Whether this is your first contact with PowerBI Robots or you already know what it does, this 101 guide will hopefully provide all you need to get started with little to no trouble.
What is PowerBI Robots?
PowerBI Robots is a brand new tool for Microsoft® Power BI™ that uses Robot Process Automation (RPA) to automatically and recurrently take screenshots of dashboards and reports and deliver them to a recipient. The screenshots are saved as an image or PDF file and instantly sent to an email, a SharePoint™ library or a file system. This flexibility allows Microsoft® Power BI™ data to, effectively, be displayed on virtually any device connected to the internet and running a browser.
PowerBI Robots may be used for free without any limitations, but all images and PDF files will display a red watermark. An annual license that grants unlimited company-wide use and removes the watermark can be purchased for 899€ at the DevScope store.
Who should use PowerBI Robots?
PowerBI Robots is especially useful to professionals who:
- need to send or receive regular updates on the most recent business intelligence data wherever they are;
- need to broadcast BI data on a large screen without a dedicated computer, such as a smart TV or video wall;
- need to share data from the Power BI™ account they manage with several other users;
- manage a business with several areas and need to recurrently send diverse Power BI™ metrics to different middle managers;
1 – Creating a new playlist on PowerBI Robots
In order to schedule automatic screenshots with PowerBI Robots, go to the web agent and click “Playlist” on the side menu (the default choice). From here, you will be able to create new automation playlists, as well as search and access previous ones.
To create a new automation playlist, simply click the green “Create” button. On the first tab (“General”) you must name the playlist, choose the screenshot output format (an image, or single or multiple PDF files), set the screen size, the screen-captures recurrence (i.e. your data’s refresh rate) and how you want your data delivered (“Send to”).
Currently, PowerBI Robots supports the following sending methods:
- Email: deliver your Microsoft® Power BI™ reports and dashboards as high screen images or PDF files by email to as many recipients as you wish to add on the “Recipients” tab. The subject and email message must be filled in the “General” tab;
- File System: send your Microsoft® Power BI™ reports and dashboards as high screen images or PDF files to a file system of your choice. You must enter the path to it on the “Recipients” tab;
- SharePoint: send your Microsoft® Power BI™ reports and dashboards as high screen images or PDF files to a Microsoft® SharePoint™ library. In order to have your data delivered, you must enter the SharePoint™ URL and Listname on the “Recipients” tab;
- PowerBI Robots Cloud: display your Microsoft® Power BI™ reports and dashboards as high screen images on any web browser. If you choose PowerBI Robots Cloud as your delivery method, you don’t need to fill in any recipients – a URL will be generated, which you can then enter on any web browser in order to watch your playlist;
After choosing your sending method, click the “Recipients” tab fill in your data recipients:
After you’re done, click “next” and proceed to the “Visuals” tab. Click “Add Power BI account” and a screen displaying your Microsoft® Power BI™ workspaces will pop-up. You may see all reports and dashboards contained on each by clicking the plus sign. Check the boxes to select which report pages and individual tiles you wish to send (alternatively, select them all). Select which data you wish to send and what filters you want to apply (for further instructions on how to do this, check section “3 – Personalizing a playlist on PowerBI Robots”).
All selected dashboards and reports are displayed on the left of the screen, under the “Search” bar. You can change their title, set their size and apply report and page level filters to any reports by clicking the icon next to the PBI Url field of each. After selecting which Power BI™ dashboards and reports you wish to add to your playlist, click “Create” to finish creating your playlist.
You must now proceed to install and configure the PowerBI Robots agent in order to synchronize the playlists you’ve created. You must now proceed to install and configure the PowerBI Robots agent in order to synchronize the playlists you’ve created.
2- Downloading, Installing and Configuring the PowerBI Robots desktop agent
After setting up your playlists, you must install and configure the PowerBI Robots desktop agent. If you don’t do it, PowerBI Robots simply won’t work. This agent is used to set things up and synchronize your playlists. It does not collect any information – everything is stored locally, on the user’s infrastructure. The PowerBI Robots desktop agent can be downloaded on the website or by clicking this link.
After downloading the PowerBI Robots desktop agent, extract the file, click it and follow the steps on the installer. Once the installation process is over, open PowerBI Robots Config and follow these steps:
1- On the “General” tab:
- add your PowerBI Robots account ID (you can find it on the top right corner of the web agent) and click “Synchronize” (IMPORTANT: every time you add, edit or remove a playlist from PowerBI Robots, you must open the agent and click “Synchronize” for the changes to take place);
- Log in to your Microsoft® Power BI™ Account;
- Check the Service Configuration;
If you wish to, you can also test your playlists here. Click the “Test PBIRobots Playlist Execution” button, and the following window will pop up:
Select the playlist you want to test and its rendering defaults. Your images or PDF files are stored at the location of your choice if “Override Target Delivery of Playlist” is checked.
