Visual Reports

Hello everybody. I’m Heather O’Cull and I’m also a program manager on the Project team. This week I decided to lock Lidiane out of her office and take over control of the blog to write about a new feature that I think is pretty cool – Visual Reports.

Visual Reports is a new feature in Project Standard and Professional that allows you to report on your project’s data in Excel using PivotTables and PivotCharts, and in Visio using a new feature called PivotDiagrams (think fancy WBS charts). Using Visual Reports you can now easily create eye-catching reports that are also informative off data from your project using formats that are familiar to your target audience. To help get you started we are shipping Excel and Visio templates. You can also create your own templates that you can share out to others to provide a consistency across everyone’s reports.

Some background information for the technical people (non-techies feel free to scroll to the pretty pictures), Visual Reports works by first creating a local database (.mdb file) that contains data from your project. From there we build a local cube (.cub file) and then hook the cube up to a PivotChart in Excel or a PivotDiagram in Visio. These cubes are completely separate from the server cubes. There are six different cubes to create reports off of – resource, task, and assignment in both summary and usage (time phased) flavors. You can even save cubes or the database to then create reports off of in the future.

And now for the pictures…
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Pictured here is the main Visual Report dialog. All of the templates you see listed in the dialog are templates that we are shipping to help get you started. If I create a new template and save it in my templates folder it will also show up here. You can even choose to include templates from another location such as a public share. When you create or edit a template you can specify which project fields and custom fields to include in the template.

Here is an example of an Excel template we’re shipping, the Resource Work Summary Report:

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And the corresponding PivotTable:

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Note, how using this chart you can easily see that Resource3 is over allocated and that Resource1 and Resource2 could potentially take over some of its work since they both have remaining availability. If I wanted, I could customize this report to only show the data for a certain time period. I’ve also customized the look of the chart a bit to help show off Excel’s new charting capabilities. For more information on new Excel features check out the Excel 2007 blog.

As I mentioned earlier Visual Reports works with a new feature in Visio called PivotDiagrams. These diagrams are good for hierarchical data such as work breakdown structures. You can customize the look of the nodes in the diagram by adding text fields, data bars, indicators, and background colors that are based off a value. You can even use formulas to create calculated fields in Visio. To learn more about this feature check out the Visio 2007 blog. Here is an example of the task status report:

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From here I could drill into Phase3 to see which tasks are causing it to slip.

And for a little more background information, Visual Reports works with Excel 2003 or later and Visio Professional 2007. You don't need to have .Net 2.0 installed to use this feature. That was only a requirement for the Beta.