SharePoint Web Parts
& Office 365 Apps
by VirtoSoftware

SharePoint Project Management Dashboard

The problem of project management

Project management as a whole is an immensely sophisticated process that is extremely easy to overcomplicate. There are many different reasons that could mess with a project’s successful execution, but it’s safe to say that three of the biggest ones are control, organization, and reporting.

Lack of control over task assignments and project statuses is a disaster on its own, and it gets even worse when employees don’t understand what they have to do in the first place due to the lack of communication and oversight from upper management.

Organizational problems are pretty much just as bad, especially when it comes to information management – finding specific documents, instructions, figuring out the financial part of the process, and even collaborating between different employees/departments is far more troublesome when there are organizational problems all over the project.

Reporting is also a massive problem without a proper system in place, since it’s pretty much impossible to figure out the extent of the work that is already done, among many other issues. Keeping stakeholders in the loop about the project’s status is also just as problematic, leading to supply problems and other types of delays. The same applies to decision-making, in general – since it relies a lot on aggregated information in the form of reports.

SharePoint and project management

Luckily enough, SharePoint Online (as well as its On-Premise counterpart) is a great way to deal with most of these problems. Generally speaking, SharePoint is a versatile collaborative platform that is capable of integrating with various parts of Microsoft Office (and is a part of the Office 365 license, as well).

There are many different advantages that SharePoint can provide to various project management-related fields, such as:

  • User-friendly interface in a general style of Microsoft Office and similar Microsoft products;
  • Easier task management and scheduling;
  • General centralization and the existence of a centralized hub for all operations within the site;
  • Easier collaboration on many devices, from desktops to mobile phones;
  • Both budgeting and other decisions could be performed based on actual information from reports;
  • Simplified document navigation with a search function;
  • Better access to various estimates and other financial data, and so on.

SharePoint reporting in a project management setting

However, some of these benefits are not as obvious and easy to access as others. For example, SharePoint’s own reporting tools are not exactly sufficient, which is why there are several different approaches to SharePoint reporting and informational dashboards in the SharePoint/Office 365 ecosystem.

Example #1 – Microsoft Planner

Our first example here would be the reports that Microsoft Planner can provide. Microsoft Planner is in a category of so-called “to-do” apps – it is a relatively simple planning tool that can be utilized for both team-wise and personal planning matters. Its interface is very user-friendly and bears a resemblance to a popular task-centered web service Trello.

Microsoft Planner is available to all users of the O365 paid subscription – both enterprise and personal. The first page you’ll see when opening it is a hub of sorts – it should show you both the recent plans that you’ve created or changed, as well as the list of all the plans that you’ve worked on within your Planner account.

It’s also extremely easy to access Planner’s own version of a dashboard – all you have to do is to enter one of your plans, and click the “Charts” button on top of the screen. On the Charts screen, you’ll be able to see several different reports filled with information about this particular plan – and you can also customize them, to some degree.

It would be fair to say that Microsoft Planner is rather accessible, and does not have a prerequisite of knowledge in the field to be able to operate all of the planning tools properly. At the same time, it is way too simplistic to be a great fit for bigger enterprises with large, complex plans (and the need for complex data from reports and dashboards to make educated decisions).

Example #2 – Microsoft Project Online and Microsoft Power BI

Our second example is the combination of Microsoft Project Online and Microsoft Power BI. The reason for this combination is rather simple – Project Online generates reports, and Power BI creates dashboards using these reports. It is also pretty much the exact opposite of our previous example.

Project Online is a solution for project management that focuses on three main large tasks – resource management within the project, automated scheduling, and built-in reporting. Power BI, on the other hand, is a business analytics solution, with one main goal – to turn information into descriptive visuals that are easy to work with.

Now, there is a reason why we’ve described this particular example as the polar opposite of Microsoft Planner. While Power BI on its own is relatively simple and has a somewhat decent learning curve, Project Online is an extremely complicated solution that takes a lot of time and knowledge to get used to. The fact that it’s mostly aimed at large projects with massive numbers of tasks and other nuances is not helping matters, either.

Other than that – it’s a rather powerful duo, with Project Online being capable of accomodating the needs of a lot of different industries and enterprises when it comes to resource management, scheduling, and reporting. The number and the wealth of the reports is also a plus since it gives more power to Power BI to create better dashboards that can represent the project in question far better than ever before.

This kind of solution combination is also not exactly cheap, since Project Online on its own is a rather costly solution, and there’s also the subscription for Power BI (which is technically free, but it is one of our main goals to share reports/dashboards in the first place, and this is a paid feature when it comes to Power BI).

It would be fair to mention that Power BI is not the only alternative for Project Online when it comes to solutions that can generate reports out of Project Online’s data. There are also Project Online’s own sample reports, as well as Excel and other software’s features of business intelligence and reporting, as well as SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services).

Another interesting piece of information about Project Online is that it actually has a desktop application – which is kind of ironic since the solution itself has “Online” in its name. The desktop counterpart of Project Online also has its own set of names, depending on the feature set – Project Standard, Project Server, or Project Professional. The last one of the three is our next example of a solution that can generate reports and dashboards based on your SharePoint information.

Example #3 – Microsoft Project Professional

Our third, and last, example is, as we’ve said before, a standalone desktop version of Project Online by the name of Project Professional. The general feature set is quite similar for the two, although Project Professional is easier to work with and has somewhat lower requirements for it to be used effectively when compared with Project Online.

Other than that, it’s a great solution for project management that has a set of built-in templates, can synchronize with its online counterpart, supports timesheets, is capable of running simulations (“what-if” scenarios), as well as a rather useful way of representing complex schedules with its own variation of timelines.

It is worth noting, though, that while this is a great project management solution on its own – it is rather lacking when it comes to generating reports. Pretty much the only way Project Professional can generate a dashboard for your SharePoint information is to do it in the same way Project Online does – as a basic sample file with no dynamic parts in it whatsoever.

Virto Kanban as a SharePoint project management reporting solution

These are the biggest dashboard-related solutions that are included in Microsoft’s ecosystem, and each of them has its own caveats and problems. This leaves us with only one other solution – the usage of third-party apps to solve the problem of generating useful and easy to work with dashboards out of SharePoint project management data.

For example, VirtoSoftware’s Kanban Board App for SharePoint Online is a great task management solution that offers the ability to interact with your tasks, and the entire project, with the help of Kanban cards. The solution itself can work with existing SharePoint lists and create new ones, generate notifications, subtasks, change permissions, and more.

And what’s even more important to this article – Kanban Board App offers the ability to display your Kanban board as a detailed chart that can be generated as many times as possible, pretty much giving you a ready-to-use dashboard with up-to-date information that is just one click away from being generated.

As you can see, there are several different approaches to SharePoint project management dashboards, both in-house and third-party ones. We hope this article can help you with figuring out what to choose for your own SharePoint project management tasks.