My fifth reason for upgrading to Project 2007 is a completely new feature — Visual Reports. The purpose of this new feature is to export data from Project 2007 into Microsoft Excel or Visio in order to create a pivot diagram, pivot chart or pivot table that better explains facts about the project. It’s designed for use with a single project file.
You will find Project’s Reports and Visual Reports off the “Report” menu. This may sound confusing, but they are two very different reporting tools. The location of the two reporting tools is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Don’t get confused! There are two reporting tools in the “Report” menu
Choosing “Reports…” will bring you to Microsoft Project’s tabular reports tool. These are the preformatted results of queries against the database. There are many to choose from, they are very fast to run, and they give volumes of information obtained from the database. Their two drawbacks are: 1) they’re not graphical, and 2) they’re only marginally editable. Figure 2 illustrates the main categories of Reports.
Figure 2: Reports… from the “Report” menu
Choosing “Visual Reports…” from the “Report” menu will bring up the “Create Report” dialog box offering you many choices of reports, some of which are Excel-based and some of which are Visio-based. Naturally, Microsoft thoughtfully included the ability to create your own report. See Figure 3 to view your choices.
Figure 3: Visual Reports… from the “Report” menu
I can’t explore all of the options available to you in this short article, but I would like to show you an example of the difference between the two types of reports. One report that is represented in both reporting tools is the “Cash Flow” report. In Reports, this is a time-phased report of planned costs in the project and is totaled by task and by time period. No doubt at all that this is important cost information for the project manager. This report is shown in Figure 4. In Visual Reports, the Cash Flow report is the result of exporting project data to Microsoft Excel and then creating a Pivot Table and Pivot Chart that summarizes and compares the data. Figure 5 illustrates the resulting Pivot Chart. The Pivot Table shown in Figure 6 illustrates that you control the granularity of data you wish to summarize or compare. In this example, it is set to weeks, just as it is in the tabular report.
Figure 4: The Cash Flow Report from Reports…
Figure 5: The Cash Flow Report from Visual Reports…
Figure 6: The underlying Pivot Table and data for the Cash Flow Visual Report
Finally you have choices in how to report your project! In earlier versions of Project you were limited to the tabular reports, views and exporting project data manually to get close to your reporting needs. In Project 2007, reporting is improved, but the addition of Visual Reports expands your options exponentially. Be bold and experiment! I’ll bet you get exactly what you want.
Read the other articles in the “5 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade” series by Sam: