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Solution-Building for Non-Geeks: Overview

Hyped-Up Intro (or Why SharePoint + MS Project = Cool)

First, let me start by saying that I have nothing against "geeks"… I'm actually a geek at heart, but at this point couldn't write a snippet of .NET code to save my life. I'm more of a functional guy who knows enough to be quite dangerous with SharePoint and Project Server… which is why the stuff that I'm about to share is so cool!

In this and the following series of posts, we'll review how to use SharePoint Designer 2007 -- one of the new tools in the Office 2007 suite -- to quickly and easily build solutions for Microsoft Project and Project Server 2007 using a couple of special SharePoint web parts… the Data View Web Part (DVWP) and the Data Form Web Part (DFWP)… without writing a single line of code.

 

First Thing's First: SharePoint Review

Because of its power and flexibility, SharePoint means many different things to many different people. Some might say that it's a website for storing and sharing documents. Others might say that it's a web application for provisioning collaboration websites. Others still might say that it's a development platform for building interactive web-based business applications. One could go on and on… and these definitions are all correct.

Depending on my mood on any given day, if I had to describe SharePoint in one sentence, I might define it like this: it's a tool for provisioning dynamic websites which can be used for electronically capturing, storing, controlling, and sharing data, information, and knowledge within an organization. Can I get any more vague?

There was one concrete part of that definition -- it's a tool for provisioning dynamic websites that can be used to do "stuff" -- so I'll leave that part alone and focus on the "stuff" now.

SharePoint websites can be used for all sorts of "stuff", which I like to think fall into these four categories:

  • Communication and Collaboration: Providing people with the ability to effectively find, communicate with, work with, and share knowledge with other people in the organization, regardless of time or location.
  • Enterprise Content Management (or ECM): The processes and technologies used for managing the capture, storage, organization, control, retrieval, and distribution of structured and unstructured data across the enterprise.
  • Business Process Automation: Automating interactions of people who participate in business processes, as well as the flow of information through those processes, making the work more efficient, predictable, and error-free.
  • Business Intelligence (or BI): The practice of aggregating, visualizing, and analyzing data describing the current state of business operations in order to make better-informed business decisions.

 

Okay, we're a little closer, but for some we might not quite be there yet, so here are some of the features & functions that are included in the various SharePoint products:

  • Document, Record, and Web content management, LOB system integration
  • Web forms, Content Types with policies and workflow
  • Excel Services, KPIs, Dashboards
  • Tasks, calendars, blogs, wikis, e-mail & RSS, My Sites, social networking
  • Rich people, site, and business data search

 

One could write an entire 6"-thick book on "what is SharePoint", but the moral of the story is that SharePoint can be used to create dynamic, flexible, powerful websites that can help an organization do any number of things. All we have to do is pick & choose from the huge a la carte menu of features, put the parts together in a logical manner which meets our specific business needs, and voila!

 

How SharePoint and MS Project / Project Server Can Work Together

SharePoint websites can be used in conjunction with MS Project and Project Server in a number of ways. For example, if used with MS Project, SharePoint websites can store project schedules online so that entire project teams (including vendors and customers) can view or update the data in those schedules. In addition to storing and sharing project schedules, a SharePoint site can be used as a communication and tracking tool for project issues, risks, milestones, deliverables, discussions, and associated files.

If used in conjunction with Project Server, SharePoint can add even more value. Unlike Project Server 2003, Project Server 2007 is a SharePoint application, which means that it not only integrates nicely with the Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) collaboration and development platform, but it's actually built on top it. In other words, Project Web Access (PWA) is actually a highly-customized SharePoint website. The .NET development / coding platform, a plethora of web parts, integrated security model, workflows, web services, and so forth… these are all facets of SharePoint which can be leveraged to build powerful solutions for extending the built-in functionality of Project Server 2007.

 

SharePoint Designer: What Is It?

As mentioned in the beginning of this long-winded post, SharePoint Designer 2007 can be used to easily create powerful SharePoint-based tools which extend the built-in capabilities of MS Project and Project Server 2007. So what is SharePoint Designer?

Basically, SharePoint Designer is the new-and-improved 2007 version of Microsoft FrontPage 2003, except that it works better, it has more cool features, and it's been re-branded to emphasize its focus on designing / manipulating / managing SharePoint websites.

