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Power BI Dashboard Lets Orgs Check on Remote Workforce

As offices around the world shift to remote work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft is giving organizations the ability to gain insights into the productivity of their remote employees.

A new Business Continuity Dashboard for Power BI, announced last week, uses Microsoft's Workplace Analytics solution to surface insights on employee behaviors. It'll show details such as which teams are having "challenges" in maintaining external collaborations, or the percent of employees that are still connecting with their peers, according to Microsoft's Business Continuity Dashboard document.

To create the dashboard, Power BI users connect two prebuilt queries (called "Hourly Collaboration" and "Business Continuity") to a new Business Continuity template. The results, which get refreshed weekly, are displayed in graph form.

The Business Continuity Dashboard can only be set up by someone in an organization with at least the Analyst role privileges for Workplace Analytics, and the latest version of Power BI needs to be installed. Supposedly, an Analyst doesn't have the ability to see personally identifiable information, although someone with an Administrator role does has that privilege, per this Microsoft Workplace Analytics roles document.

While two prebuilt queries are used to populate the dashboard's template, it is possible to customize these queries, according to a Microsoft spokesperson in a Monday e-mail.

Licensing to use the Business Continuity Dashboard possibly could be a little obscure. Workplace Analytics requires having an Office 365 subscription with Exchange Online access rights. Whether Power Platform licensing would also be required is somewhat nuanced. Here's how the spokesperson characterized it:

Power BI Desktop is free, which can be used by an individual to view the data in the provided Power BI file. To publish the file and share it with others, Power BI Pro (or E5) is required. Viewers of the shared report need Power BI Pro or the workspace the reports reside in must be in a Power BI Premium capacity, it is free to view a dashboard if it has been published to a public website.

In any case, it seems the Business Continuity Dashboard data isn't really intended to be broadly shared. It seems designed more for HR executives, possibly.

The Business Continuity Dashboard is different from Microsoft's earlier announced Crisis Communication App "in that the Crisis Communications App combines the capabilities of Power Apps, Power Automate, Teams, and SharePoint versus the Business Continuity Dashboard is specific to Power BI," the spokesperson clarified.

The Crisis Communication App also is different in that it can send push notifications out to remote workers. It'll also track employee status basics, such as whether they are working at home or not.

For state and local government Power BI users, Microsoft also now has a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) tracking sample for publishing interactive COVID-19 reports to the Web, as described in this Microsoft document. The tracking sample data can be configured to refresh at various time intervals. It uses data compiled from this USAFacts.org site. It's also possible to mash up the data with data from another source, such as Johns Hopkins University (permissible for educational uses only), the document noted.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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