Power BI Building Trust: KPI Transparency

by Treb Gatte

Many Power BI reports and dashboards have simple, color-based indicators, commonly referred to as Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. These indicators provide a way to communicate the current condition of a monitored metric.

These KPIs require the data consumer to:

  • Trust the data used to calculate it
  • Understand the rule used to derive the indicator
  • Understand the calculation used to set the value

The Challenge

This is a large leap of faith for new and occasional data consumers of your content. We’ve seen consumer pushback on blind acceptance of these KPIs. They want to see the data and with good reason.

In our implementations, we have uncovered many KPI definition mismatches and misunderstandings within the target audiences. This occurs even when design reviews and definition reviews have been done because it involves the broader data consumer audience.

Common Questions for Power BI KPIs

Taking extra steps with your KPI design to address common questions will increase transparency and trust in the When encountering a KPI for the first time, two questions arise without fail.

  • Why is this KPI red/yellow/green?
  • How did you arrive at this determination?

The Design

We experimented with several designs before we came up with the following design. It’s composed of two visuals grouped together with a custom tooltip window on hover that shows the definition and the calculation. These provided a good balance of conveying information at a high level while providing transparency.

The KPI Indicator is a tree map visual where the data color is set by a custom column in Power Query. You can set this from the Format menu for the Tree Map, under Data Colors, Advanced Controls and then point it to the field that returns the color code. The Card is the actual metric used to determine the color of the KPI Indicator.

Power BI KPI Example

When you hover over the value or the indicator, you see this custom tooltip. You can see the definition of the KPI indicator. The values used to calculate the value are shown at the bottom of the tooltip.

Power BI KPI custom tooltip example

In this case, we were able to get it all on one screen. Likely, you may have to use a larger tooltip or two separate tooltips, depending on how complex the logic. Learn more about creating tooltips here.


Paying close attention to the follow-up questions asked by data consumers the first time they see your content can be an excellent guide for further investment. In this case, it resulted in greater transparency into the metric definition and calculation. It has the added benefit of being self-documenting.

3 Responses to “Power BI Building Trust: KPI Transparency”

October 30, 2019 at 7:17 am, Raffael said:

That’s a really nice idea!


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