At Microsoft leaders across the company have committed to fostering a data culture and are often asked how to drive this type of change. An internal program designed to drive adoption of Power BI internally has been at the center of this cultural shift.  

Through a combination of training, a comprehensive communication strategy, and user-centric features and design, BI@Microsoft drives adoption of our data culture with Power BI. This program enables our employees to use data visualization, business intelligence and statistical analysis in their day-today jobs. Employees were previously limited by a mindset that they didn’t have the technical skills or time necessary to model data. Or they thought the data was not available or accessible. The BI@Microsoft program has proven that data driven decisions are possible at every level of the organization, while also creating loyal fans that influence their teams to use data to make informed decisions.  

As Microsoft’s “First and Best” customer, Microsoft employees have the responsibility and privilege to be the first people in the world to use Microsoft products in production. With Power BI, we are not only the first customer, but because of the reach and scale of our company, we are a great example of an active and engaged global Power BI user bases.   

BI@Microsoft is a program inside Microsoft IT which is responsible for the BI tools Microsoft employees use. We are responsible for two key things, driving rapid internal adoption of Power BI and influencing the Power BI product group so that it builds a product that meets the needs of large enterprise customers like Microsoft. This virtuous feedback cycle ensures we build better products for our external customers.

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The purpose of this blog post is to explain how we drive adoption of Power BI at scale so that you can learn from our best practices and implement a similar method. That way you too can get the most value out of your Power BI licenses. Like you, we are always striving do more with less.  For that reason, our program is focused on reaching and influencing the behavior of employees at scale.

The BI@Microsoft program uses basic principles of change management to enable change inside the company. We focus on different activities based on the product lifecycle and recent updates. We might start the cycle over again when promoting a big new feature. The principles drive the following behaviors:

  1. Awareness—Employees are aware of the product and its features
  2. Understanding—Employees understand the benefits of the product and its features
  3. Enablement—Employees learn or know how to use the product and its features
  4. Adoption—Employees usethe product regularly

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We manage our program in what we call workstreams.  We’ve found this way of structuring the work very effective, and I think it will be easy for you to see what applies to your situation.  We will briefly explain each of the workstreams, and you can determine which of them are most appropriate for your company to help you get the most value out of Power BI.

Here is a list of all our workstreams, a description of each, and examples of tasks and goals that may apply to an external company.   We will limit this discussion only to the activities that a company outside of Microsoft would benefit from.

  • Strategy and Program Management
  • Power BI Subject Matter Expert (SME)
  • Website
  • Training
  • Service & Support
  • Social & Community
  • Reporting & Telemetry
  • Advisors
  • Suppliers

This illustration summarizes all the worktracks and prioritizes which to focus on first.

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Strategy and Program Management:  Our leadership team determines the strategy of the program and provides overall program management. This workstream aligns the program strategy to drive adoption of Power BI to your corporate BI and data strategy.  If you don’t have a corporate BI or data strategy, this is a great opportunity to determine one. At Microsoft, we were fortunate that the launch of Power BI aligned with our CIO’s drive to foster a Microsoft data-driven culture within Microsoft. Activities include but are not limited to:

  •          Obtaining executive sponsorship and communicating it
  •          Aligning program goals to corporate goals
  •          Planning strategy and execution, and measuring the program
  •          Obtaining program resources and budget
  •          Managing all the other workstreams

Power BI Subject Matter Expert (SME):   For the program to succeed, at least one person in the program must be a Power BI subject matter expert (SME).  This person (or persons) is a BI professional with deep experience and knowledge of how the company uses BI, and helps the program make all decisions related to Power BI usage inside the company. Activities include but are not limited to:

  • Understanding Power BI and how your company will use it
  • Continually learning and keeping current with the Power BI roadmap and features
  • Sharing knowledge about Power BI roadmap and features with the program and the company
  • Power BI content and timing for all other workstreams
  • Liaising with Power BI product group and Microsoft on behalf of your company
  • Advising the program and employees on features, timing, training
  • Vetting or creating content to publish through all workstreams
  • Planning and executing any early adoption and testing programs for employees

Website:  We created and manage an internal website for Microsoft employees to help them easily find all the information they need to adopt Power BI.  Our internal website is a critical component of our program and we use it as a platform for communicating the information employees need to adopt Power BI at scale. The internal website is a combination of curated public information about Power BI and company-specific content.   We use it as an anchor to publish and centralize the content we think employees need to use Power BI, which includes but is not limited to:

  •          Home page for announcements, easy-to-find links, the latest news
  •          Internal blog for Microsoft company specific content or confidential news
  •          Curated content from public Power BI sources
  •          Best practices for using Power BI
  •          Company-specific guidance (e.g., Microsoft IT security guidance for using Power BI with confidential data)
  •          How to get support on Power BI
  •          How to participate in our internal community
  •          How to meet with our advisory services
  •          List of preferred suppliers to hire for Power BI projects
  •          All training options—public and internal

A view of the internal Microsoft BI website.  We update this weekly with the news from not only Power BI, but all Microsoft BI related products like the recently announced Azure Analytics Services.

