Microsoft Project 2002 and Visio Professional 2002 are two common tools found on the corporate desktop, but you may have overlooked the opportunities for integrating the two. Project is best known as a project management tool, whereas Visio has users in both the technical and business sides of a company who use tools to draw network and process-flow diagrams. Also, Visio may be used as a visualization tool for Project data. This article explores integrating Visio and Project through a Microsoft add-in.

The benefits of integrating Project and Visio
GANTT charts and the myriad of other charts output from Project 2002 are often intimidating and misunderstood by stakeholders and project team members unless they are versed in project management.

Visio 2002 is a common communication vehicle for both business and technical audiences. Here are a few examples:

  • Network diagrams documenting the architecture of a network
  • Business process flow diagrams documenting the process behind a business activity
  • An organizational chart showing the structure of a company

These diagrams are part of everyday business, presentations, and documentation in many organizations. Moving your Microsoft Project data to Visio provides the following benefits:

  • Visio diagrams are easily inserted in PowerPoint slide shows.
  • Visio diagrams are inserted directly in Word documents to use in status reports and project plans.
  • Visio 2002 is more widely used than Project 2002 as an application throughout a development organization. Sending out Project data as a Visio (vsd file extension) file enables a wider audience to receive project information electronically.
  • Visio diagrams are more intuitive and easier to read to staff members outside project management.

Introducing the Visio WBS Chart Wizard
The Visio WBS Chart Wizard is a COM add-in for Project 2002 enabling the export of Project 2002 data to Visio. You must have both Project 2002 and Visio 2000 or later to take advantage of the Wizard. The WBS Chart Wizard is available in Project 2002. You can download the Project 2002 COM Add-in: Visio WBS Chart Wizard from the Microsoft Office Download Center.

After downloading and installing the WBS Chart Wizard, it shows up as the WBS Chart toolbar in Project 2002. From this toolbar, there are two options: Apply Task Selection View and Launch Wizard.

Using the WBS Chart task selection view
To take advantage of the WBS Chart go to the Visio WBS Chart toolbar, then click Apply Task Selection View. The Apply Visio WBS Chart Task Selection View dialog box appears (see Figure A).

Figure A

To choose tasks to include in the WBS Chart, you must select them from the WBS Chart selection view now displayed in Project. The view is accessible from the Project View menu. The More Views option allows you to choose Visio WBS Chart Task Selection. After choosing which tasks you want to include in the WBS Chart, select Apply Task Selection View to run the Wizard.

Creating a WBS Chart for all project tasks via the WBS Chart Wizard
The work breakdown structure chart produced by the WBS Chart Wizard appears in a Microsoft Visio Organizational Chart diagram. Go to the Visio WBS Chart toolbar, click Launch Wizard to open the Visio WBS Chart Wizard dialog box (Figure B). You must be in a Sheet view in order to proceed with the WBS Chart Wizard process.

Figure B

Click Next to proceed to Step 2 of the WBS Chart Wizard (Figure C). At this point you will see the following options to select:

  • All Tasks includes all tasks in the Project file in the WBS Chart.
  • All Tasks Less Than Or Equal To Outline Level enables you to specify which tasks are to be included in the WBS Chart
  • Custom Task Selection enables you to pick particular tasks for inclusion in the WBS Chart.

You also have the option to set the second display field of the WBS Chart. If you choose to set a second display field, the field can be based upon one of the following options that corresponds to the Project 2002 data field:

  • Task Duration
  • Task Start Date
  • Task Finish Date
  • Task Percent Complete
  • Task Cost
  • Task Work

Figure C

Click Next to advance to step 3 of the WBS Chart Wizard. Click Finish to begin generation of the WBS chart. Figure D shows the output.

Figure D

The WBS Chart illustrated in Figure D is based upon selecting All Tasks with Task Start Date selected as the second display field.

The Visio file output from the WBS Chart Wizard will most likely have to be cleaned up manually. Because this is a new way of working with and visualizing Project data, I recommend that you take the time to experiment with the various output options that govern the conversion of Project data to a Visio diagram.

Visio as a visualization tool for Microsoft Project
Using Visio as a visualization tool for Project data is a way of integrating two applications whose integration options may not have been apparent. Pulling Project data into Visio enables you to communicate project information to nonproject management staff, especially to executives seeking a quick status report on a development project.