crucial part of any Power BI development. When developing content to be embedded there are some different test angles to consider like what type of test users are needed, how RLS works in UI or what might look different after embedding. Testing is also something that needs to be done after go live and you need to have clear understanding with other stakeholders about the production release process.

In my blog series part 1 I described some experiences from my embed projects and issues to consider, like how to identify restrictions in Power BI to meet customer brand and functionalities not supported when content is embedded, to be prepared to manage expectations and agree what areas in the solution are developed with Power BI. The part 2 was dedicated to describe collaboration with stakeholders. This last part includes my experiences from testing and some production use considerations.

Testing, testing, testing

I am always a bit surprised how much time testing takes. When developed content to be embedded, noticed that I needed to reserve even more time for testing because testing need to be done in three different places:

  1. Power BI desktop: data validation, functionalities, layout, performance (use also DAX Studio)
  2. Power BI Service: gateway (if needed) and connections, monitor data refresh, Service principal access rights
  3. UI/customer portal DEV and/or TEST environments: Same kind of testing needed as in Desktop as you might find some differences in positions or how e.g Header Icons are positioned or if there appear scroll bars need to be removed etc. If your solution will have a lot of users, then one big part of the testing is performance and load testing. Testing just mentioned requires other stakeholders input.

In “traditional” Power BI development you would do testing in the Desktop and then in the Power BI Service and maybe a bit less time is needed.

Noticed that testing needs to be done using different test users with different access rights. I asked for the different type test users and this way was able to make documentation including the information which features, reports and data each user should see. So, ensure you have all needed test users available to test different use cases.

As in traditional Power BI content development I needed to test the reports thoroughly to ensure that they work correctly and meet the user’s and brand requirements. In my projects I was able to use real production data, but of course sample test data can be used as well. With my test users I was able to simulate different scenarios and test the report’s performance under different conditions. And of course customer testers were also doing their part in the testing.

RLS testing

In my experience one of the most time consuming testing was access/visibility. Row Level Security (RLS) setup needs special attention and needs to be tested first in the Desktop and after this with many different users in the UI. This type of testing is different from the traditional Power BI Service testing/functionalities.

I also experienced that in these type solutions the RLS needs seem to change during the project. And as needs changed, I needed to do testing again for something that was already once approved.

Ways of working in testing

In my projects the Test manager/coordinator enabled a more effective adoption of testing practices. For Power BI developers working together with a Test manager/coordinator will probably mean that you are able to concentrate more on development and changes rather than sitting in testing sessions. Ensure that you have smooth communication with the Test manager/coordinator. Also consume time to show how testing should be done and what is relevant for you in test findings/notes.

Would say that consider carefully if it is useful to let the Testers do testing in Power BI Service. End user experience will not be the same in UI and testers might report wrong results. In my experience the better approach was to enable in the project a testing UI environment as soon as possible. And it is also important to get the Testers to do testing during the development phase and not just at the end of the project. This way I was able to get feedback from the tester in the early phase of the report development.

I noticed that the change and correction need to be reported in a structured way. This way I was able to see the “big picture” and plan the order and the time of the changes with other Power BI developers and UI developers. So, ensure to use clear versioning practicalities and communication channels. Otherwise you might end-up in a situation where another developer is overwriting a version and some changes are lost. The Deployment Pipeline feature could help to monitor the situation (and coming Git integration within Fabric might give even better results).

Experiences during the testing

Gathered some of my experiences from testing in my projects. Maybe these help you to tackle some obstacles beforehand.

Testing was divided into three areas: data validation, visual layout and Power BI functionalities and UI related report functionalities. I spent most of my time doing data validation like investigating source transactions and exception handling with DAX and testing different DAX solutions to meet business calculation requirements. Also gathering business logic for the calculations from different business and data owners took time.

During report development and testing, the Business owners realized there are more requirements to restrict data visibility to different types of users. RLS definitions changed many times and caused more development work and re-testing.

Noticed that the Testers needed some time to learn how testing is done and especially how to report findings. Learned that it was a good practice to have testing findings in small / many tickets rather than one huge one.

Sometimes the Testers forgot the scope of the project. So, I needed to actively ask the Business owner and Project manager what findings will be fixed and what can be added to future development lists.

The Test manager/coordinator checked frequently with the Testers and Business owner the status of test findings. We also had weekly sessions to check with the Business owner the situation and this way minimized risk of misunderstandings. Would recommend this type of way of working.

Before the Testers started the testing of a new report, we had a demo session. This way I was able to demo Power BI features/functionalities they were not so familiar with. In my experience this type of session is good to have also in the beginning of UAT testing.

Last learning for me was that having a UX Designer in the project helped to notice mistakes in layouts, colors, fonts etc.

Performance and load testing

One big part of testing might be performance testing and load testing. In many cases your reports probably work ok and the memory and CPU available within Premium capacity is enough. But if embed project reports are used by many users (thousands), data amounts are large, there are complex calculations and/or many visuals on one report page, you need to start planning the performance and load testing. Questions to the Business owner

  • How many users will there be?
  • Are there some peak moments when there are many concurrent users?
  • How much history data is needed on the reports?
  • Is it possible to reduce the amount of visuals in a report page?
  • Could you provide detailed level information about the business logic calculation needs?

The Business owner might not be able to answer these questions right away, but if you have heard any hints that some of the previous issues are relevant, it is best to include the performance and load testing to the project.

Production use considerations

As in all projects, you need to plan go live tasks and times. In my experience in these types of projects, it is worth considering phased production use start or if a certain pilot user group could be used. This way both customer and development team can get new improvement proposals from new users before a wide audience starts to use the reports.

You also need to discuss with the Business owner and Power BI Admin who is taking the ownership of support and alerts. If you are using e.g., dev, test and prod, maybe the support can be divided like this:

First hand support for end-users, inhouse or outsourced support team takes care

  • Support requests like user right problems
  • Owner of prod environment
  • Probably there is a separate tool in use within the customer to handle support tickets

“Deeper level” support where support team can contact Power BI developers

  • Support request requiring deep understanding about Power BI development, model, source tables etc.
  • Owner of dev and test environments
  • Probably you have your own organization support ticket tool

This is just one proposal and companies might have very different support models.

Testing in production

Another angle in production use is testing the changes and corrections. Remember to agree how future development and release is done. Consider following:

  • What is the timetable for releases?
  • Who is involved in testing? How do testers report results?
  • Where, how and who should be informed about the new features, reports, error corrections etc.?
  • How are changes documented?

Noticed that the planning of production use required many parties and many sessions. My role was more to give insights about the technical possibilities but my Project managers, Power BI admins and Business owners were dealing with other stuff like agreements.

Key takeaways

We were able to resolve complicated RLS needs where the authentication tool was not Microsoft Azure AD. This proved that Power BI is a suitable product to be used in solutions where the goal is to embed reports to your customer portal.

With ensuring enough time for testing these type of projects succeed.

Most important key takeaway was to understand how collaboration with other stakeholders ensures the best end results. Having a team around you with many skills, helps to resolve problems. Luckily in my company I was able to work with different kinds of talented people.

Lastly, I want to mention the latest news from Microsoft. They launched Fabric just recently and found this exciting blog telling how it is impacting to Power BI Embedded Power BI Embedded with Microsoft Fabric | Microsoft Power BI Blog | Microsoft Power BI

  1. Data