Auto-generated Status Reports Generating reports in Project Online with Office Exporter
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5 min read
09 May, 2018

Generating reports in Project Online with Office Exporter

Project and Portfolio Management is constantly receiving more focus worldwide, how projects can be controlled and executed the best possible way. When talking within PPM, topics are often mentioned on three different levels: Operational, Tactical and Strategic level. Where the focus has tended to help the Line Managers on the tactical level, and as well the PMO managers and executive peoples such as CIO on the strategical level.

But, Project Managers on the operational level are those who deliver and control the projects. Those are the ones who should have fully focus on the Project execution instead of data validation, which is often what is seen in practice. Project Managers should not spend hours on securing that project data is validated, nor should they spend hours entering and updating their project among 3-4 different systems. Last, they should not spend much time preparing Project Status Reports for steering group meetings each month. Project managers use a lot of time ensuring the project is on track and the plan is up to date, so why shouldn’t they have the possibility to create Status Reports in seconds based on the data they have entered in one system. This is exactly what Office Exporter offers to Project Online.

This app makes pre-defined status reports for project managers with one click, and the output would be in what they probably already know – Microsoft Word or PowerPoint.

 

Introducing Office Exporter

The Projectum Office Exporter is a reporting tool App focusing on the Project Managers' needs on the operational level. The app ensures that Project status reporting is as easy as one click. But behind the scenes it is much more than one click from the Project Managers, it is an organizational alignment making sure that all project managers deliver the same report structure, which means that steering groups meeting will now focus on what is important - the individual project status, instead of understanding the structure and data validation of the report.

Using Office Exporter also ensures that processes are established, first and foremost, the most important process is the structure of the report: what is necessary to present - and this is where the strategical level could contribute with their knowledge and opinions. They probably want to know the overall project information, such as name, owner, manager, and department information. Next, they would need some project progress information -  this could be the KPIs in different areas, mostly within resources, scope and time. This information could, of course, be compared to what was set the month before, which always allows project managers to track the evolvement of the project over time.

 How about upcoming tasks, or even more specific, upcoming milestones? Organizations tend to have common milestones that they need to report on, so why not bring them into action, and make sure we can auto-generate them into the status report? The format of the milestone differentiates depending on the organization, most common is either the overall key milestones, or progress update on milestones completed last one or two months, and upcoming milestones for the next one or two months. The planning of a project is an essential part of the execution, as it ensures that we can deliver on time, therefore it is important to keep track on the milestones for the project and when they are completed. With Office Exporter, you just need to ensure your process is in place, the rest will be done automatically so that project managers don’t need to go in to the plan finding out next upcoming or key milestones, copying and  pasting the details in to the plan - this is all done with a single click, that's all the project managers need to do.

Project risks is a big thing when talking about project execution, so shouldn’t they be on the agenda at steering groups meetings, so actions can be taken if something seems to delay the delivery of the project? Well, it is possible to show you risk list in your status report – Office exporter can ensure that only the right amount of data is taken from the project, and the data is exported to either Word or PowerPoint, regardless if it is horizontal or vertical. Horizontal wise, it is not necessary to see risks with the lowest exposure, or only top 5 risks being relevant. Vertically, the risk name, description and exposure are probably fine in the report, then the project manager can elaborate more at the meetings.

 

#MakeStatusReportingGreatAgain

Above was a lot about setting the stage, but how does Office Exporter work for the end users? Giving examples of how the App could be used in the real world, and what is often seen as key information to steering group meetings. I strongly believe that Office Exporter will make status reporting great again for project managers because they will save a lot of valuable time!

 

The Technical side

Up until now, this post has not been technical at all, but we are getting started -  this section will cover the detailed side of how to make the app being so great. First os all, you need to have the app installed in your Project Online environment, please see the end of this post how to get it. When the app is installed it is now ready to be used through the “cockpit”.

From the “cockpit” you have a different section, the Introduction is just briefly about the app; How To is a guide about configuration, telling how to quickly get the app up and running, and then there is a more detailed guide describe each individual configuration possibility and how this would work. The two different guides ensure that you don’t get stuck in the configuration, but have the possibility to get up and running, more things can always be added afterwards.

Configuration is the workspace of this app, here all the templates are stored and the data mapping whether it is List, task, picture or field mapping, everything is controlled from here ensuring that you have the setup that is needed for your organization. In addition, we have the About which is just a link to Projectum's website.

Now I will take the technical approach, ensuring that the knowledge of how to create reports is explained. Templates are the most important part of the configuration, which gives me the incentive to start here. The first decision will be the output format - should it be presented in Word or PowerPoint? When this decision is in place, the creation of templates can start. You can either start from scratch or use existing reports as a startup point. When creating templates – the understanding of placeholder is important because this is what ensures data being placed at the right place. There are two placeholders at first Project and Tasks these exports data to the project either containing project information such as Project standard or custom field, or Tasks columns (all of the information from the plan, which might not be relevant). Below is a quick example of project placeholder giving you data containing project information:

{Project[Name]} – Gives the name of the project

{Project[Description]} – Gives the description of the project

{Project[Resource KPI]} – Gives the value of the resource KPI (it could be – red, green, yellow or 0, 1, 2)

So, we can put these into the documents right where needed, they can be written just as text, text boxes or in tables.

When talking about list data, specific placeholders are created based on needs: if risk list is needed, a placeholder can be created called risks that maps from the list whether it is from project site or root site. This way the app can ensure the report contains what is specifically needed for the reporting perspective. An example of a custom place holder could be:

{Risks[Title]} – This mapping will give you data from risk list taking the column called title, that could be the risk naming.

With these mappings filtering, grouping etc. is also possible using CAML Query, which ensures that top 5 risks are shown and sorted by highest exposure. This is available for all lists. Office Exporter is often spoken as a text-based tool, but referring to KPI’s, graphical icons would be nice which we can do with field mappings, here we can ensure that if we have KPI fields for example the resource example shown above, we can replace the value with at corresponding icon, reusing the example from above it would look like this:

{Project[Resource KPI]:KPI} – The formatting KPI will look for the value in the field and replace that with a chosen graphical icon.

Picture mapping is also possible, which means that you can upload pictures you need in your reporting. The processes behind need to be in place, but the feature is so nice - think about showing pictures of team members within the project, organizational charts or financial charts.

 

A look into the future

Office Exporter is seeking to be better and better over time, and therefore new releases will come, and new features will be implemented. A sneak peak into the future could be the Portfolio exporter, which comes in two varieties – the first focus is to make things even easier for project managers to ensure that they don’t need to create one report for all 10 projects, but they can create on simple report including the one-pager for all his projects. For example, this would save more time for the project managers.

 

The End

This was a post about the Projectum Office Exporter, and how it can help your business execute projects in a more efficient way in the future. If you have any questions regarding the app and how your business could benefit from using it, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly, or fill out the contact form on our Contact site.

  

 

         

 

About Peter: 

Senior PPM Consultant at Projectum ApS

pfj@projectum.com

Peter is a Senior PPM Consultant or Projectum. He creates solutions for Project and Portfolio Management in medium/large businesses, providing and developing project, program, resource and portfolio management solutions for organizations primarily using Project Online, and building great reports and Power BI dashboards.

 

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