Power BI Goals Introduction – Part 1

by Treb Gatte

Screen Shot of Power BI Goals

Microsoft released a new feature called Power BI Goals to public preview. In this blog series, you’ll learn about using Power BI Goals and Scoreboards to monitor your business, learn ways to structure your Scoreboards, understand how to implement this functionality and be clear on requisite licensing and security questions. I will refer to relevant books and blogs which will benefit you as you implement Power BI Goals.

The image attached to this blog post is a real Scoreboard developed for a manufacturing CEO. It spans the organization and provides a glanceable view of the health of the organization. Many of the due dates are set to the end of the fiscal year as they are annual in nature.

What should you track?

In order to determine which Goals to track, you should understand why you are tracking Goals. Goal tracking is an important aspect of implementing and supporting a “Learning Culture,” thus my excitement for Power BI Goals. Microsoft has been promoting the creation of a “Data Culture.” In my opinion, using the word “Data” puts the emphasis on the wrong aspect. I prefer using “Learning Culture” that is informed by data.

The reason for this change in emphasis is twofold. If you’ve read Optimizing Data-to-Learning-to-Action: The Modern Approach to Continuous Performance Improvement for Businesses by Steven Flinn, organizational learning is a massive competitive advantage. The most successful companies today are those that can use their data to learn and act faster than their competition. Amazon and Starbucks are poster children of learning cultures. Steve discusses how to identify and implement a decision framework that creates a feedback loop for continuous improvement. I see Power BI Goals as a natural fit for this approach with an emphasis on learning and action. I will go into more detail in a subsequent post as I discuss using our Conversation-Centric Design™ process and our DELTA™ method to design and structure your Scoreboards.

Secondly, I have encountered several organizations who have become enamored with playing with their data for the sake of having data. The issue is that this activity is not leading to actionable insights. In their minds, they have a data culture as everyone has the tools and creates reports easily. Without an overarching directive, business intelligence becomes an activity that feels good but yields nothing of value for the organization.

Goals help the organization monitor the actions and learning derived from their data insights.

SMART Goals work well with Power BI Goals

When developing your Goals, you should make them SMART as these work well with Power BI Goals. SMART Goals were created by George T. Doran, former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company and consultant. He published a paper in 1981, “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives.” This paper established these key characteristics of a well-formed Goal in an easy to remember mnemonic.

SMART Goals are:

  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement or action
  • Measurable – it must quantify status or progress via a numeric measure
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result can be achieved.

What are Power BI Goals?

Power BI Goals help you visualize and monitor your business’ statistics, analytics, and metrics (SAM) over time. Goals are curated as a set of Goals displayed on a Scoreboard for a specific audience.

If you are unfamiliar with the difference between the SAM elements, please read Naomi Moneypenny’s blog post on the topic, Business Intelligence: What’s the difference between Statistics, Metrics and Analytics? – Serendipitous Signals (naomimoneypenny.com).

Goals can be hierarchical as you can define up to four levels of Goals. A set of Goals are grouped on a Scoreboard. A Scoreboard is targeted to one of more audiences that I will discuss in more detail later.  I like the SMART way to define management goals, so I will relate the aspects of SMART to the functionality.

Each goal contains:

  • Goal name – The “S” in the SMART Goals
  • A Goal owner – The “A” in SMART Goals
  • A current status
    • Not started
    • On track
    • At risk
    • Behind
    • Overdue
    • Completed
  • Current value – The “M” in the SMART Goals
    • Manually entered value
    • Data connected value
  • Target value – The “M” in the SMART Goals
    • Manually entered value
    • Data connected value
  • Trend
  • An active period captured as beginning and ending dates – The “T” in SMART Goals
  • Notes that provide a summary of check-ins

If you notice, I do not have anything mapped to the R of SMART. This has been submitted as a future improvement to the functionality.

Check-ins are performed on a regular basis to enable the current status of the Goal to be updated. These check-ins contain:

  • The latest Current Value
  • The date of the check-in
  • Any relevant notes to add context to the check-in

Goals are time centric

Goals are inherently time centric, and the provided functionality captures the time phased data automatically. One of the big challenges with Power BI up until now was that there has not been a way to capture data via a slowly changing dimension like time, without building a data warehouse.

Time centricity puts the focus on the trend instead of the values because time provides the necessary context for decision making. In the provided screen shot, we see the Customer NPS (Net Promotor Score) is 8.30. In isolation, a Scoreboard user might conclude this is a good number. The current status indicates it is “On Track” so this number is anticipated. The associated trend shows us that the value is dropping, which may lead to an action.

Each Goal addresses one aspect of time perspectives. For example:

  • What has happened – Supply chain incidents Goal
  • What is happening – Current Margin Goal
  • What is expected to happen – Forecast Next Quarter Revenue Goal

Goals can be manually updated or tied to data directly. Tying the Goal to underlying data enables a drill through to the underlying report providing the data. I will discuss some tips on how to best enable this drill through in a subsequent post.

You can designate a tracking update cycle as well to drive calculations. These cycles can be:

  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly
  • Quarterly
  • Annually

In a later post, I will discuss the importance of using Goals together with Predictive Analytics to provide Executive Management with the information they need to know to make decisions in a timely fashion.

Next Post – Unboxing, then Goals 101

In Part 2 of this series, I take you through an unboxing of the feature, so that you can see how it will appear to you and where to click. The third post will be a detailed Goals 101.

If you have questions or comments about what you want me to answer in subsequent posts, please put them in the comments below.

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