I get asked this question all the time in my work as I am the BI consultant in Dynamics 365 Operations implementations.
Customer: “I would like to use Power BI to visualise Dynamics data.”
Customer: “What’s the difference?”
Customer: “But I was told that I can use Power BI without extra licences and Power BI is flexible and is easy to use to visualise Dynamics data.”
Terry: (Oh boy, here we go again) “Sure, let me tell you what the differences are.”
Difference 1: Flexible analysis of data
So, all Power BI solutions are flexible, aren’t they? After all, you just need to connect to the data source and off you go. You can model data in Power BI. Well, not so. In Embedded Power BI, you can only work with Power BI Desktop within the D365O VM. This means D365O development is necessary. There are two ways to visualise the data in the application (hence Embedded), one is to create Analytical D365O workspaces. The other way is to Deploy Power BI content to your Power BI private workspace (I wish they will only use the word “workspace” once!).
For BYOD Power BI, you can use Power BI Desktop to connect to an Azure SQL database so it is more flexible as you do not need to develop within the D365O VM.
Difference 2: Dynamics 365 Operations development vs Power BI Desktop development
Embedded Power BI requires Power BI desktop report development within the D365O VM. Hence it needs to follow the D365O development lilfecycle, meaning the provision of a development environment, then build the change, source controlled in VSTS, then deploying the changes from LCS into UAT and then Live. It is not a trivial task and definitely not for Power Users. It is a job for Developers.
BYOD Power BI requires Data Management jobs setup to refresh the data in Azure DB within the D365O application. Then Power BI desktop is used to model and create reports. It is more flexible as this can be done by Power Users. However, if the data entities do not contain the fields you need, then you need a D365O developer to create or modify data entities. This usually is not a big job – it depends.
Difference 3: Data Security
Embedded Power BI: D365O security is not applied directly to the data model. Security is controlled by D365O roles which is used to control the visibility of the analytical workspace tabs.
BYOD Power BI: D365O security is also not applied to the data model. So row-level security has to be setup.
Sorry everyone, no matter which solution, D365O security is not applied to the data model.
Difference 4: Mashup data
Embedded Power BI: Only D365O data is allowed.
BYOD Power BI: Mashup data is allowed.
Difference 5: Drillthrough to D365O forms
Embedded Power BI: You can program reports to drillthrough to specific transactional forms within D365O which means a richer, more integrated experience for the D365O user.
BYOD Power BI: You have full Power BI drilldown and drillthrough to the data but not to the D365O forms.
Difference 6: Near Real-Time
Both solutions boasts near real-time data update.
Embedded Power BI: Reports use direct query to connect to aggregated data entities BUT the entity store refresh stlll needs to be scheduled to refresh. Microsoft has said that auto-refresh is coming.
BYOD Power BI: Data entity synchronisation with Azure DB can be scheduled to be refreshed as frequent as possible with the use of incremental upload. And with a good performing Azure DB, it can be quite fast.
Difference 7: Licencing
Embedded Power BI: No extra Power BI licence is required.
BYOD Power BI: Power BI Pro or Premium required for sharing of reports and dashboards. Power BI Free can be used if not sharing the reports/dashboards.
Additional question: Is Embedded Power BI the same as Power BI Pinning?
No it is not. By setting up the Power BI configuration in D365O, you are allowing D365O to access the user’s personal PowerBI.com reports and dashboards so you can pin them within D365O. Every user’s PowerBI.com environment is different so you might have different tiles and reports to pin.
Embedded Power BI reports are essentially the same for all D365O users.
So which should you go with?
Both! By default, you get the Embedded Power BI analytical workspaces and content although based on your data, some might not have any data in the reports. If you wish to analyse your data as a Power User, you will need BYOD Power BI.
I think the deeper question is, for a Power User, which do I have more control and can be flexible with? The answer: BYOD Power BI.