Project Management and SharePoint – Where’s the Fit?
Highly configurable, the SharePoint platform is perfectly suited to the function of project management.
Before we can look at the benefits and possibilities of SharePoint for project management, it’s important that we have a common understanding of what project management is, so we can map that process to a SharePoint site.
What is Project Management? A Simple Version
Project Management Processes
This could include items like the project charter and goals, project issues and risks, tasks, and so on. All of these are “sub-processes” of project management, which you will have to decide whether or not you want to manage when you initiate your project.
Project Management Reporting
Clearly, in project management, we need lots of reporting – to know where we are and where we are not! So this includes reports on things like overdue work, open or late issues, resource allocation, and so on.
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 and BYOD, it’s imperative there is an easy way for the team to communicate, collaborate, and share information.
Project Management Evolution
Naturally, as you work through the first three steps above, you will figure out best practices for the way you manage projects and you will decide you want to change things. Maybe you want to add more processes or reporting; maybe you want to manage across multiple projects at once. As the organization becomes experienced in project management, there will be a natural evolution of the process.
Why is SharePoint Suitable for Project Management?
Below is an example of a SharePoint project management site. Let’s take a look at the architecture of this site and how it relates to the simple process we defined above.
If you look on the left, you can see that we have a place to house tasks, and issues, and status reporting, and the project statement and documents or deliverables. The Quick Launch gives you plenty of places to manage the project processes in various SharePoint lists.
So along with lists, SharePoint sites consist of many “web part,” which is simply a part of your screen. On this site, for example, there is a web part of ‘getting started’ tiles, the ‘Start/Finish Gantt chart’ web part and ‘traffic light indicator’ web part below that. A web part in SharePoint simply gives you a view into the lists on the Quick Launch – a report on the processes so to speak.
A SharePoint site is a place to bring the lists, libraries, and web parts together. The site then becomes the one central location that is accessible to all team members to facilitate collaboration.
If you have lots of projects (and lots project sites in SharePoint!), you can have all of those sites grouped into a site collection with many projects and report across them.
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 few steps back and look at why SharePoint is such a natural fit for managing projects and work initiatives.
Here are 5 basic product capabilities that I think lay out a pretty strong case for this tool.
1. Create a collaborative team website in seconds
You don’t need to be a web designer, coder, or artistically gifted to create a brand new website for your project team. Simply choose to create a new subsite in your SharePoint site collection and fill out a simple form to provide info like project name and the template you’d like to base the site on.
2. Organize your own project management phases/process areas
Through the simple configuration of the Quick Launch found on the left-side of your site, you can group data entry and dashboards as necessary to match your local project management process. So whether you name the first phase of your project “Initiation” or “Initiate” or “Start”, SharePoint does not force you to compromise this element and lets you group common phase items together, using your own wording.
3. Free and paid project management templates are available
When I say “templates“, I’m not just referring to entire SharePoint sites that can be downloaded jam-packed with useful items, but also more granular, individual aspects such as list apps. Microsoft includes a very handy Issues list that can be added to your OOTB team site, and there are plenty of other project-related list templates available that let you really hit the ground running.
No SharePoint functionality list would be complete without mention of the all mighty powerful SharePoint workflow. Built right into SharePoint Server are several very powerful and useful approval workflows that come complete with routing options.
What if you’re only using the “free” SharePoint Foundation version? No problem! Just download the free Microsoft SharePoint Designer tool and create your own workflows. Some examples are automatic notification emails with list item info included right in the body of an email, automatic changing of field data depending on the value of some other field, and custom made approval mechanisms. You’re really only limited by your imagination and skill set.
On the subject of workflows, the latest release of BrightWork introduced some enhanced integration with Nintex Workflows (and Nintex Forms) to help users automate and accelerate their project management on SharePoint.
Combining BrightWork and Nintex lets you use intelligent process automation to accelerate and improve the way you manage projects. Check out the recorded webinar Project Management on SharePoint: Better and Faster with BrightWork and Nintex to learn more about the integration.
5. It’s so easy to capture all your site changes and wrap them up in a new custom site template
Within each website’s Site Settings screen is the option to save your perfectly tweaked project site as a new template, one that you can call your own, but share very easily with colleagues who want to create their own project sites.
It can include design features as well as data such as a pre-populated list of tasks or risks. Once your colleagues create their own site, they can add their ideas on top of what you provided, and then create yet another shared template from that if they wish. Share the wealth!
The Free SharePoint Project Management Template from BrightWork
Do you want to use SharePoint for project management? BrightWork has developed a free SharePoint Project Management Template to help get you started managing a project quickly.
The template, currently used by over 40,000 organizations, was recently upgraded with exciting new features to make project management on SharePoint easier.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.