I enjoy the occasional list about why I should use a certain tool or why it might make my life a bit easier. Power BI is one of those tools that definitely makes reporting easier from Project. As such, a list of Power BI’s advantages could be quite a long list, but the longer list, the less enjoyable for the reader. So, I’ll try to summarize in three points some of the key aspects of why I like to use Power BI with MS Project.
While Project has all sorts of internal reporting that helps run projects and understand resources, I often find myself needing a “bit more,” or to format things in a different way. Project tells us the when, who, and what. It also has a rich data environment, but I often need to include pieces of data from other systems, too, when I’m creating reports.
Data Comes from Everywhere
As much I would like to promote the theory that Project does EVERYTHING and is the “end all, be all” for every piece of project related data that I might eventually need, we all know that it’s not. It does an incredibly good job tracking the Project Management pieces that we should be concerned about, but it is not a manufacturing system. It is not a sales system, and it is not an accounting system. Yes, Project can feed information to those systems or incorporate information from those systems, but Power BI has the ability to combine that data in more ways and in different ways than those tools individually or comprehensively allow. I have done so many reports over the years where I take Project information and combine it with data from other systems. Depending on many variables, this takes time and personal knowledge to make happen. Power BI has given us all the ability to do that quickly and effectively without having to build a data warehouse or temporary tables in one system that massages the data for us. With Power BI, we are now able to easily combine more data from more disparate systems than ever before.
The Bigger Picture
The ability to get data from anywhere and everywhere also means that we can now get a fuller picture of our organization. We can now combine the data from multiple systems and see how pieces of the organization may affect each other. We can start to see how decisions made in one department, division, or management level affect the other areas. For example, a client may need to look at Twitter, Facebook, their CRM, QuickBooks, the accounting department, Project, and their ERP systems for get the whole picture. Now we can show them the Project information about who is doing (or did) what, when and where they are doing it, PLUS we can combine that information with the other systems to get a more holistic picture. In this example, we can see what Marketing did ahead of time, what Sales has been doing since the product hit the market, how long that product took within the organization from idea to shipment, and how all that aligns with Twitter and/or Facebook. Using this big picture approach, we can see how the Social Media team is aware of what is coming, if they are communicating what the company wants from a product perspective, and how they engaging with consumers. This also helps the organization then go back to Portfolio Management and Project Management to determine which projects should get which priorities.
Easier to Understand
As I said, over the years I have created some reports that combine all sorts of data from many systems. Often that meant putting data into Excel, and even more often, into an Excel pivot table. The user had everything that was needed to understand the big picture, but only if they understood pivot tables and enjoyed reading spreadsheets. We all know that not everybody enjoys spending an afternoon with a good spreadsheet, or has the time for it! With the capability of Power BI’s visual dashboards, data can be viewed and understood very quickly. As a bonus, for those that still like those Excel spreadsheets, the data from Power BI can always be exported to Excel, but we can make combinations that may not have been feasible to make in the past. The ability to present complex data combinations in easy to understand visuals that tell a story is a huge advantage of Power BI.
As the Power BI folks always tell us, “Go from data to insights in minutes,” and that is true with the capabilities that Power BI brings to projects. In summary, we can see our Project data in the format that we want to see it in. Better yet, using Power BI for Project data allows us to combine the information with the organizations greater data collection.
Want to know more? Watch my on-demand webinar, Project Online + Power BI = The Complete Resource Picture! This presentation is about setting up Project Online to have the right data but then about combining that data with other data sources into a visual dashboard.
Webinars (watch for free now!):
Beyond Macros – Customizing Microsoft Project for Non-Techies
Getting to Grips with the Project Interface