Easily convert Visio project timelines to Project

Microsoft Visio is a popular tool among application developers, but it isn't a tool for project management. Fortunately, you can easily bring Visio documents into a more suitable environment, such as Microsoft Project.

Creating a Visio project timeline is a popular method for pulling project scheduling information into Microsoft Office documents. The resulting diagrams are accessible to a wider range of viewers, including executives, stakeholders, and project team members. Moving the presentation of your project data to Visio allows you to pull the Visio diagram into an Office application and away from Gantt charts. This process is good for presentation, but properly managing a project requires having the data in a tool such as Microsoft Project. Let’s take a look at moving the data between the tools.

Importing data into Visio
Microsoft Visio includes an Import Project Data Wizard that lets you import data from other data formats. Importing the data allows you to document it in a Visio diagram, but you must be running Microsoft Project 2000 or later to use the import functionality. Let’s take a closer look at the process.

Part 2 of a series
This article is part two of a series on Project and Visio. Part one of the series focused on work breakdown charts.

First, open a blank timeline Visio drawing. Choose Macros from the Tools menu and Project Schedule from the Macros submenu. Next, choose Import Project Data Wizard to open it. The wizard walks you through the steps of importing Project data into Visio. Figure A shows the wizard's first dialog box.

Figure A
The Import Project Data Wizard speeds the import process.

The wizard provides the following options as timeline source data:
  • Information stored in a file
  • Information entered via the wizard

The information stored in a file option is selected to pull data from an existing Project file. Click Next to go to the dialog box shown in Figure B.

Figure B
You can import data from a number of sources.

The wizard is not restricted to Project files (MPP file type). You can also import data from Microsoft Excel, text files, and MPX files. After selecting the necessary file format, click Next to advance to the dialog box shown in Figure C.

Figure C
Select the file to import.

Click Browse to select the file containing the Project data, then click Next to select the resulting drawing type for the imported data. The options include Gantt Chart Drawing and Timeline Drawing, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D
Select the drawing type for the imported data.

Gantt charts are the bane of some people and one of the reasons Visio can be a useful tool for communicating project data to a wider range of audience—not just project management personnel. After selecting the chart type, select Next to advance to the dialog box in Figure E.

Properly selecting chart format elements saves clean-up time after importing project data. The following options are available:
  • Project Timeline format
  • Milestone format
  • Interval

Figure E
You have three options when choosing chart formatting elements.

After choosing the chart format, advance to the next dialog box and then select the properties of the Visio chart. The final dialog box includes these properties and gives you the option to return to a previous dialog box and change a selection. Finally, click Finish to export the data. The exported project data appears in the specified Visio file.

Exporting project data from Visio
Conversely, you can export project data from a Visio timeline to Project. This path is especially useful if Visio licenses outnumber their Project counterparts. You must be running Project 2000 or later to run the Export Project Data Wizard.

The first step in the process is opening Visio with the timeline drawing to export. Select the Macros submenu from the Tools menu. Next, choose Export Project Data Wizard, and you'll see the wizard shown in Figure F.

Figure F
The Export Project Data Wizard offers file format options.

The next step is choosing the export file format. You have the following options:
  • Microsoft Project File
  • Microsoft Excel File
  • Text File
  • MPX File

Click Next to advance to the dialog box in Figure G. Click Browse and specify a location for the exported file. After specifying the location, click Next to advance to the final dialog box. The exported project data appears in the specified Project file.

Figure G
Select the location for exporting a project file from Visio to Project.

Other conversion options
While this article focuses on working with timeline data, you can use the conversion process to export data to Excel files as well. This option is worth exploring if you work extensively with Excel for project management tasks.

Making the conversions work in your organization
The conversions outlined in this article may require some tweaking and adjustment of the results in Visio. I recommend that, prior to using the wizards described in this article, you run test conversions to get a feel for how project timeline data translates between Visio and Project.

The relationship between Visio and Project
Integrating Project and Visio offers many intriguing presentation options to project managers who need to communicate project and scheduling information to a wide range of audiences. Thankfully, the integration between the products is tight, and the export features are valuable tools.

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