Office Timeline has integrated with Smartsheet. In this post below I will provide guidance on how to get started and a few best practices so you can quickly transform Smartsheet projects into professional looking PowerPoint timelines and Gantt charts.
This post will be divided into the following sections:
- Installing Office Timeline
- Logging into Smartsheet
- Importing data from Smartsheet
- Selecting what data to show
- Editing your data in Office Timeline
- Customizing your project chart from the Task Pane
- Saving Formats, Sharing and Collaboration
- Tips and Tricks
Installing Office Timeline
Office Timeline is a Gantt chart software application that plugs into Microsoft PowerPoint. It requires Microsoft Windows (Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 or later) and Microsoft PowerPoint 2007 or later. To try Smartsheet integration you can download and install the free version of Office Timeline from the download site. Once installed you will see a new tab on the PowerPoint Ribbon.
Logging into Smartsheet
From the Office Timeline ribbon in PowerPoint, navigate to the New button and drop down in the menu to select Import from SmartSheet. Office Timeline will display a Smartsheet log-in window where you will enter your Smartsheet credentials (email and password) and allow access to import data.
Importing data from Smartsheet
From within the Import from Smartsheet window browse to the sheet or report you would like to create a PowerPoint visual for, or you can use the search feature to find your sheet. Once your sheet has been selected click next arrow to import your data into a list view where you can select which items you want present on a Gantt chart or timeline.
Selecting what data to show
In list view you can pick which items you would like to present on your chart and how you would like them displayed.
The four primary functions you should be aware of are:
- Mapping columns
- Office Timeline will auto map the Task Description, Start and Finish columns but any of these selections can be manually mapped or re-mapped using the column drop downs as shown in the Import Wizard above.
- Notes and % complete.
- You can import comments for each task or milestone and map them to an Office Timeline note field. Comments will not be displayed on the slide, but they are attached as notes. To view task or milestone notes click on the Task or Milestone button on the Office Timeline ribbon in PowerPoint and click on the notes icon. Adding Notes and Links Quick Tip.
- % complete. Office Timeline can also import % complete for tasks which will be displayed on the slide.
- Selecting items for import
- In the list view, use the check boxes to select which task or milestone will be displayed on the slide. As shown in the image above a green check mark means your item will be selected and charted.
- Office Timeline monitors the space available on a PowerPoint slide, and warns you if you are selecting too many items. In the example above the Selected Item Count box shows 74 items queued-up for import. This is too many for a single slide and the count box changes from a white background to an orange background to warn that your spacing will be compromised if. Hovering your mouse over the warning to get recommendations for optimizing spacing.
- Import only Summary Tasks, Milestones or Tasks. For larger project you can select to import only Summary Tasks, Milestones or Tasks using the check boxes at the top right of the import page.
- Switching between Tasks and Milestones
- In the list view you can convert a task to a milestone or milestones to tasks by clicking on the icon to the right of the check box. Milestones are displayed as a marker or flag on the time band, and attached to a single date. Office Timeline automatically converts any same day tasks in your data or any task that does not have a start date, to a milestone.
Editing Your Data in Office Timeline
Once imported, you can easily edit your data by clicking on the Milestone or Task button on the Office Timeline ribbon. From here you can change dates, colors and shapes of your milestone or task objects. Additionally you can add new milestones or tasks, change existing ones, add or edit your % complete, or remove any of these items. You can also re-arrange or sort the order of your tasks and hide non-critical milestones or tasks.
Customizing your project chart from the Task Pane
Office Timeline enables you to modify or style your Gantt chart in many different ways. For example each task description or date can be placed around its object in 5 different positions, or hidden completely. As shown in the image below this can be done by opening the Task Pane (click the Task Pane button on Office Timeline ribbon) and then select any item you want to customize, such as the timeline, a date, a milestone, a task or any text. In my example I have selected the date for the first task. From the Task Pane I can now customize that date’s format, or hide it, or change it’s color, font or size, or change where the date is positioned (left, split, right, center, above or below.)
The Task Pane enables you to make similar customization for every each object on your slide. Simply open the Task Pane and then click on the object you want to customize. Beyond the ones I have mentioned you can also make changes to font, color, size, and where your text or dates are positioned and more:
- Scale. The scale of time band to days, weeks, weeks (ISO), quarters, months or years. You can add a Today Marker or show Elapsed Time.
- Task Text Positioning. From the Task Pane you can re-position any Task description by clicking on it and selecting to move it to the Far Left, Left, Center, Right, Above or Below its task band.
- Date formats. Dates can be changed from mm/dd/yyyy to any other format including international formats, or they can be hidden completely if you needed create a dateless timeline.
- Task duration. You can show the # of days or weeks for each task.
- Connectors. You can click on your milestone or task connectors and then change their color or size from the Task Pane. You can also use connectors to show sub-tasks by creating connectors only for import Tasks such as Phases, and not displaying connectors for the sub-tasks of each Phase. See example.
