Project Management and SharePoint – Where’s the Fit?
Highly configurable, Microsoft SharePoint is ideal for project and portfolio management. A SharePoint project site centralizes all information in one place for better collaboration, visibility, and reporting.
When combined with features such as document management, workflows, and permissions, SharePoint is a robust project management solution.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at key SharePoint capabilities for project management such as lists and document management.
We’ll start with a breakdown of project management processes.
What is Project Management? A Simple Version
The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines project management as ‘the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.’
Projects are typically managed in phases. As teams work through each phase, they’ll use processes and reporting to keep work on track.
Project Management Processes
Processes define ways of working, such as task management and risk management.
Processes depend on the size and complexity of the project; the experience of the team, and particular project methodologies.
At BrightWork, we use the below spectrum as a starting point with our customers.
As the project moves into execution, you can add or remove processes as needed.
Project Management Reporting
In project management, we need lots of reporting to know where we are and where we are not!
Project reports should be easy to create and share, and update in real-time.
Different people on the team will need to see different information to contribute successfully:
- Stakeholders need reports to track progress and deal with risks across projects and portfolios in a timely manner.
- The team relies on reports to find and do work, raise issues, and stay up-to-date with the project.
- Project managers use reports to track tasks, risks, budget, and timelines on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.
It’s also important to facilitate cross-project and portfolio reporting, and visual elements such as Gantt charts.
Project Document Management
Project documentation should be clear, up-to-date, and easily accessible at any time.
Project documents help to:
- Create a single, accurate record of project work.
- Simplify reporting with all information in one place.
- Prevent misunderstandings with clear descriptions of individual roles and responsibilities.
- Improve collaboration within the team.
Managing project documents requires capabilities such as real-time co-editing, secure sharing, and version control.
It is incredibly important to bring all the people involved in the project together so that they are connected to each other, as well as the project management processes and reports.
With the rise of remote teams, teams need an easy way to communicate, collaborate, and share information.
Project Management Evolution
As teams become more confident with projects, they’ll likely want to take on bigger or multiple projects. Processes will change as maturity levels grow.
Using this very brief summary of project management, we’ll move onto using SharePoint for project management.
Why is SharePoint Suitable for Project Management?
The architecture of a SharePoint site – lists, web parts, sites, and site collections – lends itself to project management. Let’s see how the process outlined above maps to a SharePoint site.
1. Manage Processes with Lists and the Quick Launch
A SharePoint site is populated by lists, which are used to organize information.
Made up of headings, rows, and columns, a SharePoint list looks similar to an Excel spreadsheet.
However, SharePoint lists are more flexible and are easier to control than a spreadsheet.
Common lists for project management include tasks, documents, and issues.
The Quick Launch menu, located on the left-hand side of a site, helps you to group lists together for your team, for example, by project phase. The menu acts as a guide for your team.
You can configure the Quick Launch using the project management spectrum mentioned earlier. Here are some ideas to help you get started.
2. Create Reports with Web Parts
A SharePoint web part is a type of list used to store content in your site and is particularly useful for reporting dashboards.
The web part provides a view into a list, for example, a web part for project tasks on the project homepage links to the underlying task list.
3. Collaborate in a Team Site
A SharePoint site brings the lists, libraries, and web parts together in one central location.
From here, your team can find documents, track work, and collaborate – regardless of location or time zone.
4. Manage Portfolios with Site Collections
A SharePoint site collection is a collection of SharePoint sites. When used for project management, a site collection creates a project portfolio, rolling up information from various projects in one place.
5 Reasons to Use SharePoint for Project Management
Above we explored a simple project management process and how the different features of SharePoint make it easy to support those processes.
Now let’s take a few steps back and look at why SharePoint is such a natural fit for managing projects and portfolios.
Here are 4 key capabilities that I think present a pretty strong case for this tool.
1. Create a no-code project site in seconds
You don’t need to be a web designer or coder to create a brand new website for your project team.
Simply create a new subsite in your SharePoint site collection and fill out a simple form to provide info like the project name and the template you’d like to base the site on.
2. Create New Site Templates
Within each website’s Site Settings screen is the option to save your perfectly tweaked project site as a new template. You can save and reuse the template as much as needed and share the site very easily with colleagues.
3. Leverage free and paid project management templates
When I say “templates“, I’m not just referring to entire SharePoint sites that can be downloaded but also more granular, individual aspects such as list apps. One such example is the ‘Issues List’.
A solution like BrightWork makes site creation even easier and quicker with pre-configured templates.
Building on the second point above – BrightWork Template Design Sync is an easy way to update an existing template and roll out these changes to multiple sites at once.
4. Easily Control Project Documents
A SharePoint document library is a special type of list used to store, manage, and find documents.
This deceptively simple feature not only improves team collaboration; it also centralizes key information in one place, eliminating silos and duplicate documents.
With a document library, you can
- Add, edit, delete, and download project documents.
- Manage access to files, folders, or a library.
- Track the activity on a file, including the last modification.
- Set up alerts to track changes to a document.
- Create a custom view of a document library.
- Share files or folders with others.
- Use version control to restore overwritten data.
- Co-edit files in real-time.
Metadata, filters, views, and search ensure your team and stakeholders can find the right information with just a few clicks.
5. Automate Tasks with Workflows
No SharePoint functionality list would be complete without mention of workflows. SharePoint ships with five out-of-the-box workflows for document and task management.
There are several no-code solutions available for custom and complex workflows such as SharePoint Designer, Nintex, and Microsoft Power Automate.
Start Managing Projects on SharePoint with a Free Template
I mentioned above that you can create a no-code project site quickly in SharePoint. However, you’ll still need to configure the site with lists and web parts for your project.
For an even faster start, try the free SharePoint Project Management Template from BrightWork.
The template includes key lists and web parts for:
- Tasks and issues
- Metric tiles
- Project status reports
- Work reports,
- A ‘tasks by status’ chart.
As the template is based on SharePoint, it will plug straight into your existing IT infrastructure with no coding required.
It is yours to manage as many projects as you want, for as long as you want, on SharePoint for free.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
Billy is a graduate of the Villanova School of Business and holds a Master’s degree from National University of Ireland, Galway. Outside of BrightWork, he enjoys reading, trying to golf, and walking his pug named Nova.