Power BI Project Planning: Discovery & Ingestion

by | Power BI

In today’s blog post, we’ll be continuing our series on how you can plan for your Power BI project. We’ve already talked about deployment modes for the first part on this series. Now, let’s talk about discovery and ingestion.

BI project

Importance Of Discovery And Ingestion

An organization’s business intelligence asset is the result of individual projects designed to accomplish a specific set of goals or answer a specific set of business questions. This is why the successful initiation execution of business intelligence projects is vital to all organizations.

This is where a little bit of upfront planning goes a long way. Power BI projects often begin with answering a set of standard questions within a project template form.

The business guidance on these questions and forms gives the BI team the high level technical needs of the project and promotes a productive project kickoff.

Categories Of Discovery And Ingestion

So by reviewing the project template, the team can ask the project sponsor or relevant subject matter experts targeted questions to better understand the current state and goals of the project.

These questions generally fall into the following categories: data sources, security, scale, metrics, data refresh, distribution, and version control.

Data Sources in Your BI Project

The questions you should ask include “Can you describe the required data?” Generally, your Power BI projects will focus on a particular business process within the system. This is a way of asking what business process we are dealing with.

BI project

Another good question to ask is “Is all the data required for your project available in the data warehouse, such as a SQL server data warehouse? And if not, what other sources are required that are not included in the data warehouse?”

So these three data source questions are generally valuable to ask upfront during a project so you know if you already have all the data you need, or if you have to ingest these other sources of data either into the data warehouse or into the Power BI dataset itself.

Security for Your BI Project

The questions you should ask include “Should certain users be prevented from viewing some or all of the data?” This is really a question about role-level security. Do we need to create different role level security roles?

For example, sales representatives should be prevented from seeing certain information, sales managers should be able to see all of the information, while sales people in different geographic regions should see their information in their geography.

BI project

Another good question to ask is about data sensitivity. This comes down to sensitive information like PCII, HIPAA, or GDPR that the organization will need to secure to make sure that they don’t get fined.

Data Refresh in Your BI Project

BI project

You also need to know how often the data needs to be refreshed, and if there a need to view the data in real time. Do we need to build a direct query dataset or a live connection in order to view data in real time, or can an import mode or a composite dataset service the need of the organization and the Power BI project at hand?

Scale of Your BI Project

There are a number of questions you should ask about scale, such as how many years of historical data are needed, or if it is necessary to track the history of certain dimensions such as customers and products.

BI project

You also need to know how frequently will the users be checking the reports and dashboards, and how will the data be analyzed (example: by date, customer department, account, country, et cetera).

It really comes down to how much data you will need, how many different ways you will need to slice it, and how many users will be involved.

These things can put a load, especially if you’re using premium capacity for enterprise organizations. You’ll need to understand whether or not you need to scale up that premium capacity or add more resources.

Metrics of Your BI Project

For metrics, you need to ask about the core key performance indicators that the business requires, and if those have already been developed. Do they have good definitions for them, or do we need to develop those from scratch?

Depending on how complex they are, you may need to bring in DAX experts in order to make sure you have the appropriate resources to build those KPIs.

Another important question to ask is what calendars are being used by the business? Is it a standard Gregorian calendar or a custom fiscal calendar? This question will have a deep impact on your time intelligence metrics.

Distribution of Your BI Project

How many users will need to view the reports and dashboards? How many users will need to create reports and dashboards? Will the users be viewing the dashboards on mobile devices such as phones and tablets?

The answers to these questions will let you know how much work you need to put into creating mobile and tablet views. If nobody will be using them, then there’s no reason to spend resources to develop mobile-only views on the reports.

Version Control of Your BI Project

Are there existing reports on the same data, and will your Power BI solution be replacing these existing reports? Is there an existing Power BI dataset that targets the same business processes and fact tables?

These leading questions are important to see what has been developed previously, what can be used as a template for a starting point, and what data assets have already been developed that we can reuse for the creation of this new report.

***** Related Links *****
Planning Power BI Projects
Driving Business Results Using Customer Data Analytics
Data Visualization Tips For Your Power BI Reports


This blog post covers the discovery and ingest questions that you need to typically ask during the start of any Power BI project that you run.

This isn’t a huge list of detailed questions, and you can easily spend 30 minutes to an hour with the appropriate business sponsor or stakeholder to get a general sense of where your Power BI project is going.

All the best,
Greg Deckler

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