Why Git integration with Power BI is such a big thing

BI & Data Science Analyst at 10 Senses

Git integration with Power BI has been a long-awaited feature for numerous data professionals worldwide. Finally, it has gone live and is available in preview mode.

Along with the big launch of Microsoft Fabric, about which you can read more here, Microsoft has added even more fuel to the fire and decided to integrate Power BI with Git as well.

In fact, we release posts about Power BI Desktop and Service updates regularly (read articles for 2023 here). Nevertheless, we have decided to publish such a major announcement as a separate blog post.

It allows us to provide you with details about this integration, why it is such a big thing in the data analytics world, and what the opportunities and threats are related to it.

Once you read this article, you will know:

  • What does Power BI integration with Git mean,
  • What Power BI developers can do with Git integration,
  • Why is Power BI and Git integration such a major update,
  • What are the threats of Power BI and Git integration,
  • How to enable Power BI and Git integration.

What does Power BI integration with Git mean?

Integrating Power BI with Git empowers developers to integrate development processes, tools, and best practices right into the Microsoft Fabric workspace.

As a result, they can still develop business intelligence projects in Fabric, but also:

  • Backup and version their Power BI project,
  • Quickly and easily revert to previous states,
  • Collaborate more effectively with other colleagues or team members, or work in isolation using Git branches,
  • Take advantage of the capabilities of familiar source control tools, for example, Azure DevOps, to manage workspace items.

With the Fabric release, Microsoft also integrated the Fabric workspace with Azure Repos (Azure DevOps integration) and supported Fabric items, such as Power BI datasets and Power BI reports. Nevertheless, the company promises that the future will bring even more Fabric items to be supported by Git integration.

What can Power BI developers do with Git integration?

As you can see, this Power BI Git integration fosters team collaboration and the development processes of business intelligence projects. Numerous developers had been looking forward to this enhancement, and finally they can:

  • Connect a Power BI workspace to a Git branch and synchronize the content of the workspace into the repository,
  • Continuously track modifications and updates between items in the Power BI workspace and items in the repository,
  • Commit new changes made in the Power BI workspaces into Git easily,
  • Revert changes back to the last commit by using the “Undo” button (using source control integration),
  • Update the Power BI workspace with new commits from the GiT repository,
  • Checkout to a new branch to preserve workspace changes, commit to a different branch, solve conflicts, and many more.

If you use both Git integration and Power BI deployment pipelines, you can manage the content lifecycle end-to-end within Fabric. It means you can this right from versioning your code change to releasing it into production.

Nevertheless, it is important to keep in mind that the synchronization process works both ways. Therefore, if there are modifications committed to the repository, you can pick them up at the workspace level, but also the other way around. It means that you can integrate new changes made in the Power BI Service with the Git repo as well.

Why is the Power BI and Git integration such a major update?

To truly grasp the essence of this enhancement, let’s go through the key benefits of this integration. These are also the reasons why so many data experts had been looking forward to having this feature at hand.

Better collaboration

As already mentioned, enhanced collaboration between multiple developers on Power BI projects is the major benefit of this release.

As a result, team members working on different elements of projects can work simultaneously. Then, they can merge their changes, which increases team efficiency and reduces conflicts.

Business intelligence version control systems benefit

The integration also enables you to apply version control principles to business intelligence assets like Power BI reports and dashboards.

It can be a departure from traditional manual changes. Moreover, it can bring all the benefits of version control software usage, such as accountability and traceability.

Quality and stability

Apart from the version control benefits, integrating Power BI with Git allows Power BI Desktop projects to follow the best practices for software development. These are:

  • code reviews,
  • testing,
  • continuous integration.

All of these can result in improved reliability and ensure the quality of your Power BI reports and dashboards.

Process streamlining

The Power BI Git integration feature can also be an element of a broader effort to streamline the development processes.

It can be easily integrated into continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) pipelines, allowing for automated testing, validation, and deployment of Power BI assets.

