1 Reply Latest reply on May 22, 2012 4:32 AM by Jonathan Drummey

    Project portfolio management (PPM) with Tableau

      Hi. We are trying to make a decision as to whether or not Tableau is the right tool for our PPM (project and portfolio management) analysis and reporting needs. I have not found any examples of Tableau being used for this purpose. Is there anyone who has done this with the product? Some details follow….

      We have typical PPM data: not all departments have active projects each month, departments which have never made a request before can make one at any time and new departments are formed periodically. (Have to cope with departments merging too, but let's put that to the side right now.) We're currently using Excel to generate reports and charts: the data consists of about 500 rows/month with about 100 fields, with an expected growth rate of possibly 10% of rows/month and potential addition of fields over time. The data source is currently Excel but can be changed to Access if that helps. Charting of trends is very important to us, as is exception reporting.

      Two basic sample needs are:

      1.    a count and distribution of all data elements (text strings) in a field on a monthly basis, trended by month, quarter and year, in data table and chart form (currently histogram, with trend lines, but would love to get flashier....)  The text strings encountered (typical fields are department names, project manager names, project statuses) in some fields can vary by month (not an infinite variety of strings but the list of strings can be added to at any time, and not all which existed last month will appear in a future month.)  A simple example: show count and percent of all active projects, by status (Green, Yellow, Red), trended by month and by quarter and year. We also need counts, distributions and trends based on date comparisons (e.g. number of projects late per type over time.)

      2.   determining data intersections and charting them. For instance identification of specific projects for which certain artifacts (such as a charter, project plan) had been generated, which were managed by a particular IT group and were delivered on time. We also need to generate intersection charts (Venn diagram would be great) of:  all projects delivered on time, all projects with charters, all projects delivered by a particular IT department.

      The list goes on...


      We need to generate our reports in an automated production manner and not have this production become a fulltime job.  We also do not want to have to worry about missing a new string (e.g. a new department, new project manager) or receiving an error if a string that existed last month does not exist this month.


      Looking forward to hearing from you! Thanks!

        • 1. Re: Project portfolio management (PPM) with Tableau
          Jonathan Drummey

          Hi Carol,


          All the views you describe are possible in Tableau. However, from your description it seems like Tableau on its own will not meet your needs. While Tableau can parse arbitrary string data, the situation you describe is stretching its capabilities and the Tableau calculated fields would require some hard-coded limits in terms of the number of strings they could handle. While Tableau can assist the ETL (extract, transform, load) process, it has some definite boundaries - for example, only one sort-of-iterative function - and I'm thinking that to parse those strings you'd need some sort of ETL process to make your data more usable for Tableau, for example some VB code in Excel to generate a worksheet that Tableau could then import. From the reports of Tableau users with a lot more experience than me, doing some work to prepare the data for Tableau is not uncommon. In my own experience, to get the data output I want in the visualization - for example, using human-readable diagnoses instead of ICD-9 codes such as 340.59 - I'm often using a set of dimension tables to support the underlying data.


          Tableau can do a lot in terms of looking at intersections in the data, but you have to set up the views, it's not an automated data discovery tool. It doesn't do Venn diagrams, as far as I know. It is possible to set up a view such that users can dynamically choose the dimension(s) they want to compare, and then you can use any of the other mark types. For example, for survey data for "how many users of X also answered Y?" situations I've used scatter plots.


          For ongoing reporting, you don't say how you want the reports delivered. Given your data volumes, it's possible you could make this live, so as soon as the data is updated then Tableau Server could have it available for users to pull from. Alternatively, you can set up the tabcmd tool on Tableau Server to email reports, Zach Leber has a writeup on this somewhere in the forums.


          Hope this helps!