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I recently spoke about Goals in Power BI at the local Power BI meetup.


The feature is currently in preview, introduced some eight months ago, and has quite a lot of promise. I find Power BI Goals particularly exciting since we are working with a large customer who is a perfect candidate for this.

So, what is Goals in Power BI?

Let’s look at a scenario where ‘Goals’ can help: Organizations regularly monitor business performance indicators to ensure their goals and aspirations are met. Sometimes these aspirations are difficult to keep track of due to various complexities.

For example, consider a goal called ‘Reduce employee turnover and increase satisfaction’ (Source: 13 important business objectives to consider). To effectively understand and track its progress, the organization would probably have a few key performance indicators (KPIs) that would help them easily see that employee turnover is reducing and employee satisfaction is increasing. One such KPI could be low ‘human capital turnover rate’, while another could be a high ’employee satisfaction indicator’. Collectively these KPIs will help determine the achievement of the goal within a stipulated period, such as a calendar year.

Similarly, an organization will have many goals that are aligned to organizational KPIs or metrics. Sometimes, certain KPIs/metrics may cascade down the organization’s departments, where each department’s performance determine the overall organizational performance.

Goals (preview) in Power BI

Goals in Power BI breathes new life into the scorecard functionality, which was familiar to many of us BI folk once upon a time, before the existence of Power BI. In Power BI, goals are contained within a Power BI artifact called a scorecard. A goal, (at the time of writing), has:

  • A current value (that is either manual or data-driven) of the metric
  • A target value (that is either manual or data-driven) for the metric
  • A status (which can be manually updated or rule-driven) to indicate how the goal is faring
  • A start and end date for the goal
  • Goal owners to drive accountability
Figure 1: Creating a new goal

Once all organizational goals are set up, the owners will need to regularly monitor the goal, and keep track of it. Power BI provides options for owners to check in on their goals and update statuses regularly. A rule-driven approach can also be used to keep goals up to date.

A use case

If you were wondering what an ideal use case for Goals in Power BI is, consider a KPI tree. Imagine a set of strategic goals that an organization aspires to achieve during a financial year. The goals are spread across multiple departments, while some may have sub-goals.

Now, once the goals and sub-goals are determined, you choose the KPIs/metrics that would drive the goals and the targets for the KPIs/metrics. Where would you choose these KPIs/metrics and their targets from?—A dashboard that is used to monitor organizational and departmental KPIs, ideally an executive dashboard that is regularly used to run the business. Even more ideal if the dashboard is powered by a certified dataset that is a result of a standard architecture and analytics process—essentially your core datasets. It is important to configure the KPI/metric that is measured by the goal by filtering it, for instance, for the current year or the department to which the goal applies. Targets for the goals too can come from a dashboard, and in the absence of a dashboard, from a manual value.

Given below is a sample scorecard depicting the KPI tree of an organization, with goals and subgoals.

Figure 2: Sample scorecard with goals

Each goal or subgoal can then be linked to a KPI/metric from an appropriate dashboard. The required filters can be configured when selecting the KPI/metric at this time in order to align it with the context of the goal.

Envision and what’s next

Now, envision this: owners accountable for the goals regularly check in on their goals. To see the status of each goal in the real world, they tap into dashboard directly from the goal. Then, based on what they see and analyze, they go back to the goal and update their check-in with a status.

Figure 3: Go to the dashboard the value is connected to for more context or to analyze

If the goal is tracked via rules, the status and trend will indicate if the going is good or not. If it does not look good, the owner goes into the dashboard, drills down to where the problem is, or perform some ad hoc analysis on the problem, and then updates their check-in.

Figure 4: Checking in on a goal

A couple of, what I would consider, must-have functionality in Goals for Power BI is the ability for subgoals to roll up to the main goal and for a goal to cascade down a hierarchy, such as departments. According to the current Power BI release wave, these functionalities should be available for public preview in March 2022. That would definitely require a follow-up post.

Written by
Gogula Aryalingam
Associate Vice President – Data & AI at Intellint
Microsoft MVP, Data Platform

Originally published via Data Maul

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