Good project management addresses business problems that arise in all five phases of a typical project. What’s exciting is finding ways of applying technology to business problems, to help project managers initiate, plan, execute, control and close their projects in more efficient and profitable ways.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at how SharePoint can be used to help manage the lifecycle of projects and address some of the common issues that arise. First, let’s set some context.
If you’re new to SharePoint project sites you can find out more via Office.com, but at a minimum, understand that SharePoint project sites can be created at the start of a project, closed at the end of a project and used to manage tasks, resources, documents, correspondence, issues, expenses, time keeping, change requests, communication and team collaboration.
If you use Microsoft Project, you’re going to love how it integrates with SharePoint project sites. If you don’t use Project and you’re managing projects using email and spreadsheets, SharePoint is going to change your world.
Phase 1: Initiate
Problem: Lack of consistency. It can be tough to make sure that everyone in a project team or across silos does things the same way. Differences in the way that your team perform or sequence tasks in their project lifecycles can make it difficult to confidently search for and find project assets such as documents, correspondence and email. This problem kicks in right from project initiation.
Solution: SharePoint can help by enabling a business to take stock of their various project processes. Do all projects follow a similar process? Could a project site template be created to capture the process and make it easy for resources to carry out each project consistently?
Phase 2: Plan
Problem: Assigning the right resources. Who’s involved in the project? Are they aware of their responsibilities? Do they know exactly which tasks they need to perform, in what sequence and by when? Do all of their tasks show up in their Outlook task list so they can easily manage them once the project gets rolling?
Problem: Providing unrealistic timeframes. Without a Work Breakdown Schedule it is extremely difficult to gauge how long a project is going to take.
Solution: Project sites are a great way of assigning team members to a project. Resources can very clearly be assigned responsibility over various tasks. Integration with Outlook means that project tasks appear and can be managed from Outlook or your smartphone. Integration with Microsoft Project means that project planners can build very detailed Work Breakdown Schedules.
Even without Project, out of the box SharePoint enables you to create a Gantt chart style project summary of all the tasks and sub-tasks, their start and end dates and assigned resources. This can really help with resource planning and timeframe estimations.
Phase 3: Execute
Problem: Communication breakdown. The project starts rolling. People get busy. Bottlenecks happen. Emails don’t reach everyone and some team members lose sight of the bigger picture. Cracks in communication start to appear.
Problem: Project manager micro-managing. This usually goes hand in hand with communication breakdown. Micro-managing usually occurs because the person ultimately responsible for the project’s success no longer feels they have the visibility they need and fear kicks in; “the only way to get this done is to do it myself”.
Solution: Project sites, like all SharePoint sites, can have a newsfeed which enables centralised, real-time communication that is visible to all project team members. It becomes very simple to have conversations that are not confined to email.
Project sites also provide a snapshot of how the project is progressing, which tasks have been completed, what’s outstanding. Dashboards can be created to give managers a bird’s eye view of their projects and portfolios. This kind of visibility is what’s needed to give a project manager confidence in the team’s ability to get the job done.
Phase 4: Control
Problem: Approving, tracking and measuring everything! The clichéd saying of “what gets measured gets managed” certainly applies to projects. When a project is in full swing, there’s a lot going on. Identifying and having a system for tracking, approving and measuring things like resources, issues, change, expenses, time, risk – if this stuff is all managed via email alone, it can be difficult to measure and even harder to manage.
Problem: Too many projects on the go at once, or not enough! Your resources – your people – only have so much bandwidth. Overload them with too many projects and the natural outcome will be a degradation in the quality of the output. Under-utilise them and you miss opportunities. Without clarity about the overall picture of work in progress projects, it’s easy to make assumptions about your team’s capacity.
Solution: having a dedicated platform such as SharePoint for project management allows you to identify the key areas that need to be tracked and measured and systemise the approach you take to doing so. This extends to tracking resource utilisation, giving project managers greater confidence in finding the right balance when it comes to workload.
Phase 5: Close
Problem: Lack of procedure. There are two important events that need to happen at the end of a project. An internal post mortem of the project and a request for feedback from the stakeholders on performance, both for future process improvement. It’s easy for these tasks to be overlooked if they’re not built into the work breakdown schedule of each project.
Solution: Taking the time to really scope out what your Project site templates should look like enables you to build in systemisation, with content such as pre-designed task lists including, as a default, these lesser considered but absolutely critical events.
SharePoint Project Sites can be a great solution to project management headaches and with SharePoint, there’s always more than one way to approach a problem. If your projects are plagued by issues with email, communication and resource bottlenecks, our business process consultants can help you find the right solution to your project problems. Give us a call today on 1300 766 554 to schedule a free consultation.
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