- Reset Changes. Any changes you make to an item from the Task Pane can be reset using the rest changes button in the Task Pane.
Saving formats, Sharing and Collaboration
Slides are automatically built natively in PowerPoint and saved as a native PowerPoint slide. When saving your slide you can use PowerPoint’s Save As functionality and to save your slide in a different format such as PDF, PNG, GIF or JPG. These images can be inserted into emails, newsletters, blogs or used as for executive scorecards.
Use the Email button on the Office Timeline ribbon to quickly share your Gantt chart or copy an image to the clipboard. You can share your PowerPoint slide with any team member, customer or colleague who has PowerPoint installed on PC on a PC Mac. They do not need Office Timeline installed to open or even modify the slide. If they wanted to change the data or any settings that are unique to the Gantt chart, they would need to install Office Timeline in order to preserve those updates the next time the chart is being edited.
Tips and Tricks
Learn how to copy and paste from excel, re-position milestones, save manual changes, fit more tasks on your slide, convert your slide to a table or change its style, or localize the language or your timeline.
See how it works
Clients and executives want to see project scorecards that are simple and visual. These are used communicate the status of a project and any potential risks associated with it. Here are 5 things to know when preparing for your next client or executive review.
Click to view larger image
1. Communicate the right amount of information
Executive audiences do not need to know everything you know about the project. The first step of any project presentation is to condense your project data to the most critical information. Typically a scorecard would be anchored by a visual timeline that shows the important milestones and tasks, as well as how far the project has progressed against its schedule. The timeline graphic should be accompanied by metrics or commentary on budget, risks and any outstanding issues. Since executives have limited time, your project scorecard should avoid any complicated charts or lists. The goal is for your audience to understand the health of a project in a limited amount of time.
2. Present it in the right format
Enterprise customers and clients want to see project scorecards in formats they are familiar with. It is important to deliver your scorecard in a format that is easily accessible to them and something that could be forwarded or easily shared with others. Requiring executives to log into project management systems or to use proprietary tools for viewing project scorecards will limit the effectiveness of your report. Rather, select a format this is pervasive across the enterprise. Doing so will keep your project scorecard easily accessible.
3. Make it easy for others to contribute
Create your project scorecard with tools that other team members and stakeholders can easily use. Projects are collaborative efforts with many stakeholders, and they will want to contribute to your scorecard or edit it. Executives may want to roll-up your scorecard up into their higher-level business reviews, clients may want to move a critical milestone on the timeline, and team members may want update the project schedule. Successful scorecards are not static but rather a continuously updated record of the project. Making it easy for others to contribute to your project report will be important to it success.
4. Leverage templates to get started
Using tools that are pervasive across your organization makes a lot of sense, so does using templates to get started. At a minimum templates are a good source of ideas. Browsing free PowerPoint templates, free timelines or free Gantt charts should give you plenty of ideas on how to design the most important project visual for your scorecard. Additionally, if you find something you like, instead of building something from scratch, you can use that template to quickly create the project visual that will anchor your scorecard.
5. Present the right metrics
The most important metric in any project is a time vs. schedule metric and that is what the timeline is for. Once you have developed a timeline or Gantt chart to show clients or executives time vs. schedule progress, you should surround it with other key metrics. The next most relevant scorecard items may be a budget or a financial metric and a status or risk metric. After that metrics vary greatly and tend to be unique and very specific for each project and organization. It is not necessary to show every project metric in an executive project review but your scorecard should include the most relevant ones.
Step 1: Click the Email button on the Office Timeline ribbon in PowerPoint
Select the timeline slide that you want to send then click the Email button and choose how you want to send it. You have the option of emailing your timeline as a picture, or sending it as an attachment.
Step 2: Send your email
Office Timeline will open a new Outlook mail and automatically insert your slide. Now simply send it.
See these quick videos for more tips
Step 1: Click on the timeline object you want to manually change
In this example, we will manually change a date. Select the date you and manually type in the change you want to make. This can be a date change, or formatting changes you would like to make to any object.
Step 2: Click Accept Manual Changes
From the office Timeline Ribbon in PowerPoint click Accept to save manual changes you have made to any of the objects or text on your timeline.
This video show to save manual changes
See these short how-to-videos for more tips.
Step 1: Open the Task Pane from the button on the Office Timeline ribbon
With the Task Pane open, click any object on your slide to surface the custom controls for that particular object.
Any customizations you make will make will only be applied to that object.
Step 2: Formatting Milestones
Click on a Milestone marker to change is shape, size and color. From here you can also format your milestones font, date, and the color of its connector.
Step 3: Adding style preferences to your tasks
Click on any Task to customize the shape, size, and spacing. You can also You can also access the Percent Complete and Task Duration controls for here.
See these quick videos for more tips