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Refresh your Power BI dataset using Microsoft Flow

When speaking with customers about how they’ve used Power BI to improve collaborative business processes in their organization, we often hear that Power BI is used to summarize and visualize data that many end users are entering into tools like Excel files, SharePoint lists, or the Common Data Service.  Business processes like managing a team’s budget requests, planning hiring activities, and evaluating marketing campaigns can all fit this pattern.

With these sorts of processes, users often expect Power BI reports to be updated as soon as they enter data in underlying systems. Power BI’s existing fixed refresh schedules are not sufficient to accomplish this and manually refreshing the Power BI dataset each time your access a report adds extra steps and creates confusion.

Today, we are making scheduling of refreshes much more flexible to improve how Power BI works in processes like the ones described above. Specifically, we have added a new Refresh a dataset action to the Power BI connector for Microsoft Flow. Now, you will be able to trigger dataset refreshes based on hundreds of Flow triggers. Whether your trigger is based on changes to items in your SharePoint list or updates to an Excel file in OneDrive or SharePoint Online or a complex day and time schedule, there are dozens of use cases for this action.

Excited? Read on for a full tutorial of using the new refresh a dataset action to automate refreshing a Power BI report based on changes to a SharePoint list. Or, head on over to  Flow to try it out for yourself.

Tutorial: Trigger dataset refresh for SharePoint lists or OneDrive Excel files with Flow and Power BI

In this tutorial, we will create a Flow that triggers a dataset refresh whenever items in a SharePoint list are updated.

Consider an example where you are the office administrator for Northwind Traders and you have been given the responsibility of ensuring the office is well stocked with office supplies, by monitoring inventory, placing new orders, and maintaining the overall budget for the team. You might have a report that looks something like this:

Furthermore, imagine that various employees in the company have access to a SharePoint list to report supplies that are getting low in their parts of the office:

To ensure you have an accurate picture of your supply requests and budget levels, any requests made on this SharePoint list should immediately reflect in the report. Instead of having to manually refresh your dataset each time you or someone else views the report or wait until the next scheduled refresh, you can easily automate this process using the new dataset refresh action in Flow.

To get started, navigate to Flow. Sign in, and then go to My Flows, then choose + New, and select + Automated – from blank from the drop-down. You should see the following:

Go ahead and give your Flow a name and select a SharePoint trigger depending on your use case. In this example, since we want the Flow to trigger when there’s a new row added to the list, choose When an item is created or modified.

Next, click on the + New step button, then enter ‘power bi’ in the search box. You should see a list of actions like below:

Then choose the new Refresh a dataset action.

Now, we’re at the last step of the Flow: Select the name of the workspace, then the name of the of the dataset that you want to trigger the refresh for. In our case, we have chosen Northwind Traders workspace and Northwind Budget Tracker dataset.

And that’s it! Select Save and ensure your Flow is turned on. Now, whenever there is a new supply request made in the SharePoint list, your budget tracker dataset should automatically refresh.

Going back to our budget tracking example for Northwind Traders, if there is a new request made to the Supplies Request SharePoint list that exceeds the budget:

Your flow will trigger and the dataset will automatically update. Considering this individual, placed an order for 500 4K monitors, you will certainly know when you’re out of budget next time you visit the Northwind Budget & Supplies tracker report:

Next steps

  • Try out the feature! Head on over to Flow and use the new refresh action to automate your refreshes
  • Existing limits on refreshes apply when running the refresh dataset action in Microsoft Flow.  For datasets in shared capacity used by Power BI Pro, your refresh action is limited to eight refreshes per day (including refreshes executed via Scheduled Refresh). In Premium capacities, there is not limitation on the number of refreshes per day, although you are limited by the available resources in your capacity.  If there are not sufficient resources, the refresh execution may be throttled until the load is reduced. If this throttling exceeds 1 hour, the refresh will fail.
  • For more ideas on Flows, check out some of our existing Flow templates that allow you to add data from Flow into a Power BI dataset or use data alerts to trigger a Flow whenever the data changes. In the coming weeks, we’ll also be adding several Flow templates with the new refresh a dataset action, including the one featured in the tutorial above – so stay tuned for that.
  • Have any feedback? Have an idea for another way that Power BI can connect to Flow? We’d love to hear it! Please leave comments below or in the Power BI community forums