Power BI Data Connection Options

Direct to Data Sources vs. Data Mart or Data Warehouse

Power BI can connect natively to many different SOR (System of Record) data sets found in an organization. They can be from transactional databases, CRM, financial systems, Excel files and so on. While connecting directly to visualize data in Power BI may seem more efficient, the results are often not optimal.

There are advantages and disadvantages of connecting directly to the SOR compared to bringing those data sets into an OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) database instead, such as a Data Mart or Data Warehouse that is specifically designed for reporting and data visualization.

Power BI connected directly to data sources:


Faster to implement

Less infrastructure to manage

No ETL skills required for dashboard designers


Requires business users to understand underlying SOR database structure

Dashboards can be fragile if underlying   databases change

Data blending can have poor performance

Requires extensive permissions across databases   if there is sensitive data

Requires direct access from Tableau Server to SOR

Analysis is often less robust and complete

Power BI connected to a Data Mart created from data sources:


Dashboards resilient to underlying SOR changes

Business does not need to understand underlying SOR database structure

Combining data sets provides more analysis and insights

Data access permissions can be consolidated into a single location

Dashboards never go directly against SOR

Enterprise solution that can grow with the organization


Requires technical (ETL) skills to implement

ETL scripts require updating as underlying database changes

Requires planning and construction time

Additional infrastructure required (e.g., software, hardware)


Not sure if you need a data warehouse or data mart to achieve optimal dashboard performance?



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