Here are some of the things you can do with SharePoint Designer 2007:

  • Integrate, display, and manipulate data from multiple data sources
  • Customize the display of data on a SharePoint page, such as sorting, filtering, and conditional formatting
  • Modify the design (look and feel) of a SharePoint website
  • Create document and data workflows with a wizard-like interface
  • Perform site administration and maintenance tasks such as site creation, performing site backups, and managing site security

 

In the following series of "Solution-Building for Non-Geeks" posts, we'll focus mainly on the first two bullets. More specifically, we'll look at how to grab and integrate project data into a SharePoint website, using the Data View Web Part (DVWP) and the Data Form Web Part (DFWP), which we'll create using SharePoint Designer.

 

What the Heck are DVWPs and DFWPs?

Data View Web Parts (DVWPs) and Data Form Web Parts (DFWPs) are two special types of web parts which can be added to a page inside a SharePoint website for displaying and / or modifying data which resides in any number of data sources (in other words, data that resides "someplace"). That's a mouthful, so let's break it down a bit further…

First, these web parts -- which are essentially functional blocks which can be dropped onto a SharePoint web page -- can be used to display data (read only) or modify data (read & write) that lives "someplace". That data might live somewhere inside the SharePoint website, it might live somewhere in another SharePoint website, or it might live somewhere else altogether.

More specifically, the data can be fetched from…

  • A SharePoint list
  • A database
  • An XML file
  • An XML web service

 

So, for example, these web parts can be used to fetch data from a list of project issues which is stored in a SharePoint site, they can be used to fetch project, task, resource, or assignment data from a project database, they can be used to fetch data from a project schedule which is stored as an XML file, or they can be used to fetch data from a Project Server web service.

 

Coming Up…

Ok… so now that I've bored you to death with concepts and abstraction, we'll start looking at the actual process of creating some simple examples using SharePoint Designer. Here are some things that you'll need if you want to follow along though the upcoming posts, so you can start begging the appropriate demi-gods now:

  • A copy of SharePoint Designer 2007 installed on your desktop
  • Administrator access to a WSS / Project Server 2007 environment ("real" or virtual)
  • A copy of Project Professional 2007 installed on your desktop
  • Mixed mode authentication (SQL and Windows auth) on the SQL Server which hosts the WSS / Project Server database
  • A SQL Server login & password

 

Until next time, happy trails, pilgrims!

Hacking PWA with SimpleUI: Getting More Screen Real Estate

 

As discussed last time, PWA 2007 offers a little-known, yet surprisingly simple way to hack the interface through the web browser's address bar… using a parameter called SimpleUI. This feature, combined with some of the powerful features of Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 technology (upon which PWA 2007 is built), as well as a little bit of not-so-fancy footwork, can be used to easily gain some much-needed screen real-estate.

In this installment, we'll see how easy it is to add a simple web part to nearly any page in PWA which will allow us to toggle off the page header and left (Quicklaunch) navigation, thus giving use more real estate for viewing project, resource, and task information. In order to implement what's described here, you will need to have sufficient privileges to modify PWA pages. If you're not lucky enough to have this level of PWA kung fu, pay a visit to your local friendly Project Server administrator, or kindly share this information with them.

 

1. Visit a page within PWA, such as the Project Center:

 

 

2. You should see the Site Actions menu near the upper right corner of the page (if not, you don't have sufficient permission to modify PWA pages); click Site Actions > Edit Page:

 

 

 

3. This will switch the page into editing mode; click the Add a Web Part bar, near the top of the main content section of the page:

 

 

 

4. In the Add Web Parts dialog box, scroll down the list to the Miscellaneous section, select the Content Editor Web Part, then click the Add button:

 

 

5. The Content Editor Web Part will be added to the top of the main content section of the page (in this example, directly above the Project Center data grid):

 

 

 

6. Switch the newly-added Content Editor Web Part into editing mode either by clicking the Open the Tool Pane link within the web part, or by selecting Modify Shared Web Part from the web part's edit menu:

 

 

 

7. A tool pane will open on the right side of the screen for modifying various aspects of the new Content Editor Web part; click the Source Editor button:

