Organizations are demanding more of their project managers than ever. Many organizations are looking for managers who are up to date with the latest technology and can complete projects at an accelerated pace with near-perfect efficiency. That’s a tough set of standards.
How can project managers keep up with these modern demands? Using Microsoft’s Power BI for project management, they can visualize their projects from a bird’s-eye view and see precisely what needs to be done to achieve these goals. To harness the strength of Power BI for project management, you’ll need to learn how to use this software to perform all of the tasks you need.
How to Use Power BI as a Project Management Tool
Power BI isn’t a project management tool per se. It’s first and foremost visualization software that generates engaging graphics and charts from sets of data.
For this reason, many managers aren’t even aware that they can use Power BI for project management. However, with some configuring, the software can make it easier to stay on top of tasks and keep everything organized.
Use Power BI’s Gantt Charts to Track Projects
One way that you can use Power BI for project management is by creating visuals that assist with managerial tasks. For example, Power BI has detailed and customizable Gantt charts—a timeline bar chart that shows every step required to complete a project.
Using one of Power BI’s Gantt chart templates, you can add your own task names, start dates, and due dates (or projected completion dates) for multiple projects. You can also create more detailed charts with a percent completion for each individual task, phase, or project, which you can then share with upper management.
Gantt charts are essential for project managers because:
- The charts display important historical performance data that you can share with others in the company or with stakeholders. CEOs, CFOs, and investors often like to see proof of progress. These charts are a sleek and polished way to show them what your team has achieved. Power BI’s professional-looking visuals are designed to be used within the organization and for more formal presentations.
- You can analyze your progress at every stage and adjust future deadlines or staffing levels. If a team misses a deadline or isn’t making as much progress as expected, the chart will show you exactly how far behind they are. You’ll also be able to see whether other teams are further ahead and reassign a few employees to pick up the slack.
- The charts are easy to create. You can select a Gantt template from the visual gallery and start adding your data in moments, without fiddling with any formatting.
- You have control over who sees the information. You can make multiple charts to keep your teams focused. A comprehensive chart shows the entire project at a glance so that everyone sees how it’s progressing. You can then create discrete charts for individual teams so they can hit their own deadlines. With Power BI’s sharing capabilities, there’s no confusion over what everyone should be doing at any given moment.
View Other Power BI Visuals and Reports
You can also use Power BI for project management by looking at the shared visuals or reports your colleagues create with the software. For example, accountants may have their own Power BI visuals showing budget projections for the next two quarters. If the accounting department shares these visuals with you, then you can make sure your future projects fall within this projected budget. When you’re more informed of what’s happening at the organization at every level, you’re more likely to get your project proposals approved quickly.
Power BI works so well for project management because it gathers all of the organization’s data in one place. This is important for project managers because data allows them to keep a finger on the pulse of the organization. By collecting and visualizing this data in Power BI, you’ll see everything from upper management’s big picture plans to individual employees’ progress reports.
The Limits of Power BI for Project Management
Although you can and should use Power BI for project management, it’s not designed specifically for the task. You can’t rely Power BI by itself to manage your teams.
One limit of Power BI for project managers is that the standard visuals are relatively limited in features. You can’t program the Gantt chart to change the color or percent completion of individual tasks based on additional data or rules. If you wanted a specific task to turn green whenever another task is marked as complete, there’d be no simple option to do so with the standard Power BI Gantt templates. You would either have to design your own custom visual from scratch or use another tool like Excel that offers greater control over conditional formatting and data validation.
Power BI also can’t handle direct communications between team members. Data and visuals are shared across the organization, but project managers still have to train teams on how to find the information and stay updated.
If you don’t have any experience working with data, writing basic code, or designing engaging web pages or infographics, then some of these visualization dashboard builders will be tough to navigate. Tableau, Sisense, and Zoho Analytics have some of the highest learning curves, whereas Power BI and iDashboards are typically very easy for anyone to use.
For these reasons, this software should be part of a more comprehensive system of managerial tools.
Should You Use Power BI for Project Management?
Using Power BI for project management can be a good move, as long as you have other software and systems to fill in the gaps.
Many project managers hire data experts to build custom management platforms and dashboards using a combination of Power BI and other software tools. These expertly-crafted systems operate as one-stop-shops for all of your managerial needs. You can:
- View reports from all of your subordinates;
- Generate your own reports for upper management;
- Request resources from upper management, including budget and staffing needs;
- Track subordinate schedules and performance over time;
- Create Gantt charts and other project visualization aids;
- Share information and assign tasks directly to your team in the cloud;
- Prioritize projects and calculate risk using detailed data analysis tools;
- Perform audits of past projects to refine the system;
- And more.
You can access the platform or dashboard from your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or phone. You can select any of the tools or options above, depending on what you need. Whether you want to see how a project is going on the Gantt chart or you want to create a new report for an upcoming meeting with the CEO, you can perform these tasks in moments
Moreover, because the platform is built around your workflow and preferences by expert data scientists and programmers, you won’t spend hours learning how to use this new system. You’ll have more time to work with your teams in-person.
To lead a team and get projects done on time and under budget, managers need as much support as possible. A comprehensive platform like this which includes multiple visuals, data analytics, reporting, and communications tools will help project managers steer their teams in the right direction.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive data and visualization management system, contact Tek Leaders today. We build customized platforms and dashboards to help managers organize large amounts of data and use it to improve project efficiency. If you have more questions about using Power BI for project management, you can reach us by email directly.
Shashank Reddy Tummala.