How to Use Master MS Project Files and OnePager to Create Visuals of Separate MS Project Files

We get asked a lot within our interactions if OnePager can create “roll up” or portfolio-level views of multiple Microsoft Project files and the answer is an easy YES!

There are a couple different ways that you can achieve a single visual in OnePager using existing data that you have within different project files. Last week, we covered how OnePager Pro can import multiple Microsoft Project files and combine them into a single view. This week, we will cover how to create a multi-project plan in Microsoft Project using an integrated master schedule, which is an even more efficient option. Continue reading

The Art of Data Visualization (PBS Off Book)

Every so often, we run across a video that we believe will be of significant interest to our blog readers.  This video is one of those, and we invite you to take a few minutes and enjoy what it has to offer:

The Art of Data Visualization

Projects are just one of the many types of data that are easier to understand when we visualize!

Making Multi-Project Graphs from Separate Microsoft Project Plans

OnePager Pro has always been able to build multi-project graphs from Microsoft Project integrated master schedules. Now, OnePager Pro 5.0 can make multi-project graphs from separate Microsoft Project plans, even if you haven’t linked them together in an IMS.

We’ll show you how to do this in this short article. Just follow these steps:

Load the first Microsoft Project plan, “Project A”, which is shown below:

Go to the Microsoft Project Add-ins tab, and click on the OnePager Pro button. When the start screen appears, choose the NEW option.

On the import wizard, click the Change button in the upper-right to change your template to “Multi-Project Gantt Chart – Detailed”. This is an important step to combine multiple MS Project plans into a single report:


Click the Create new project view button and OnePager will create a graphic that looks like this:

All four of the tasks are grouped into one large swimlane labeled “Project A”. Note that the Project Name in the graph is the label (name) of the project-summary task and not the name of the Microsoft Project plan.

Now, go back to Microsoft Project and open Project B:

Launch OnePager Pro from this second Microsoft Project plan. Now instead of creating a new project view, tell OnePager that you want to UPDATE:


On the import wizard, make sure you are updating the project view that you created just a minute ago. You want to ensure that you are going to REPLACE existing snapshot:


Click the yellow Replace dates button, and OnePager Pro will import the second project, placing it in a swimlane below the first:

It’s that easy. You can now merge other projects into the “Multi-Project-Example” view to summarize as many subprojects as you need.

Does Spreadsheet Project Management Guarantee Failure?

It’s a bold question, and one we’ve been asking ourselves for years as we’ve seen thousands of unmanageable spreadsheet-based “project plans” come across our desks.

There are scores of reasons that people choose spreadsheets for project management. Here are some pretty common ones:

  • “My project is short and sweet–a spreadsheet should cut it.”
  • “I don’t want to spend the money on a real project management system.”
  • “Our organization really doesn’t have the discipline to formally track a project.”

Believe it or not, these are all pretty reasonable excuses, and at the end of the day, it’s not these thought processes alone that kill projects. In fact, we see hundreds of successful projects out there that are managed in spreadsheets.

What kills projects is the lack of visibility, since spreadsheets do a very poor job of condensing and reporting key project deliverables. Fortunately there’s an automated way to improve visibility using OnePager Express, our project reporting add-in for MS Excel.

Let’s take a look at a simple project plan that’s being tracked in an Excel spreadsheet:

Project plan tracked in a spreadsheet

This format is easy enough for the project manager to maintain, since he or she can simply type in key deliverable dates. However, this format is a death-wish from a reporting perspective. Throw this table into a PowerPoint presentation and you’re guaranteed to confuse your team, provided they pay attention in the first place.

So what happens next? The poor, spreadsheet-bound project manager realizes that some kind of visual is required. Since the data is already in a spreadsheet, it makes sense to incorporate graphics into that same spreadsheet, right?

Manual Gantt Chart Created in an Excel Spreadsheet


Raise your hand if you’ve ever done this–we won’t judge. The example is what we call a “paint-by-number” Gantt chart. It’s a good exercise for your preschooler, but I think we can all agree it’s a little beneath the project manager!

All kidding aside, there are a number of reasons why these manually-created visuals are a bad idea:

  1. Time: They take a lot of time to create, and you have to update them by hand whenever your project plan changes.
  2. Precision: Because you have to use a cell for each unit of time, you often end up with a chart that is gridded on a monthly or weekly basis, which doesn’t accurately reflect real delivery dates.
  3. Accuracy: Like anything created manually, there is room for human error, and sanity-checking for these errors is a very tedious process.
  4. Details: This format makes it difficult to graphically show other important details like progress, resourcing, or dependencies.

There is a better way. Chronicle Graphics’ OnePager Express app is an add-in to Excel that builds project reports straight from your spreadsheet:


OnePager Express creates what we call “Gantt Art“–colorful, easy-to-understand reports that are based on your existing project plan, even if your project plan is in Excel. And it does so in seconds instead of hours like the paint-by-number job above.

So if you want a guarantee that your project will fail, try implementing the following:

  1. Not showing up to project meetings
  2. Not defining the scope of your project
  3. Not paying attention to budget or deadlines

But in general, trying to manage your project out of a cluttered spreadsheet is right up there as well, so do your team a favor and visualize! We’ll be happy to help.

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