In this article, I’d like to pick apart one of the more recent additions to the Microsoft Project Professional application. It has been included in the 2013 version of the product, and it is a very powerful new feature that is sure to help many project schedulers in their reporting needs.
The above screenshot is taken from the Microsoft Project Online Desktop Client. This is the online subscription version, which can be compared the most with MS Project 2019 at the moment. Your screen might look a bit different if you are using the 2013 or 2016 versions of the product, but the various groups and buttons should all be there.
The Reporting Tab contains three groups and eleven buttons, most of them with a dropdown option for more information. Two of the groups contain “old” functionality. These are the Project and Export groups. Let’s explore them first before we dive into the more interesting View Reports group.
In the Project group, there’s one button, and that is Compare Projects. Hovering
over the button gives us some insight in the functionality. This command literally compares two versions of a project. This comparison report can be useful when creating big and complex schedules and doing in depth what-if scenario’s. Another useful application is if you have a contractor working on a schedule that he/she shares with you on a monthly basis. When receiving the newer version of the schedule, it could be helpful to run a comparison report. You’ll get fast insights on where the schedule changed since the previous month.
If, for instance, I have a Project Version 1 and a Project Version 2, I can open either project and find the other project to compare it with, as shown below.
In the Compare Project Versions menu, we can choose which task and resource tables are compared. Project will not calculate the other columns, so make sure you have costs and work in the table you are comparing if those fields are of value to you.
After clicking on the OK button, a whole lot happens and we are presented with a new .mpp file. Note the two original files are opened in the background.
Look at the above screenshot. We can see that the top section is the actual comparison report, and the two sections below show us the original projects.
There are plus icons that share information about tasks only visible on the schedule we started the report from. Minus signs show tasks that are removed from the “new” schedule, and there’s a question mark that shares name changes between the schedules. In the table, we see a lot of “diff” columns, which shows us information about differences between the two schedules. Select a view that only shows the difference columns, if that is what you’re looking for. When you are done comparing, there’s a “close comparison button that brings you back to one of the original schedules.
The Export Group
As with Project group, Export contains only one button. Visual Reports are another remnant from the previous versions of Microsoft Project. Because this has been discussed in length on other articles, I won’t dive in to much detail here.
It really comes down to this: Using the Visual Reports command will generate a file that can be used later (called a CUB file), or you can consume the information directly by selecting an Excel or Visio template previously created using the same data.
The View Reports Group
Finally! The View Reports group—now this is where some magic happens. The View Reports group contains the “new” reporting capabilities of Microsoft Project. These capabilities are included in the application itself, which is a big improvement compared to the previous versions which allowed for reports in PDF, Excel, or Visio only.
A great thing about the visuals that show up when the user runs these reports is that each element is a XML entity that can be copied to any of the Microsoft Office applications. This makes your reports an ideal starting point for status updates in PowerPoint or Word.
The example above was copied from the project file directly, and can be changed to include a title. Other changes, like edits to the color schema, for instance, can also be made easily.
Reports are categorized as Dashboards, Resources, Costs, In Progress, and Task boards. Note that Task Boards will only show up if you have a Project Online subscription and the online version of the application.
Each of these categories contain sample reports—yes, they are out of the box, but already quite useful. There is the issue of time granularity in most of the reports that you want to correct when first looking at any report. And there are some best practices you should follow to generate reports that actually contain useful content, such as creating a baseline and adding resources and costs.
Apart from the categories mentioned above, there are buttons that provide you with more options. These are: New Report, Getting Started, Custom, and Recent.
Creating a New Report will give you the option to start building your own visually stunning report based on either task or resource data (or maybe both). The drop down menu that pops up when clicking on the New Report button gives you an option to start a blank canvas, a table, graph, or compare report. Don’t confuse the latter with the Compare Project option we discussed at the beginning of the article.
Getting Started gives you a nice in application tutorial on how to use Microsoft Project. This includes best practice analysis and “share with team” reports that, for the sake of your time being important, I wouldn’t bother with because they aren’t that great.
The Custom button brings up a dropdown menu that shares every custom generated report that was created via the New Report button or shared using the Organizer. As with all the buttons in this group, except for the New Report button, here’s also a “More reports…” options, which is basically another visualization menu sharing the same information as is on the ribbon. See below.
The last button to point out is the Recent button. It shares the last five reports that you visited. Not much more to discuss.
I hope you gained some more insights in the reporting capabilities of the Microsoft Project versions 2013 and up from this article. I am always looking for new and great ways to visualize a project’s progress. If you are keen on creating your own reports, I would love to have a look at them. Feel free to drop me a message, or just share them with all of us by utilizing the comments section below.