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Defining and Understanding the Power BI Administrator Role

The first step to becoming a Power BI Administrator is understanding the roles, as well as the different types. Generally, an administrator is someone who empowers their organization.  A Power BI administrator should play a role where they support the business users while enforcing rules.

Before jumping into explicit admin functions and types, it’s good to take a step back and understand the type of admin you want to be. This is most commonly shaped by your organization’s adoption of Power BI. In a self-service adoption, an admin may monitor Power BI usage and performance, establish polices and guidelines to help users take the correct action, and ultimately facilitate a culture within an organization that views data as a competitive asset. For Enterprise adoption, administrators are responsible for safe and efficient operation of a Power BI environment. They limit what users can do and ensure compliance with organization policies. These administrators care what resources are in the Power BI environment, but it doesn’t matter what resources are shared with them.

self service v enterprise Power BI admin

There are a variety of admin types to define in order to begin delegating responsibility. It is important to understand these types as you will have different people within your organization classifying themselves as an ‘admin.’

Admin v Scope


Global admins, and billing admins are defined within Office 365 and are two roles within Active Directory. The global admin has access to everything and can take over resources and assign licenses.

Power BI Service admins are assigned within Office 365 by the global admin. The Power BI Admin has access to the admin portal, and can therefore modify tenant settings, view usage reports, set organization visuals, and more. Note Power BI admins do not have access to licensing, subscriptions or audit logs.

Now let’s discuss admins defined within Power BI, starting with capacity admins. Capacity admins are required when working with Power BI Premium. This admin type is responsible for taking care of certain premium resource and allocation tasks.  For example, Finance and HR departments may have different capacity admins to allocate their resources appropriately based on their workloads. Capacity Admins are managed and assigned within Power BI. On creation of a new capacity, at least one capacity admin must be set. You can then select the size, and region for the capacity.

A Power BI workspace is a place to collaborate with colleagues and create collections of dashboards, reports and datasets. A workspace admin manages access to the workspace through member and group   assignments, and the name and other general settings on the workspace. Note, workspace admins are not Power BI Service Admins. Typically, this type of admin is a member of a team utilizing Power BI and is facilitating self-service culture. For that reason, Power BI Service admins are not workspace admins by default. Think of this decision from a DBA perspective, while they have access to manage databases, they may have limited access to certain data. Workspaces, containing data models and reports, can be looked at in the same vein. Despite all of this, a Power BI Service admin can view all the workspaces through PowerShell scripts or the Admin portal and make themselves an admin of the workspace if needed.

There are a variety of tools available to Power BI admins to help maintain and monitor resources successfully.

Below are 3 of the most common tools:

Power BI Admin Portal – The Power BI admin portal is accessible by Power BI Services admins. Within the portal, you can set tenant settings, capacity settings and view usage reports.

Office 365 Admin Portal – The Office 365 portal is used to set Power BI Service Admins. Billing administrators can also purchase Premium capacity and assigned Free and Pro licenses to users.

PowerShell and REST APIs – While Office 365 and Power BI contains some user interfaces for admin functionality, PowerShell and REST API scripts can be written to gain deeper control and monitoring capabilities. For example, you can leverage a REST API call to the Power BI Service to list out all workspaces and the workspace admin and import into a spreadsheet for your own workspace contact list.

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