 

 

 

8. In the Text Entry dialog box which has been launched, type or paste the following HTML code, then click the Save button:

 

<a href="?SimpleUI=32">Show</a> / <a href="?SimpleUI=15">Hide</a> the Fluff

 

 

9. Show / Hide the Fluff should now be displayed in the Content Editor Web Part:

 

 

 

10. In the tool pane, scroll down and expand the Appearance section, then change the Title to Show / Hide the Fluff:

 

 

 

11. A bit further down in the Appearance section of the web part tool pane, change the Chrome Type to None, then click the OK button at the bottom of the tool pane:

 

 

 

12. The web part tool pane will close, and the changes will be applied to the newly-added web part:

 

 

13. Click the Exit Edit Mode link, located directly below the Site Actions menu, to switch the page out of editing mode; you should see the Show / Hide the Fluff web part displayed near the top of the main content of the page (in this example, it's shown directly below the Project Center heading):

 

 

 

 

14. Clicking on the Hide link will collapse the page header and Quicklaunch (left) navigation, thus freeing up more screen real estate for the main content on the page (in this example, the Project Center data grid):

 

 

15. Clicking the Show link in the web part will return the page to its original state:

 

 

This was a relatively simple example with boring page controls (Show / Hide the Fluff text); if we wanted to get a bit more sexy, we could create some simple buttons using any graphics editor, then insert them in place of Show / Hide:

 

 

 

Smashing!

 

On working with SharePoint pages…

I realize that to many of you folks out there, many of these SharePoint concepts may be new; if you would like me to expand on any of the basic SharePoint functionality (editing pages, working with web parts, etc.), please leave a comment.

 

Good luck, and happy hacking!

Hacking PWA with SimpleUI

 

As with Project Web Access (PWA) 2003, PWA 2007 offers a little-known, yet surprisingly simple way to hack the interface through the web browser's address bar… using a parameter called SimpleUI.

Because the latest-and-greatest Project Web Access (PWA) interface included with Project Server 2007 is now built upon the new Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 technology, we now have nearly limitless options for customizing the web interface… either through custom programming or configuration directly through the web browser. If you've been granted the appropriate level of permissions, then you can simply crack open PWA 2007 in your web browser, flip a page such as the PWA Home page into "edit mode", then add, remove, or rearrange page content through the use of SharePoint webparts.

However, if we want to modify the non-content parts of the page, such as the header or left-side (Quicklaunch) navigation, then our job can become a bit more difficult. Unless we're familiar with building & editing ASP.NET Master Pages with SharePoint Designer or Visual Studio, then we might think that we're basically stuck with the hand that we've been dealt. Enter SimpleUI.

 

Getting Started with SimpleUI

SimpleUI is a parameter which can be added to the address of any PWA page, and it's basically used for toggling the main non-content pieces of the page:

 

Following are the four sections of the PWA page layout which can be toggled on & off:

 

1. The Breadcrumb & Welcome bar:

 

2. The Title & Search bar:

 

3. The Top Link & Site Actions bar:

 

4. The Quicklaunch menu:

 

Let's now take a quick look at how to use the SimpleUI parameter to hack the PWA interface…

 

1. Add "?SimpleUI=1" to the PWA URL to turn off the Breadcrumb & Welcome bar.

For example, if we're at the PWA Home page, add "?SimpleUI=1" to the end of the URL, resulting in http://vpc01/PWA/default.aspx?SimpleUI=1:

 

Notice that the Breadcrumb & Welcome bar is now hidden. To un-hide the bar, replace "?SimpleUI=1" with "?SimpleUI=0":

 

2. Add "?SimpleUI=2" to the PWA URL to turn off the Title & Search bar.

For example, if we're at the PWA Home page, add "?SimpleUI=2" to the end of the URL, resulting in http://vpc01/PWA/default.aspx?SimpleUI=2:

 

Notice that the Title & Search bar is now hidden. To un-hide the bar, replace "?SimpleUI=2" with "?SimpleUI=0".