2- On the “Providers” tab:
If an email or a SharePoint™ library is your playlist’s recipient, you can configure them here or ask your IT manager to do it.
If you wish to use your Office 365 account, you must ensure you have the following configuration:
- SMTP Host: smtp.office365.com;
- SMTP port: 587;
- SMTP security box has to be checked;
If you wish to use your Gmail account, you must ensure you have the following configuration:
- SMTP Host: smtp.gmail.com
- SMTP port: 587
- SMTP security box has to be checked
If “The SMTP server requires a secure connection, or the client was not authenticated” message is displayed, that means your Gmail account is blocking the access. Check your inbox for an email from Gmail Security Center and follow the instructions to allow the access.
3- On the “Service” tab:
You can choose between using a built-in Local System user or a Specific user. For the latter, make sure that specified user has read and write permissions to the installation folder (by default, C:\Program Files\DevScope\PBIRobots).
Save all changes and close PowerBI Robots Config.
And voila, your PowerBI Robots agent’s configuration is complete! Your playlists can now be sent.
3- Personalizing a playlist on PowerBI Robots
One of the biggest advantages of PowerBI Robots is the ability to send different data screenshots to different recipients from the same Microsoft® Power BI™ account.
In order to illustrate how you can take full advantage of this function, we will use a retail chain as an example. Let’s imagine you’re the general manager and need to send the “Annual Sales Report” to 3 of your stores, but don’t want to show each store manager how well their counterparts did. In order to do so, select the third tab (“Visuals”), add your Microsoft® Power BI™ account and select all reports and dashboards you wish to send. This is where we would gather our total sales data. Add whatever reports and dashboards you wish and hit the close button.
You can now apply any page level filters to the reports by clicking the filter icon next to the PBI Url on each. All of your recipients will receive the same data filtered this way unless you make some changes on the next tab.
On the fourth tab (“Filters”) you can further personalize your data by setting additional filters to each recipient of your reports. This is where we filter your “Annual Sales” data according to each store so each manager won’t be able to access the others’ results.
To filter data individually, select one of the reports under the search bar on the left and click the filter icon alongside the recipient you wish to send personalized data to, on the right. Apply any filters as you see fit.
Although dashboards can’t be changed, your Power BI™ reports can be fully personalized by selecting which data is shown to each recipient.
4- Displaying a PowerBI Robots playlist on any screen connected to the internet
One neat feature of PowerBI Robots is the ability to display screenshots with data from Microsoft® Power BI™ on virtually any screen connected to the internet. This is especially useful to those who need their data presented on large screens, such as smart TVs or video walls – but taking away the necessity of wasting resources connecting a computer running Microsoft® Power BI™ to them. In order to do this, select PowerBI Robots Cloud as the delivery system (next to “Send to”) on the “General” tab.
As with all delivery systems on PowerBI Robots, you can set the screen size and data recurrence (on the “General” tab) and apply any filters to your reports (“Visuals” and “Filters” tabs). After you’re finished, click update and you’ll be back on the default “Playlist” screen. Search for the playlists to be delivered to PowerBI Robots Cloud, click the collapsible button “Actions” and then “View Slideshow”.
A window with the URL will pop up.
Copy and paste it into any browser to view your PowerBI Robots playlist running. You can also set the interval between images from this screen.
5- Embedding Power BI reports in emails
Firstly, log into the web agent, and either create a new playlist or edit an existing one.
Then, on the General tab, select Image as the output format.
Scroll down to the Email Message, and edit it however you wish. With the cursor placed where you wish to embed a Power BI report, click the down arrow next to the pound (#) sign and either select All Report Images (to insert a token that embeds your entire playlist images in a row) or One Report Image (to embed just one image from your playlist).
If you select the last option, the token #REPORT_IMAGE_X# is inserted in your email body. Replace the X with the corresponding report number on your playlist (starting from 1) to embed it in your email.
Click Update, open the PowerBI Robots desktop agent to synchronize your playlists after these changes, and you’re done. Your playlist recipients will now see the reports embedded in their emails. Undoubtedly, this is the perfect method to share Power BI reports by email when you’re dealing with small amounts of data.
Thank you for using our product and making it through this (extensive) PowerBI Robots 101 guide.