Il est bien plus beau de savoir quelque chose de tout que de savoir tout d'une chose. [Blaise Pascal]

Creating a Work Breakdown Structure in Microsoft Project 2010 with Visio (WBS Modeler add-in for Visio 2010)

74 comments
As part of the Initiating phase of a project, a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) should be delivered. I usually prepare a high level planning using Microsoft Project. It’s not really a WBS, but more a milestone and hammock tasks Gantt chart.
I always wanted to present it as a real WBS diagram but never found a good and simple tool to create it. Here is now the solution; the WBS Modeler add-in for Visio 2010 that allows generating the WBS based on a project plan, or the other way, generates a project plan based on a WBS. This add-in has been released end of 2011 by Microsoft (initially developed by David J Parker, Microsoft MVP for Visio).
First, the system requirements:
Windows XP Service Pack 3 or later with Visio Professional 2010; not that there is also a version for 2007 available), Project 2003 SP 1 or later AND Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0.
You can download the add-in from this page. The installation is very simple; it’s a series of “next” buttons.

Create the WBS in Visio from Microsoft Project task list
I have created a simple project plan as follow:

Now let’s create the WBS in Visio based on this project plan. Open Visio, then under Template Category, click on Add-Ins.

Select WBS Modeler and click on Create.

On the WBS Modeler tab, click on the Import button.

Select your project file and click OK

Select the level from which you want to import the data, and click on Draw.

And voila J
Very simple to do, isn’t it?
Quick look on Visio export to Microsoft Project using the WBS Modeler
On the WBS Modeler tab, click on Export button.

Note that on the generated Project file, tasks contain constraints, Finish No Earlier Than for tasks and Start No Earlier Than for milestones which was not the case on my initial Project plan.


Going forward: Is it possible to maintain the link between the 2 files, to be able to update the % complete from Project to Visio?
This is a question I have been asked, and I tried to find a solution that does not involved custom coding. I found some block post with the following good idea: Project can Export data to Excel, and Visio can get updates from Excel as External data.
Here is how you can proceed:
Export your Project plan to Excel using Save As. Choose Selected data and click next, then create a new map.

Select Tasks and Export includes headers.

Select fields you want to map; in this example I will use % Complete and Cost. Unique ID is mandatory to link tasks in Visio (note that for the purpose of this article, I put some costs and % complete on the first tasks).

You can then save the map for future use. You can also create a small macro to execute such task if this is something you want to often use.
Now let’s make the link in Visio. Click on Data tab and select Link Data To Shapes.

Select Excel as Data you want to use (note that SharePoint is also an option you can test). Follow the wizard. On the following screen, we need to define which field will make the link between the data (Excel export) and Visio tasks.

Upon Finish button click, Excel data is embedded into Visio document as External Data.
To match the existing name in Visio (Shape field), we need to rename columns. On the External Data window, right-click and select Column Settings. Click on Rename. You have noticed that you can also change data type and column width.

We have the data; we have the tasks; now we need to make the link. Right click on the External Data window, and select Automatically Link…. Select All shapes on this page and click Next.

The next window defines the link between the Data column and the Shape Field.

Now, the link is created, shape fields are populated with matched external data. The default view is the following:

Let’s configure it to display needed information.
Create new Data Graphics.

Create a new Item for Cost and define it as Thermometer (this is just to show it, Thermometer may be better used for indicators like Schedule Performance Indicator or Cost Performance Indicator).

Create another item for % Complete as a progress bar

If you don’t want to see only 0.5 or 0.65… you need to multiply the % Complete per 100 to reflect percentage.

This is the WBS we get from this little customization and what I now use to communicate with senior management.

For your next updates, you have to save again your Project plan as Excel file with the same mapping (after updating it of courseJ). Then on Visio, right click on the External Data window and select Refresh Data….

74 comments :

  1. Jeremy, Do you have any alternative for aligning child elements vertically instead of horizontally? I am working with a very large project and WBS and it is simply too large when the elements are arranged horizontally. I know that for some reason Microsoft decided to take it out of the code to "simplify" it. Any suggestions would be great. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Dan,
    Found a simple way to do it, hope it will fit your requirements.
    Select all shapes (CTRL + A), on the Home tab, click on [Position] button. On the [orient shapes] section, click [Rotate Diagram] and select your orientation (right, left...)

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  3. Hi Jeremy,

    I tried your trick of rotating the diagram and this didn't really help. Do you know of another way to get the old vertical arrangement that was in Visio 2007 modeler?

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  4. Hi Kristina,
    Don't know if this can help, go on Design tab, and click on Re-layout page, if you select Flowchart > Left to right you have a kind of vertical arrangement.
    Hope this help.

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  5. hi there I have Visio 2010 and MS project 2007 once I open the Modeler it prompts me to select the project and it does not do anything after hitting ok. any reason why?

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