 

3. Add "?SimpleUI=4" to the PWA URL to turn off the Top Link & Site Actions bar.

For example, if we're at the PWA Home page, add "?SimpleUI=4" to the end of the URL, resulting in http://vpc01/PWA/default.aspx?SimpleUI=4:

 

Notice that the Top Link & Site Actions bar is now hidden. To un-hide the bar, replace "?SimpleUI=4" with "?SimpleUI=0".

 

4. Add "?SimpleUI=8" to the PWA URL to turn off the Quicklaunch menu.

For example, if we're at the PWA Home page, add "?SimpleUI=8" to the end of the URL, resulting in http://vpc01/PWA/default.aspx?SimpleUI=8:

 

Notice that the Quicklaunch menu is now hidden. To un-hide the menu, replace "?SimpleUI=8" with "?SimpleUI=0".

Notice that when we turn off one of these four areas of the page, the setting remains, even when we visit other pages within PWA:

 

Once again, to reverse the setting, simply add "?SimpleUI=0" to the end of the web address:

 

Getting Tricky: Combining SimpleUI Parameters

Want to toggle more than one of the four areas at the same time? No problem… simply add the desired parameters together. For example, if we'd like to turn off the Breadcrumb & Welcome bar (SimpleUI=1) as well as the Top Link & Site Actions bar (SimpleUI=4), we'll add the numbers together (1+4=5) to create the parameter to add to the address:

http://vpc01/PWA/default.aspx?SimpleUI=5

 

Wanna turn off all four? Use "?SimpleUI=15":

 

Why Use SimpleUI?

Anyone can do it!

Anyone can add the SimpleUI parameter to the PWA address bar, regardless of the permissions that they've been granted in Project Server (you don't need to be an Administrator).

 

No programming required!

Because the SimpleUI hack only requires a little bit of simple math and access to the web browser's address bar, no programming knowledge or fancy programming tools are required.

 

Reclaim some screen real estate!

For those of us who don't have 45" monitors with 16,000 x 12,000 pixel resolution, scrolling is an essential part of life. SimpleUI helps to reclaim some of that precious screen real estate to cut down the scrolling required when viewing large data views.

Get a bigger view of the Project Center. Nice!

 

Next time, we'll look at an easy way to add a "Show / Hide" function to nearly any PWA page for toggling the fluff and reclaiming some of that precious real estate.

In the meantime, play around with SimpleUI and have some fun!

MS Project Reporting: Schedule Status Indicator

This post is the fourth in a series of posts describing several methods of generating reports using MS Project on the desktop. Last time we looked at how to use filters to narrow down the data which is displayed in MS Project reports. The technique shown below displays a column of Graphical Indicators in your MS Project schedule which provides a quick "at-a-glance" view of how the tasks are tracking against the Baseline. The technique utilizes MS Project's ability to use Custom Fields, Formulas, and Graphical Indicators (optional).

 

The Schedule Status Indicator Explained

MS Project views can be configured to display graphical status indicators which provide a quick view of certain data. This can allow Executives, Project Managers, and Team Members to easily manage projects on an exception basis, rather than unnecessarily spending large amounts of time analyzing detailed project data.

Schedule Status graphical indicators specify the status of each task in a project schedule with respect to the current timeline.

When the Schedule Status is evaluated for each task, the item is tested based on a set of criteria:

  • Is the task complete?
  • Is the task overdue?
  • Has the task been baselined?
  • Are we forecasting the task to finish early or late in the future?

Is the task complete?

If a task has been completed, then we no longer have the ability to leverage that item to make future schedule improvements.

A completed task is indicated with the following graphical indicator:

(Complete)

Is the task overdue?

If we've passed the scheduled finish date for a task and it is still incomplete, then the task is overdue.

An overdue task is indicated with the following graphical indicator:

(Overdue)

Has the task been baselined?

In order to forecast whether or not tasks will finish on time, the Project Manager should set a baseline when the project plan is initially created and accepted; this baseline is used throughout the duration of the project for comparison. Without a baseline, we cannot accurately and automatically measure variances in the scheduling of tasks.

A task which does not have a saved baseline is indicated with the following graphical indicator:

(No Baseline)

Are we forecasting the task to finish early or late in the future?

As tasks are executed, schedule variances often occur (items finish earlier or later than originally planned) which affect the finish dates of tasks in the future. If the Project Manager has set a baseline, we can then use this baseline to forecast whether tasks will finish early or late.

