Power BI Reports vs. Dashboards

A common mistake for new Power BI users is not knowing the difference between reports and dashboards.

Although these terms are often used interchangeably, reports and dashboards have different functionality and serve different purposes. First and foremost, the content that you create within Power BI Desktop is known as a report. Even if it has a “dashboard” feel or contains multiple tabs, it’s still simply known as a report. A dashboard, however, can’t be created within Power BI Desktop. A dashboard is a collection of visuals from one or multiple reports that is assembled within the Power BI Service.

If you can make a report look like a “dashboard”, why would you ever need to create a real PBI Dashboard?

Typically, when you create a report, you model all data sources together to allow all visuals to interact with each other. A dashboard, on the other hand, allows you to pin visuals from several unrelated reports into one review. If you had a marketing report using dataset A and an HR report using dataset B, you can take a visual from each report and add it to a dashboard. Dashboards are traditionally utilized by executives who want to keep tabs on a variety of KPIs from various departments. Often times they don’t need to use the interactivity that a report offers – rather, they just need to quickly see a refresh view of all important metrics.

Advantages of a Dashboard

  • Having a central place to view metrics from various reports
  • For KPI visuals (gauge, KPI card, etc.), there is the ability to set alerts when a metric hits a certain number
    • Ex: Receive an email notification when a percent-to-target metric exceeds 100%
  • Allow end user to utilize natural language Q&A abilities

Disadvantages of a Dashboard

  • Lose the ability to interact with pinned visuals 
    • Because these visuals can be sourced from multiple datasets, when you click inside of a visual, it does not perform typical interactions and instead acts as a hyperlink that takes you to the source report   
  • Doesn’t allow the ability to filter using slicers  

Dashboards may not be utilized often, but there is a use case for them

I personally do not utilize Dashboards that often. I find that users are usually focused on one subject- matter and want the ability to filter and interact with visuals as a way to explore their data. However, if you have an individual that simply wants to monitor key metrics across multiple departments, Dashboards are a very nice option to have.

Written by Eric Leuthold

Manager of Analytics at Data Ideology

Eric Leuthold is a Manager with over 8 years of experience in data analysis and business intelligence.