Microsoft Power BI has provided those involved in monitoring, evaluating and reporting capital projects performance with the improved insight to better understand, analyze and present the reported performance with great ease. Unlike other business intelligence and data visualization applications, MS Power BI is easy to learn and use as well as the desk reporting version is free of charge. This is the version that will be used to create and share the needed project’s performance reports.
Nevertheless, for this improved insight to be of value, it needs to have access to trust-worthy, auditable, reliable and real-time data that was captured by their respective project team members to ensure accountability when it comes to analyzing and presenting the project’s data. Otherwise, there will be always the high risk that the data being analyzed and reported on could be manipulated, incomplete, outdated, and wrong.
Using Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb can treat this risk by having a web-enabled platform to capture the data generated from the different processes needed when it comes to managing the delivery of capital projects by the project team member accountable for the provided data. The capturing of data will be achieved by using the many ready-to-use input forms that PMWeb provides or by creating additional forms using PMWeb custom form builder. All PMWeb forms can be in English or any other language, Latin or Non-Latin. For standard fields in a form, there will be predefined list of values to select from.
In addition, PMWeb allows attaching all supportive documents that are either stored in PMWeb document management repository or uploaded directly. It also allows linking other PMWeb records to the form as well as MS Outlook emails imported into PMWeb.
The project management process record will be automatically distributed to its intended recipients in accordance with the assigned workflow which could include conditions to map the project’s authority approval levels. PMWeb workflow allows creating and sequencing the different workflow review and approval tasks assigned to the different project team members. In addition, it allows adding conditions to enforce the approval authority levels assigned to the different project team members.
Although it is possible to create a direct link between MS Power BI and PMWeb MS SQL Database, nevertheless, what we are interested to have, is how an authorized PMWeb user can consume the data captured in PMWeb to create his or her own business intelligence report using the data captured in PMWeb. Assuming that the PMWeb user has access to the PMWeb Reporting module, a tabular report will be created for the selected project management process. The fields for the report columns will be simply dragged and dropped in the desired order. There also an option to add filter to limit the records to be reported on. PMWeb Reporting will automatically write the MS SQL scripts for the selected data fields.
As an example, the RFI module was selected and the fields for project name, RFI number, description, category, revision, status, required answer date, actual answered date among others. No filter was added to enable reporting on all RFI data captured in PMWeb.
The PMWeb user can view the data that will be extracted and reported on using the created report. The data can be grouped by just dragging and dropping the column header on the grouping field. If the PMWeb user is satisfied with the displayed data, then this can be saved.
To generate this newly create report, the PMWeb user needs to select the project management process that the report is associated with, in this case the RFI module, and select the report. PMWeb will automatically generate the report as it was designed. It should be noted that the report layout can be improved by selecting the report’s header and footer layouts when it was designed as detailed above.
To export the report data to MS Excel, the PMWeb user needs to select the “Export Query” command for which PMWeb will automatically create the MS Excel file. The PMWeb user can opt to add new columns to create new values from the extracted PMWeb data or have those values created in MS Power BI. Nevertheless, it is recommended to keep the MS Excel file intact to eliminate any chance of wrongly adjusting or deleting the extracted data.
Using MS Power BI “Get Date” command, the MS Excel data will be automatically loaded into MS Power BI. The user can select to modify the format of fields, for example date fields, as well as add new columns for which the values will be calculated from the formulas created in MS Power BI.
Now the trust-worthy, auditable, reliable, real-time or near real-time data depending on when the report was generated, and accountable data will be available for the PMWeb user to be consumed in the desired form and format as created in MS Power BI report. MS Power BI allows the user to create as many needed reports using the same loaded data. Of course, much of the steps detailed above including the created MS Power Bi report can be standardized to enable using the PMWeb and MS Power BI reports at the end of each project reporting period.
The PMWeb user can export the MS Power BI report in PDF for MS PowerPoint file format so it can be shared with other stakeholders who could be or could be not authorized PMWeb users. In addition, the design MS Power BI report can be published as a web-page so it can become part of an on-line project performance report.
Should there be a need to have a project performance report that includes data from different PMWeb modules as well as data from other sources like Primavera P6, MS Power BI allows multi-data source reports for which the fields from those different data sources will be automatically associated with each other as long as the same data field names are used.
Of course, the MS Power BI reporting detailed above does not eliminate the need to have more structured and standardize reports and dashboards either by using PMWeb Business Intelligence reporting tool which is based on MS SQL Reporting Services or by using third-party business intelligence and data visualization tools like Qlik, Tableau as well as MS Power BI premium version.