A task which is forecasted to finish on-time or early is indicated with the following graphical indicator:

(Green)

A task which is forecasted to finish less than 10% late (based on the overall duration of the project) is indicated with the following graphical indicator:

(Yellow)

A task which is forecasted to finish more than 10% late (based on the overall duration of the project) is indicated with the following graphical indicator:

(Red)

 

The Schedule Status Indicator Formula

The formula, as shown below, is the basis for calculating which of the graphical indicators will be displayed in the project schedule. It is intended to be used with a custom text field, and it tests for these six conditions:

  • The task is complete
  • The task is overdue (finish date has passed, and task is incomplete)
  • The task has no baseline
  • The task is on time or early
  • The task is less than or equal to 10% late (based on the project duration)
  • The task is more than 10% late (based on the project duration)

Here is the formula:

Switch(


[% Complete]=100,"Complete",

(([% Complete]<100) And ([Finish]<Date())),"Overdue",

(([Baseline Start]=ProjDateValue("NA")) Or ([Baseline Finish]=ProjDateValue("NA"))),"No BL",

[Finish Variance]<=0,"Green",

[Finish Variance]<=(ProjDateDiff([Project Start],[Project Finish])*0.1),"Yellow",

[Finish Variance]>(ProjDateDiff([Project Start],[Project Finish])*0.1),"Red"

)

 

Creating The Schedule Status Indicator

To configure the custom text field, insert a column into the current view by selecting Insert > Column, then selecting an unused custom text field from the dropdown list (in this example, we'll use Text1):

 

After clicking OK, the column should be displayed in the current view; reposition it if necessary by clicking and dragging the column header:

 

Next, we'll insert the formula into the custom text field. To modify the text field, select Tools > Customize > Fields…, select the appropriate field (Text1, in this example), then click the Formula… button in the Customize Fields dialog box.

 

In the Formula dialog box, enter the formula as listed above, then click the OK button:

 

In the Customize Fields dialog box, for Calculation for task and group summary rows, select Use Formula. You may also wish to rename the text field and give it a name such as "Schedule Status"; simply click on the Rename… button, enter a new name, then click the OK button. Click OK again to accept the changes and close the Customize Fields dialog box.

If you've entered the formula correctly, you should see a series of values in the new custom text field as shown below:

 

When the formula finds one of the six conditions to be true, it displays one of the following results in the custom text field:

  • "Complete"
  • "Overdue"
  • "No BL"
  • "Green"
  • "Yellow"
  • "Red"

You can simply display the text data as shown above, or you can display a graphical indicator for each of the six conditions. To add Graphical Indicators, return to the Customize Fields dialog box, select the new custom text field, and click on the Graphical Indicators… button.

In the Graphical Indicators dialog box, enter each of the six results and select an image for each, as shown below:

 

After you've configured a Graphical Indicator for each of the six conditions, click the OK button to close the Graphical Indicators dialog box, then click the OK button to close the Customize Fields dialog box.

You should now see Graphical Indicators, rather than the data results ("Red", "Green", etc.), in the new custom text field, as shown below:

MSProject Reporter RSS Feeds Now Available
For those of you who visit the MSProject Reporter site (http://www.msprojectreporter.com) on a regular basis for the latest MSProject-related posts and jobs, you've probably noticed the pretty orange RSS icons on the home page...
 
You now have two options for automatically receiving the latest MS PRoject info... the weekly e-mail newsletter and the new RSS feeds for MS Project-related posts and MS Project jobs. If you prefer e-mail over RSS, and if you haven't signed up already, please visit the MSProject Reporter site and subscribe to the weekly newsletter in the upper right corner of the home page. If, however, you're totally hip to the RSS thing, then you can now subscribe to the latest info and receive updates automatically on a daily basis.
 
Enjoy!
 
-- Tony
 
MS Project Reporting: Narrowing Things Down with Filters

This post is the third in a series of posts describing several methods of generating reports using MS Project on the desktop. Last time we discussed how to create custom Tables to expose the data that we need for our Project Reports. Now that we are able to display the Columns that we need for our Reports, perhaps we don't want to include all of the line items (whether they are Tasks, Resources, or Assignments). For example, perhaps we've been asked to generate a Report which only shows Project Milestones, Critical Tasks, or Upcoming Tasks within the next two weeks. This is a job for Filters.