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What are the threats of Power BI and Git integration?

Although Git integration with Power BI is a major update with multiple benefits for Power BI users, there are also some risks that you should look out for when taking advantage of this tool.

If you take advantage of Git integration, you will work on a dev, test, and production branch. Consequently, the development process would go like this:

  1. You deploy changes from stage to stage, and you can file a pull request to merge, for example, the dev branch into the test branch.
  2. Then, your team members can review your pull request, and a specific user can approve it.
  3. Once approved, your changes will be merged into another stage.

Here, you solely work on native functionality supported by Git. Nevertheless, you also need to keep in mind Power BI deployment pipelines.

Power BI deployment pipelines vs. Git native functionality

Power BI deployment pipelines allow you to move content from one workspace to another and from one stage to another.

Consequently, there can be an overlap in functionality since the concepts of branches and pull requests allow you to set up similar concepts. There are no limits when it comes to choosing one or the other or even combining them.

Let’s compare these two:

  • Git is generally more difficult to understand by a standard business user and requires additional licenses, while Power BI deployment pipelines provide an easy-to-understand visual interface and are part of the Power BI offering.
  • Git is already a settled concept in software development, while Power BI deployment pipelines are not widely adopted.
  • Version control is native within Git repositories, and approvals happen via pull requests, whereas version control in Power BI deployment pipelines can be synced via SharePoint or OneDrive, and approvals are not possible as complex workspace settings and pipeline permissions are needed.

If you use one single tool or another, the synchronization should go smoothly and easily. Nevertheless, the problem starts when you want to combine Git’s native functionality with Power BI deployment pipelines.

Using both Power BI deployment pipelines and Git’s native functionality

Let’s assume you have a branch in Git for each workspace and have them connected. On top of that, you have a Power BI deployment pipeline connected to each workspace as well.

If you follow the Git approach, you will create a pull request to move content from one branch to another. Then, a colleague with approval tasks will review your request before the deployment happens. Next, the workspace will be synced with the Git repository and branch before the content appears in the next stage.

Nevertheless, the approval process can be completely ignored if you push changes across stages through Power BI deployment pipelines. Then, your modifications can reach the test or even production stage without being checked and approved by other team members.

It is very likely that the changes in the workspace are not in sync with the Git repository items. It would be even worse if, at the same time, a Git pull request was approved and the corresponding repository updated. As a result, the sync between the workspace and Git repository would lead to conflicts. They can be challenging to resolve as it is difficult to determine where the latest version came from.

Therefore, it is wise to discuss with your team which branching strategies you will adopt to avoid unnecessary conflicts.

How to enable Power BI and Git integration?

Finally, let’s go through the steps needed to integrate Power BI with Git:

  1. Open Power BI Desktop settings, go to File > Options and settings > Options > Preview and check the box “Power BI Project (.pbip) save option”.’

How to enable Git integration with Power BI step 1

  1. Save your report as .pbip instead of .pbix (this way you will create a structured folder with all the essential Power BI project files in GiT-friendly format).
  2. Initialize a local branch with the .pbip project folder inside in VS Code, Visual Studio, or the GiT CLI.
  3. Develop your report and data model as needed. Once you make changes, connect your local repository to a remote branch (for now, you need to rely on Azure Repos).
  4. Publish your local branch to Azure Repos, which equips you with a new method of publishing your project to the Power BI Service.
  5. When you load data models using this method, they will be without data, as Git only saves the metadata. Nevertheless, once you refresh your dataset, you will retrieve the final data. And once you modify your report in Power BI Service, you can write back the changes to your remote branch and synchronize them to your local machine’s branch.

Git integration with Power BI schema

Source: Using the Power BI Git Integration: A 6-Step Guide | LinkedIn

All in all, integrating Power BI with Git has the potential to increase your business intelligence projects efficiency and team collaboration. Nevertheless, remember to use it wisely and discuss the process with your team members to avoid unnecessary conflicts in your future projects.

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