Overlays for True Self Serve Reporting

No Training Required

Around 18 months ago I was working on a Power BI Report build that was going to have a few hundred monthly users, many of them accessing the report daily. We had just formed a new team doing BI for Finance and one of the mantras for the team was “No Training Required”.

Having been knee deep in Power BI for a couple years at this point, I knew it would be a challenge to build feature rich report that meets the needs of multiple levels of user and make it intuitive enough to avoid having to train end users. Many of the powerful features of Power BI are not very discoverable for end users natively, and since each report has a different set of features, past experience as an end user may not be valid.

Fortunately, Buttons has just come out and I had been playing with bookmarks to see what i could do with them. Combining the concept of No Training Required with Buttons/Bookmarks led to the idea of building a guided user experience native to Power BI.

In this post, I will show how to build a guide overlay for true self service reporting and how to implement it into Power BI using Buttons and Bookmarks.

Land Your Views

It is important that your views and features are finalized before taking these steps to avoid re-work. I always finish everything I can in a report before I get to the stage of overlaying.

Getting Started

If you read my post on Backgrounds in Power BI, some of this will look familiar. Like I mentioned in that post, I like to work on these kinds of things in PowerPoint, but many pro tools for design will work as well or better

First, I take a screenshot my finalized Report page and paste it into PowerPoint.

Now I will build shapes on top of my report view that will help guide my end users to features. I will often start by overlaying a rectangle that has a fill with 70-80% transparency, then bring in solid shapes with text.

I will now remove the Report Page screenshot to be left with my overlay and save it as a picture.

In Power BI, I will create a “?” Button and insert my Image.

Ensuring that my image is on the top of my selection pane and selected, I will create a Selected Visual Bookmark. I usually turn off data as a habit for overlays, although it will not affect anything here. (blog post on this coming soon)

I will then hide the image, and create a second selected visual bookmark

Now I will assign the Bookmark Action to my “?” Button and give it a good Tooltip

I will then activate my button to show the guide, and then assign our second bookmark to the guide image. This will allow the user to click anywhere after opening the guide to close it and get back to working with the report itself.

Overlays Beyond Guides

Using the concept of overlaying information and utilizing bookmarks lets us tap into a new dimension in Power BI. There are many uses for this beyond simple guides. Not only can we bring in static images with this approach, but also dynamic fields from our dataset. Here are some of the ways I have utilized this concept:

  • Definitions
  • Deeper Context
  • Process Documentation
  • Refresh Timing/Schedule

Lastly, Enjoy the free time you have created by giving users a guided experience that needs no training!

Download the PBIX for this example here

17 thoughts on “Overlays for True Self Serve Reporting

  1. Hi Chris – this is great! after i delete the report page background from powerpoint, and save as a .PNG, the background shows up as white. How do i change this so the background does not appear white and i effectively only see the shapes and text in my bookmark? Thanks!


    1. While the background in your ppt is white, unless you have placed a shape under your new overlay that white won’t be part of the png, so when you bring it into pbi it will keep your transparency


      1. Thanks – after reading your other post on backgrounds in PowerBI, i realized that i was saving the entire slide as a PNG. As you pointed out in that post, i highlighted the shapes i wanted to use, right click, and save as a .PNG. SO only the images were saved as the PNG. This worked – thanks again for the help!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Chris – please disregard my previous comment. I did not realize when posting that that the guide arrows are essentially one big image that does encompass the entire report page. In that case, it does seem like the user can click anywhere to close the guides. Thanks again for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No worries! I used to do it in separate pieces and then overlay a giant clear button that would close it, but found out when the performance analyzer came out that even shapes without queries can slow down a report!


      1. Hi Chris, so are you implying that even when a visual or image is completely hidden (like with the user guide shapes or text boxes most of the time), it can still noticeably slow down rendering of the main visuals which are shown?


      2. Actually the opposite. Hidden visuals will not impact performance, as they only have weight when they are exposed. If I recall I was referring to one image being more performant to “pop” in rather than a bunch of separate shapes and text boxes


  3. It worked Chris , I was doing a big mistake , I always go with save as option and selecting PNG format, which is not exactly same as save as a picture. Crazy mistake from me. thank you so much for your words.


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