Depending upon the type of Report, there may be a pre-built Filter which suits your needs, or you may need to build your own Filter. We'll save Filter-building for another day and focus on using a pre-baked Filter for this example.

  1. Select Project > Filtered for > More Filters… to display a list of available pre-built Filters:

     

     

  2. In the More Filters dialog box, select the Filter which suits your needs, then click the Apply button:

     

     

  3. The selected Filter should be applied to the Table, resulting in a more concise view of the data for reporting purposes:

     

     

You can also make use of the AutoFilter functionality in MS Project to manually, yet quickly filter the items listed in the Table; here's how:

  1. Select Project > Filtered for > AutoFilter:

     

     

  2. With the AutoFilter function enabled, click the drop-down arrow next to the heading of the Column that you would like to use to Filter the data; you can then select a specific value from the drop-down list to only show line items which have that exact value, or you can select (Custom…) to create a custom Filter:

     

     

  3. If you selected a specific value from the AutoFilter drop-down list, then the Filter will be applied immediately; if you selected the (Custom…) option, then the Custom AutoFilter dialog box will be displayed:

     

     

  4. Enter one or more conditional tests into the Custom AutoFilter dialog box, then click the OK button:

     

     

  5. The Filter should be applied to the Table, showing the desired line items for your Report:

     

     

Preparing the Data for Presentation

As mentioned in the previous posts, once the Project data is exposed and formatted to your liking, there are several options for presenting the data to the Project stakeholders:

  • Print the Table directly from MS Project
  • Convert the Table to PDF for electronic distribution, printing, or publishing on a web page
  • Copy or export the data to another program such as MS Excel, MS Word, or MS PowerPoint
  • Use the snapshot tool to capture a screenshot of the data, then paste into another program
  • Use any of the multiple File > Save As… options to convert the data to another format

 

Next time, we'll look at how to integrate custom Fields and Indicators into our Tables for displaying richer data in our Project Reports.

MS Project Reporting:  Exposing Data with Custom Tables

Last time we briefly discussed some of the reasons why Project Managers often skip using the built-in Reports in MS Project, and we looked at some of the fundamental concepts around Tables and Views. Now that we (hopefully!) understand some of the differences between Tables and Views in MS Project, how do we create or modify them to generate the data that we need for reporting?

One way to manipulate a Table or View in MS Project to generate a desired Report is by adding, removing, and moving Columns in the Table; you can start with an existing Table which is similar to the desired layout, or you can create a custom Table.

 

Adding Columns to a Table

To add one or more Columns to a Table, do the following:

  1. Select View > Table > More Tables…:

     

     

  2. In the More Tables dialog box, select a Table which is similar to your desired end result (you may need to view some of the Tables to determine which is the closest match), then click the Copy button:

     

     

  3. In the Table Definition dialog box, enter a Name for the new Table, then add Columns / fields to the Table by clicking in the first empty row in the Field Name column and selecting the desired field from the drop-down list:

     

     

  4. Repeat the selection process for any fields that you would like to add to the Table (i.e. which fields you would like to include in your Report); you can also specify other options for each field, such as alignment, width, custom title, etc.:

     

     

  5. Select the Show in menu checkbox, located near the upper-right corner of the Table Definition dialog box, then click the OK button.
  6. The new Table should appear in the More Tables dialog box:

     

     

  7. Click the Apply button to close the dialog box and display the new Table:

     

 

Removing Columns from a Table

To remove one or more Columns from a Table, do the following:

  1. Rather than selecting View > Table > More Tables, simply right-click on the Column header that you would like to remove, then select Hide Column from the drop-down menu:

     

     

  2. The Column will be hidden immediately from the Table:

     

     

    Note: the removed Column has not been deleted permanently from the Project schedule, but rather it was simply hidden from view; it can be re-added later if needed.

