Project Management and SharePoint

Several clients have asked me to set up Project Management solutions in SharePoint. I am, after all, “the SharePoint guy with PMP training”.

I was saying to someone this morning, “SharePoint and Project management are both arcane arts to most people, so trying to combine the two is a treacherous undertaking”. That said, if we can do a good job of leveraging SharePoint to support Project Management, it’s very powerful.

Here are some of my notes on the topic.

Think Practical over PMP
We all know and love the Project Management Institute and the PMP designation, but in setting up (for example) a document library to help support our projects, does it make sense to create folders (or even metadata) for Initiate, Plan, Execute, Control, and Close phases as per PMI? The short answer is “only if it makes sense to your users”. Most project team members won’t be PMP’s and we want to make sure everyone can and will use the site. If it’s confusing, people will avoid it

Use Lists rather than documents
Often we create Excel sheets or Word document to track project tasks, contacts, etc. Don’t forget SharePoint has standard Lists for Tasks, Calendars, Issues, and Contacts (see below). And Wikis are so easy to use once you get your head around them.

Contact Lists
Communication is critical to good Project Management. As such, the SharePoint contact list is worth stressing. Allow people to update or create their own contact information, and use “Connect to Outlook” to allow team members to drag-n-drop shared contacts into the list using Outlook.

Project Sites
I find it’s handy to have one SharePoint site for each project. This gives the project a home and makes it easier to manage permissions. Project team members can bookmark (or “favourite”) that page for quick access. (Note: for smaller, document-centric projects, we sometimes use a document library as the “home page”, or even a folder in a “very small projects” library.)

Project Site Templates
Further to the above, I am a strong believer in standardization. Many PMs manage multiple projects. And often team members contribute to multiple projects. Even if these aren’t simultaneous, it’s sure nice if the project SharePoint site is familiar. I always create a Project Site Template subsite, and work with the PMs to include everything they might need – Lists, Libraries, Views, and home page that makes sense. This site is then “saved as template”. Then, when a new project begins, the template is used and Project Site is standard. The PM (who is given Full Control and the training to support it) can remove the objects they don’t need, and maybe change the Look & Feel and logo of the site to personalize it a little.

Use Alerts and Emails
In this day and age we still use email a lot. By making the SharePoint project site “reactive” and sending emails, it will drive people to it and help them to get used to using it. So create Alerts for new announcements, Issues changes, and of course Tasks. Note that some lists (like Tasks) have a built in setting to “Email when ownership is assigned or changed”. This, unlike an Alert, cannot be turned off by contributors.

Project Codes
I like to create a custom SharePoint list of projects which includes unique project codes. Giving each project a short “handle” is very useful in general project communication and status reporting, as well as in SharePoint. For example, the project Always Be Chewing 12-3 may be coded as ABC123. That project code, ABC123, can be used as the URL for the project site, as a metadata lookup field to classify documents, as part of permission group name (ABC123 Members) or to associate timesheet records with this project. I usually include a URL field in the Project list, to capture the address of the project site or library, so this list can be used a shortcut as well as a status list.

I hope these tips help you! Please comment below with ideas I have missed and elaborations for others.

Gerry