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Would you like a Touch of Power BI Premium?

Should we switch to Power BI Premium? Not yet, we only have 250 users, it's cheaper to license them individually.” This is an example of my own deliberation from a few years back and since then, heard many times elsewhere. With a Premium license, pro users can share Power BI content internally within the organization for a fixed monthly price, which significantly changes the game. The Premium license also includes other noteworthy features, but in this blog article, I will particularly address the importance of free content sharing.

Why Power BI Premium?

Returning to the initial cost consideration, according to Microsoft’s calculator, the magic threshold is around 500 users, considering that all users would be licensed with a personal Pro license.

From my observations, the threshold for achieved benefits is reached much earlier. If the popularity and usage of Power BI have already grown in your company, then the real action starts after switching to Premium. The shift from a limited user group to an unlimited one is significant, and word about it spreads like wildfire.

The trick is that units and functions previously considered not-so-significant gain the same tools as the company's spearhead units. Of course, there isn't much ready-made content available for them initially, but new user groups are ready to start even modestly. The most important thing is to share information that previously relied on a monthly report sent by email or was hidden in SharePoint, waiting in vain for visitors. And if someone had ever stumbled upon these distribution channels, they couldn’t open the file due to missing access rights, or the Excel workbook's password was lost at that moment.

A few new individuals who quickly understand the value of this change start to emerge. They share their insights with the crowd, and the message resonates with some. Based on the available information, operations start to change in the best-case scenario.


  • Consider the junior analyst working in business development, whose understanding of data is unmatched. Power BI is a familiar tool, but it's only used by the management. He shares his analyses with those who know to ask for them, each in a different format, of course.

  • Or think about that talented individual hiding in the finance department, whose SQL queries could lay the groundwork for managing a mid-sized publicly traded company. He's heard a lot of good things about Power BI, but despite that, Excel and PowerPoint serve as the presentation layer.

  • And what about the business controller, who barely gets a chance each month to reveal his legendary key metrics to the business, if there's any time left at the end of a meeting. He understands the benefits of Power BI very well, but the ticket for getting reports into wide automatic distribution has been stuck in the change process for the past three quarters. The acquisition of 50 new pro licenses is not the least of the delaying factors.

    The facts speak for themselves and there's certainly a demand for good BI, but if the content only reaches a few chosen ones, the impact remains negligible.

Talks of elevating data-driven management to the core of strategy are questionable as long as some irrelevant variable defines who in the organization is responsible for data-driven management.

With Premium, in principle, every member of the organization is turned into a potential innovator and agent of change. Once you've made the choice, you no longer have to ponder who in your company is worthy of Power BI and who is not. Ultimately, the question is whether you want to serve a multiple number of data-hungry people or save a few thousand a month in licensing costs.

After Implementing Premium

In cases where the decision was made to go for Power BI Premium, it was easy to see it as the right choice afterward. It was realized that comparing license prices at the pro/premium cost boundary wasn't the main issue. What had been saved in costs, in good faith, was actually slowing down the company's strategy-driven agenda for data-driven management.

Initially, there isn’t a guide for every detail, the features are not technically sufficient in all aspects, and there’s head-scratching with capacity management, and learning to coexist with business developers. But then user numbers start to soar, and the amount of new pro users grows with the increase in self-service usage.

The distribution capability brings the culture of data-driven management to entirely new areas. The same result would not have been possible by continuing the user-specific contemplation of who gets a license and who does not

Difficult Choices in Capacity Usage

Using Premium capacity then comes with its own not-so-easy choices. Not all good things come without worries. To mention a few:

  • Do we give citizen developers free rein, or do we throttle centrally and how tightly?
  • How to manage development when ICT and business perspectives don't align? Who pays for the shared capacity?
  • In maximizing self-service usage, sometimes things are overlooked. Not all models are optimized to perfection. Above all, this is reflected in the load on the premium capacity. When business develops without adequate checkpoints, load distribution is easily forgotten, and everything is imported to PBI service. This quickly leads to reaching the capacity limit, leaving the option of a course correction and optimizations or increasing capacity.
  • The quality of data and the role of trusted data sources become even more pronounced. No one wants Premium noise, so it’s wise to keep the expensive capacity clean.

Eventually, if plans have even partially come to fruition and luck has been on the side, it's time to look in the rearview mirror.

Here’s one scenario of the outcome: success in deploying data-driven management to the masses and realizing the self-service concept beyond development day PowerPoint slides. On the other hand, there is also a failure because the benefits achieved through data-driven management have not been calculated in monetary terms.

As usage increases, costs rise, leading to a need for optimization or additional capacity and pro licenses, training people, and in the worst case, recruiting new people dedicated to data utilization.

Before you wrestle with yourself in this bittersweet limbo, ask for tips from Cloud1 on how to achieve balance and harmony with your Premium capacity.

Contact: tuomo.riihentupa@cloud1.fi, +358 41 431 1887.


* Considerations in choosing Premium, not covered in this article:
  • On-prem option (Power BI report server). A worthwhile alternative for those with SQL Server Enterprise SA maintenance and who have no plans to move to Power BI service.
  • Sharing Power BI content outside the organization – different methods and their differences.