 

Moving Columns in a Table

To move / rearrange the Columns in a Table, do the following:

  1. Rather than selecting View > Table > More Tables, simply click on the heading for the Column that you would like to move:

     

     

  2. Click and drag the Column heading to the desired position (a shaded line will indicate where the new position will be when you release the mouse button):

     

     

  3. Release the mouse button to "drop" the Column into its new position:

     

 

Preparing the Data for Presentation

As mentioned in the previous post, once the Project data is exposed and formatted to your liking, there are several options for presenting the data to the Project stakeholders:

  • Print the Table directly from MS Project
  • Convert the Table to PDF for electronic distribution, printing, or publishing on a web page
  • Copy or export the data to another program such as MS Excel, MS Word, or MS PowerPoint
  • Use the snapshot tool to capture a screenshot of the data, then paste into another program
  • Use any of the multiple File > Save As… options to convert the data to another format

 

Next time, we'll look at how to use Filters in MS Project to narrow down the number of items in a Table for more concise Project Reporting.

MS Project Reporting: Tables and Views Primer

Traditionally, the built-in reports that were included with Microsoft Project desktop tool often did not meet the business needs of Project Managers and stakeholders for many organizations. Because of this, many people have been forced to find other ways to present the required data for project status reporting.

One common method that people have used to generated project reports is via custom-built Tables and Views. This post, as well as the next few posts, will share some techniques that you can use to build and manipulate Tables and Views is MS Project to generate reports that will satisfy your organization's business requirements.

 

What are Tables and Views?

Before we begin, however, let's review some MS Project Tables and Views fundamentals. Basically, a Table is nothing more than a collection of data fields – or Columns – which describe a set of project Entities such as Tasks, Resources, or Assignments. Each of these Entity types has a set of properties which describe the Entity; here are some examples:

Entity: Tasks

Properties which describe each Task:

  • Task Name
  • Start Date
  • Finish Date
  • Duration
  • % Complete
  • Etc.

 

Entity: Resources

Properties which describe each Resource:

  • Resource Name
  • E-mail Address
  • Standard Rate
  • Max Units
  • Etc.

 

Entity: Assignments

Properties which describe each Assignment:

  • Assignment Name
  • Resource Name
  • Start Date
  • Finish Date
  • % Work Complete
  • Etc.

 

A Tasks Table, therefore, consists of a listing of Tasks, and it has a set of Columns (properties) which describe each of the Tasks shown in the list:

 

In the screenshot above, a Tasks Table is shown which has a set of four Columns: Task Name, Start, Finish, and % Complete. Although there may be too much Task detail, it could be considered by some to be a simple type of report. This data could be presented using any number of options:

  • Print the Table directly from MS Project
  • Convert the Table to PDF for electronic distribution, printing, or publishing on a web page
  • Copy or export the data to another program such as MS Excel, MS Word, or MS PowerPoint
  • Use the snapshot tool to capture a screenshot of the data, then paste into another program
  • Use any of the multiple File > Save As… options to convert the data to another format

 

Along the same thread, a Resources Table consists of a listing of Resources, and it has a set of Columns (properties) which describe each of the Resources shown in the list:

 

In the screenshot above, a Resources Table is shown which has a set of four Columns: Resource Name, Email Address, Max Units, and Standard Rate. This could be used as an example of a simple Resource Report for the Project.

Finally, an Assignments Table consists of a listing of Assignments, and it has a set of Columns (properties) which describe each of the Assignments shown in the list:

 

In the screenshot above, an Assignments Table is shown which has a set of four Columns: Assignment Name, Start, Finish, and % Work Complete. The heading of the first column may be a bit misleading ("Resource Name"), but this is truly a listing of Assignments for the Project… the Assignments, in this case, are placed into Resource groupings (for each Resource working on the Project, the corresponding Task Assignments are shown). This could be used as a simple Assignments Report for the Project.

So now that we know that a Table is simply a collection of Columns (which contain properties) describing a list of Tasks, Resources, or Assignments, what is a View?

