Selecting an Appropriate Project Server BI Tool

I am pleased to announce that a second white paper of mine has been published on Technet.  If you’re looking for an overview of Project Server reporting options in a convenient package, then go ahead and download the paper from the following link:

Here’s the table from page 9, a quick overview of the different reporting tools…

Tool Description When to Use
Microsoft Project Professional The desktop client version of Microsoft Project provides a wealth of reporting tools – Timelines, Visual Reports, Reports, Export to Excel, Export to Access, and the ability to copy specific screenshots. Use these tools when reporting is performed on a single project basis. Typically, these tools are used by the project manager to respond to ad hoc informational requests or to participate in a defined manual status reporting process.
Project Center Views The default dashboard feature within Project Server, the Project Center allows for the rollup and graphical depiction of key metrics from within projects. Use Project Center views when the organization has defined specific metrics that may be tracked in projects using enterprise fields. Project Center views should generally only be used for reporting when the organization has defined metrics, and enforces a strict project update process to ensure that the reported data is valid.
Excel & Excel Services Excel provides an intuitive and familiar report authoring tool to the information consumers of the organization. Excel Services allows the reports to be published in a secure fashion for consumption by other users. Use this tool when a number of information consumers have spreadsheet authoring skills, and desire the ability to manipulate standard reports to meet specific needs. Excel reports may be used for project or portfolio level reporting. Excel reports may yield minimal returns to organizations that have not begun tracking effort or cost estimates within projects.
Visio & Visio Services Often underappreciated as a reporting tool, Visio provides an interface for producing unconventional reports with intuitive navigation. Visio Services allow the reports to be published in a secure fashion and be made accessible to users without Visio installed on their local machines. Use this tool when a simple chart is insufficient for reporting purposes. For example, the report consumers may be looking for a more graphical depiction or navigational structure such as a timeline, geographical or organizational representation of project or portfolio level data.
SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) Traditionally the reporting tool of choice for many organizations, SSRS typically requires skilled individuals to develop custom reports. With the latest offering of SSRS, users may download Report Builder as a tool to develop reports. While this new tool allows users to create reports easily, the interface is still not as intuitive as commonly used desktop reporting software such as Excel or Visio. Use SSRS reports when there is a need for an automated distribution of reports on a regular basis, for instance a weekly e-mail comprising the status for all projects within a given portfolio. SSRS reports are also useful when attempting to develop reports pulling from both Project Server and SharePoint Server data sources. Generally, SSRS is to be used when the format of the report is static, and users are not expected to make changes other than controlling specific filtering parameters.
PerformancePoint Services PerformancePoint Services allows users to assemble diverse collections of reporting assets into modular dashboards. The reporting assets may include SSRS reports, Excel reports, and native PerformancePoint reports. Each asset may be used individually, in a single dashboard, or in multiple dashboards. PerformancePoint Services provides several points of functionality to the Project Server user. Use PerformancePoint Services when various reporting elements are expected to be used and reused as components within various, targeted BI dashboards. Also use PerformancePoint Services to quickly and easily display key metrics from projects in a Web-based interface. Note that these metrics are typically pulled from OLAP cubes, and as such may only be relevant to organizations tracking cost or effort within project schedules.
The REST API The REST API is a powerful tool for dynamically extracting information from published Excel reports and then embedding that information in web sites, Word, or PowerPoint documents. Use this tool if the organization requires the routine production of Word or PowerPoint artifacts consuming project or portfolio level data. This tool allows the user to embed dynamic data in Office documents for use in such artifacts as routine status reports or monthly resource reports.
External Content Types External content types are configurable by using SharePoint Designer, and allow the surfacing of database data directly into SharePoint Server. This potentially makes the data more accessible, and subject to the default SharePoint Server search process. Use this tool in conjunction with the SharePoint external list feature to surface Project Server data in the form of SharePoint lists. This model may be appropriate to organizations that have grown accustomed to providing key information to stakeholders via SharePoint lists or who need to give users the ability to create and save custom views of project data.
Power Pivot for Excel

PowerPivot for SharePoint

Introduced with the 2010 release, Power Pivot consists of both a SharePoint Server application to generate list data feeds and an Excel add-in. Power Pivot pulls data from SQL Server databases and SharePoint lists and easily aggregates it into a single table. (Power Pivot was deemed out of scope for this document.) Use this tool when multiple SharePoint lists must be combined with Project Server data to generate a single data set for reporting purposes. For example, use this tool to combine a list containing a project narrative from team members with project data – or if project level metadata has been extended from Project Server into secure SharePoint lists.
Selecting an Appropriate Project Server BI Tool

6 thoughts on “Selecting an Appropriate Project Server BI Tool

  1. Sam Brooks says:

    Very nice job on the ‘Reporting with Microsoft Project Server 2010’ white paper. I’m not sure how excited the SSRS team will be with “SSRS is to be used when the format of the report is static” but otherwise, an outstanding job! Keep up the great work –

  2. Andrew,
    Great job. Your article looks perfect and it will be very helpful for Project Server community. I agree with your statement “SSRS is to be used when the format of the report is static””, if you are talking in terms of developer. If organization is ready to adopt the Report Builder, SRS will come little close to Excel Services.

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