Since the release of SharePoint 2013, we have had an out pour of requests from our clients and prospective clients for more knowledge on a project management solution that is somewhere in between managing projects on Excel and email and full blown Project Server. I did an hour long session at #SPSLA entitled, “5 Inspiring Reasons to Manage Projects on SharePoint 2013.” In this session, I discussed today’s current project management scenario as well as described some common challenges that organizations are facing around managing projects. Communicating project information and details is often extremely challenging for organizations that are not using some sort of project management solution. Communication around a project may involve getting a status update from the project team, or even publishing the project plan somewhere for the entire team to see. This becomes burdensome especially for project managers overseeing multiple projects as well as for the project team who’s resources are likely also spread across multiple projects. PM’s are asking for a clear view into a project’s status. Is the project running on time? Is the project staying on budget? PM’s want a bird’s eye view into the overall health of a project and this requires tracking certain aspects such as milestones. Milestones are project tools that allow PM’s to evaluate the schedule of a project and whether it is on time or not. Without tracking special milestones, especially those associated with billing, a PM may have a difficult time assuring the project is on schedule and at the appropriate pre-determined cost. Many of our clients that manage various projects ask for a project roll-up dashboard with certain KPI’s to view health of all the projects in the portfolio. SharePoint 2013 OOTB can be easily configured through a custom list to show project stakeholders a clean dashboard of projects’ statuses.
PM’s also need to identify and track certain risks that may arise in various phases of the project. If these risks are not identified pro-actively with a mitigation plan in place, they may become issues. Issues often affect budgets; so tracking and outlining risks with a mitigation plan is vital to the health of the project. For those of us today that are still reactively dealing with issues in a project via email and then tracking them via an Excel spreadsheet, we are making our projects vulnerable to going off schedule as well as budget. Issue tracking is also a very important component of running a smooth project. Being able to track and resolve issues in a timely fashion will allow for a project to continue on as scheduled.
Another pain point that we hear about in project management is meeting management. How is your organization tracking all the information that is discussed during all of the meetings that take place for a given project? Is someone taking minutes and then emailing the team? SharePoint 2013 OOTB doesn’t have the meeting workspace template. So I showed a customized meeting workspace solution at #SPSLA that allows for tracking meetings, a meetings roll-up for resources that are working on multiple projects, a meeting minutes generator with exporting and emailing capability, a meeting scheduler, etc…
With that said, SharePoint 2013 mostly OOTB with some basic configurations is an easy stepping stone in the project management journey that can take your organization off of the chaotic email and Excel based project management techniques and right into a centralized solution that can make managing projects and communicating project information a breeze.
Here’s your five inspiring reasons to start managing projects on SharePoint 2013:
1.) SharePoint 2013 is built with an improved interface for project teams. OOTB provides various dr webparts that allow for a timeline for milestone tracking, a project summary, a project tasks list with ability to define sub-tasks in-line, which is extremely similar to the Microsoft Project Client. It even supports multiple browsers and mobile devices.
2.) SharePoint 2013 also fully integrates with the MS Project client allowing you to sync tasks, make changes in the plan that have the ability to reflect back into the SharePoint 2013 project management site. It also gives you the ability to look at resource loading and allocation. MS Project client gives features like this that OOTB SP doesn’t provide.
3.) SharePoint 2013 also serves as a reporting platform for project status via scorecards and dashboards right OOTB. You can track and report on issues and their resolutions. SharePoint 2013 allows for a risk register, and mitigation planning even with the ability to roll risks up into issues if need be. It also gives the sought after projects roll up dashboard with multiple KPI’s right OOTB with a little configuration.
4.) SharePoint 2013 now allows for improved project team collaboration with the integration of social collaboration. I once heard Dan Holme, SharePoint MVP, talk about how SharePoint 2010 was so 2006. SP2010 was being developed in 2006 in a time when there were no iPhones, Facebook, Twitter, etc.. He boldly stated SharePoint 2013 is for today’s world. Social collaboration is now part of OOTB SharePoint 2013 with webparts for a newsfeed on the page. The newsfeed supports hash tagging, following, the ability to “like” something, auto-populating with @ mentions, etc.. All of these things become a part of search in SharePoint 2013. You can search hashtags and see every post that is related to that hash tag. There is also a webpart for a project document library available OOTB. Pre-defining a folder structure in a document library and your project team now has a centralized repository for project docs. You can even create a team mailbox for the project if you still want to communicate to the team via email.
5.) SharePoint 2013 also will enhance productivity for your project team. Things like drag and drop now exist. The ribbon is improved and contains similar verbiage to Project client. You can get a rich text preview of documents which saves you time. In SharePoint 2010 you had to click, click, click, to see if you are looking at the right document. OOTB SharePoint 2013 also has enhanced the Mysite template. By utilizing your Mysite, you can see all of your aggregated tasks associated with all of the projects you are working on. You can manage them there as well. Your Mysite also allows for an “About Me” section where you can tag yourself with key words that become part of the search experience. By listing your skills, teammates can find you easier for your given skill set. Then there is the team notebook. Admit it, some of you still love One Note! You can now even sync your One Note Project Notebook with a Windows phone and make updates on the fly that automatically sync. Synchronization of Outlook with tasks is also a productivity enhancement on SharePoint 2013. It adds tasks directly to your Exchange server which allows you to manage them from all of your devices. In SharePoint 2010, if you synced your tasks with Outlook you only saw them on that given device.
In conclusion, many organizations today are still managing projects on Excel and through email. The next step in the Project Management journey is SharePoint. It is a much easier transition into full blown Project Server should your organization mature to that level. SharePoint 2013 is a powerful enterprise platform and managing projects on it couldn’t be easier.