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Marketing:  A essential element of our program is our marketing.  Marketing the resources we make available to employees is critical to driving adoption at scale.   We use our marketing channels to communicate everything from how to make the best use of new features, to examples of how other teams are using Power BI, to corporate guidance on data security. We use standard marketing techniques like segmentation to target the right message to the right people at the right time.  We also promote the adoption and use of other BI backend tools like Cortana Intelligence Suite and Azure Analysis Services. Activities include but are not limited to:

  •          Segmenting users via telemetry and existing email distribution lists in the company
  •          Sending monthly newsletters to our three user segments: business users, analysts and developers
  •          Sending weekly training summary
  •          Planning and managing targeted marketing campaigns. For example, we are planning a marketing campaign in support of new security features that shipped recently that now make it possible to use Power BI to analyze our most confidential corporate data.

Training:  Another important component is ensuring that employees have the training they need to learn how to use Power BI. Because we started using Power BI before there was a formal public training program; we built a lot of our own training. You are lucky, there now is a wealth of publicly available Power BI training that you can use for your company!  Now that there is great public training is available, we have scaled back our custom training resources significantly and now leverage the public Power BI training as much as possible. Here are the activities we still do with regard to training:

  •          Identify and curate the best training and provide links to that from our website
  •          Host “Applied BI” 30-minute presentations in which internal users explain how they used Power BI to solve their business problems
  •          Host internal Dashboard in a Day training classes. This class content is available to partners for external delivery.
  •          Host monthly Office Hours where users can ask questions of the Power BI SME(s) and experts in the company
  •          Publish a weekly training summary with the best training published that week and upcoming live sessions
  •          Enable users to subscribe to internal training communications through a distribution list to receive all notices about upcoming training opportunities

Here’s a glance at the training page on our website where employees can find the best curated public training information, internal-only training opportunities and a link to sign up to our training newsletter:

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Support:  Microsoft has an internal HelpDesk for employees to find solutions to technical problems.   We use the Microsoft IT HelpDesk for all major applications used in the company including Office, Skype, and Windows. BI@Microsoft worked with the Power BI team and the IT HelpDesk team to streamline support for Power BI through the formal IT HelpDesk processes. To adopt Power BI, you will also want to determine what is the best support mechanism for your users and how you will integrate that with the standard help facilities or help desk you have for your users. Activities in this worktrack for you may include:

  •          Understanding your corporate technical support processes
  •          Determining how you want to provide technical support for Power BI for your users:
    •    Use the free support
    •    Use your company’s or corporate technical support processes to streamline support
  •          (Optionally) Purchasing a support contract for Power BI through Microsoft
  •          (Optionally) Establish a process for your internal technical support to escalate to Power BI through your support contract
  •          Communications to your employees about how to get support for Power BI through your company

Social & Community:  A workstream that we believe is very important to the success of adoption of a viral product like Power BI is the social & community workstream. We heavily leverage this workstream to increase employee awareness of Power BI, amplify our internal marketing campaigns , and give users a safe place to ask each other questions and get answers. You can use the Power BI public community or build your own community using your own internal social tools. We have an extensive Yammer community with many active members helping each other with Power BI questions. Tips for success for an internal Power BI community include the following:

  •          Provide a safe place to ask questions and get answers
  •          Identify experts in the company to help others
  •          Run contests to increase adoption through competition and fun—see the Annik custom visual contest as an example of a great community activity
  •          Host regular meeting to increase the number and expertise of your champions
  •          Plan and execute community activities that match your corporate culture to encourage users to engage and help each other

Strategic Advisors:  We have a small team of BI advisors who engage with key internal BI teams creating Power BI solutions for large internal teams.  These advisors work with the BI teams to ensure they are aware of and using all the resources available to help them adopt Power BI and facilitate their progress.    In your company, you could take a similar approach to ensure large internal Power BI projects are successful.

Reporting:   Finally, in alignment with our data-driven culture, we continually measure our program’s impact.  We analyze Power BI user activity and combine it with user surveys, interviews and focus groups to help make decisions on how to run and improve our program.   For example, we track employees Power BI usage and correlate it to delivery of internal training to see if the training was effective in helping employees use Power BI.   User activity is available to the Power BI admin settings which takes you to the Power BI audit logs.

We measure and report on nearly every aspect of our program to inform our decisions, including but not limited to:

  •          Power BI usage by division, team, and manager (MAU, WAU, DAU)
  •          Training attendance and activity
  •          Usage of our website
  •          Social activity

You can pick and choose which of these workstreams are most appropriate for your company and would likely yield the best results based on your corporate culture. Use them as examples and tailor them or similar activities to your company.

To help you understand more about how we did this:

Finally, I’ve made some Power BI feature requests that will make the effort to drive adoption at scale easier for others.  I hope you will take a look at these requests and vote for the features you believe your company would benefit from using and even make your own requests.   https://ideas.powerbi.com/forums/265200-power-bi-ideas/category/180799-adoption