A View can take on many forms, but it often builds on the concept of a Table and adds other things which add more meaning to the data in the Table. One example of a View is a Gantt Chart View:

 

As shown in the screenshot above, the Gantt Chart View combines a Tasks Table with a Gantt Chart – a visual representation of each Task on a timeline – to provide a more meaningful representation of the Tasks in the Project schedule. A View such as this can also include a Filter which perhaps only displays the major phases and milestones for a more consolidated version of the Project schedule:

 

These views of the Project data would be a great addition to any status / dashboard report. However, if we want to include the Gantt Chart visuals, then we won't have quite as many reporting options available to us:

  • Print the Table directly from MS Project
  • Convert the Table to PDF for electronic distribution, printing, or publishing on a web page
  • Use the snapshot tool to capture a screenshot of the data, then paste into another program

 

Next time, we'll start to look at how to manipulate Tables and Views to expose the information that is needed for generating comprehensive Project Reports.

Registration Now Open: MS Project Conference 2007
Open registration has just been announced for the Microsoft Office Project Conference 2007; visit the website for more details:
 
 
This year's US event will be held at the Washington State Trade and Convention Center in Seattle, Washington, October 28-31. The schedule has shifted from last year's conference, which was held in the middle of the week; this year, there will be a Sunday evening welcome reception, followed by conference sessions Monday thru Wednesday.
 
For those interested in attending the European conference, it is slated for December 3-5 in Madrid, Spain.
 
Also different from last year is the list of registration options. Here are the options according to the conference website:
Early Bird Discounted Registration: $699.00(USD)
This is an all access pass that covers your full attendance at the conference. It includes all evening events, daily conference meals, attendance to all sessions and to the exhibit hall.
 
Exhibit Hall Pass: $300.00 (USD)
This is a limited pass that covers your attendance in the exhibit hall only. It includes the Sunday evening welcome reception, daily conference meals and daily access to the exhibit hall. Please note this pass will not allow you access to the evening gala or any conference sessions.
 
Evening Gala Dinner Pass: $160.00 (USD)
This pass is intended for use at the Monday evening Gala Dinner only. It covers attendance to all 3 venues including the Space Needle, Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum. It also covers all food and beverage and entertainment.
 
Microsoft Employee:
This is an all access pass for Microsoft Employees ONLY that covers your full attendance at the conference. It includes all evening events, daily conference meals, attendance to all sessions and to the exhibit hall. Please note you must have the Microsoft Employee Code prior to registration.
 
Exhibitor and/or Sponsor:
This pass is intended for use by confirmed exhibitors and/or sponsors that covers your full attendance at the conference. It includes all evening events, daily conference meals, attendance to all sessions and to the exhibit hall. Please note you must have the Exhibitor/Sponsor Registration Code prior to registration.
One major difference is the break-out of the exhibit hall pass; since this year's event will be held at a larger venue, there will be room for a larger exhibit hall, which they are apparently charging for separately. This is makes the conference fee more affordable for those who are only interested in attending the conference sessions.
 
Check out the conference website for more information, and take advantage of the early bird registration fee before the offer ends!
 
 
Attend the 2007 Project Conference: October 28-31
It's time to start gearing up for the long-awaited 2007 Microsoft Project Conference!
 
Although it has not yet been posted to the MS Project Conference website (http://www.msprojectconference.com), the dates, location, and some other preliminary information have been solidified and shared through the Microsoft Partner channel:
 
Microsoft Office Project Conference 2007
Dates: October 28-31, 2007
Location: Washington State Trade and Convention Center, Seattle, WA
 
Since the attendance has been growing at a tremendous rate from year to year, the organizers have selected the Washington State Trade and Convention Center for the 2007 event. The largest hotels in the area are simply no longer large enough to accommodate the growing attendance. I believe that last year's attendance was somewhere in the 1,400-1,500 range, and the target for this year is 2,500... almost double!
 
At a high level, a couple of the main goals for this year's MS Project Conference are to showcase the end-to-end Portfolio and Project Management capabilities of the new Project and Portfolio Server 2007 technologies, as well as to enhance the overall awareness of the Microsoft EPM partner service offerings for successful implementation of EPM within organizations. There will be more opportunities this year for partners to present during the sessions, and because of the larger venue, there will be a much larger expo hall for partners to set up their booths and present their product and service offerings.
 
Stay tuned for more information on the 2007 Microsoft Office Project Conference by visiting the official website, or send an email for more information on partner presentation and sponsorship opportunties:
 
 
See you there!
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