Earlier this year, Microsoft released Microsoft Project 2013. For the next several weeks, we will be going in-depth on each of the most important feature updates. In our last post, we covered introduced the high-level changes to Microsoft Project 2013 and gave in-depth coverage on Project Online in the Microsoft Cloud. Here, we will cover one of the largest changes updates in the tool: reporting.
The primary reporting features of Microsoft Project had remained relatively unchanged for the last 20 years, but with Project 2013, Microsoft has overhauled reporting and communication. It shouldn’t be a big surprise that the functions pertaining to project communication would see some of the biggest changes, given the buzz around Microsoft’s move to the cloud with their 2013 suite.
The changes are apparent right from the launch screen. The Microsoft welcome screen gives you the option to use an out-of-the-box template, a custom template, use a previously saved project, or start from scratch.
The reports themselves have seen significant changes as well. Microsoft has moved from the black-and-white “wall of text” to more graphic, interactive displays of Key Performance Indicators. There has been an infusion of interactivity, both in terms of the customizability on the input end and the dynamic information set on the output end. Figure 1 illustrates the impact on the look and readability of these changes.
The communication features are the most improved, though. Reports are synced in the cloud on-demand without the use of costly and inconsistent server space. Managers can also easily communicate one-on-one with team members. By hovering over a name in Microsoft Project, you are given the options to instant message, video chat, call, or e-mail that team member without leaving Project.
As you can see below, there are a slew of reports available in Project 2013. You can customize your own dashboard using a slate of reports to share large amounts of information in a visually palatable format (as shown in the After picture of Figure 1). There is increased integration with Excel, as well, and you can use their Presentation Wizard to make it extra pleasing.
You can customize any of the reports, or if none of them apply, you can start anew from a chart, table, comparison, or blank template.
Burndown report – Compares planned, completed, and remaining work on a chart that updates automatically as you change project data; this report provides a visual, up-to-date project status. This is an important addition to Microsoft Project for supporting agile project management, though these reports are helpful regardless of project management methodology. See Figure 2.
Cost Overview report – Shows the current cost status of your project and its top-level tasks; fields available include planned costs, remaining costs, actual costs, cumulative costs, baseline costs, and percentage of completion. This report is especially useful as you work to keep your project within budget.
Project Overview report – Shows how much of your project is complete, tasks that are late, and upcoming milestones
Upcoming Tasks report – By default, shows work that has been accomplished in the current week, the status of other tasks that were/are due this week, and the tasks due to start in the coming week.
Work Overview report – Provides work statistics for all top-level project tasks showing percent complete and what is still to be accomplished; this is essentially a work burndown report.
Overallocated Resources report – Shows the actual and remaining work for all overallocated project resources; there is also a link to the Team Planner view, where you can work to resolve these overallocations.
Resource Overview report – View the work status of all project resources to determine how much work is complete and what is still to be finished
Cash Flow report – By default, shows the cost (including cumulative cost) of all top-level tasks by quarter. Like most other pre-configured reports, it is customizable—you can show other costs, and other time periods.
Cost Overruns report – Displays the cost variance for all top-level tasks and people assigned to your project; also shows where actuals exceed baseline costs.
Earned Value report – Provides information about earned value, variance, and performance overtime; displays a comparison of costs and schedules to the baseline, which helps you determine if the project is on track
Resource Cost Overview report – Shows the cost status of resources (people, material, and cost-types) assigned to your project; cost details appear in a table, and cost distribution information is presented in a chart.
Task Cost Overview report – Shows the cost status of your project’s top-level tasks; just like the Resource Cost Overview report, cost details appear in a table, and cost distribution information is presented in a chart.
In Progress Reports
Critical Tasks report – Presents the status of all tasks on the project’s critical path; Note: A delay in a critical path tasks will cause the schedule to slip
Late Tasks report – Shows all tasks that either started or finished later than their scheduled start and finish dates and that aren’t progressing as planned
Milestone report – Presents the status of all project milestones, including if they are late, due, or completed
Slipping Tasks report – Shows all project tasks that are taking longer to complete than expected (actual finish date is or will be later than baseline finish date)
After decades with little change in the reporting engine in Microsoft Project, the 2013 release has exploded with improvements. The most salient ones are an overhaul of the look and feel, expedited communication options, new dashboard customization and presentation capabilities, and the addition of new reports, especially Burndown reports.
In our next post we will cover the improvements to Microsoft Project 2013 for backend users. You can also view our last post where we covered Project Online in Microsoft Cloud.