Sharing and Managing your Projects with External Systems
Connecting your SharePoint data with external systems has been a feature of SharePoint since 2007. Microsoft introduced Business Data Connectivity (BDC) as a method where data from external systems (e.g. CRM or ERP) could be connected and managed in SharePoint. This feature is also useful when managing Projects on SharePoint where there is a requirement to connect the SharePoint Project with an external system. I did a deployment recently where all Company Projects had comprehensive budgets managed in an ERP system and the Customer needed to report on the Projects managed in SharePoint and compare with the Planned Budgets in ERP. They needed to track and report on the Actual Budget of the Project on SharePoint and compare it to the Planned Budget in ERP and provide regular Status Reporting on both. This would enable the Project Manager to make the required adjustments if the Project was going over budget. This case was originally deployed using the full version of BrightWork, but could equally be applied using the Free Project Templates available to download from BrightWork.com.
Step 1 – Configure Data Connectivity
The first step was to setup the data connections between ERP and SharePoint and identify the key information that is needed to report on SharePoint. In this scenario the data from ERP that was fed to SharePoint was just the Project ID and the Planned Budget. There are many great articles on the web for setting this up including pitfalls to avoid, so I won’t go into details here.
Step 2 – Connect to ERP Data to Project Data
Secondly, it is necessary to set the unique identifier between the ERP Data and the SharePoint Project. In this case the Project ID in ERP was matched with the Project ID in the Project Statement of the SharePoint Project. An External Data column was added to the Project Statement to connect to the ERP Data that was setup in Step 1. This enabled the Project Manager to select the relevant Project ID from the ERP System and also bring in other ERP data, namely the Planned Budget.
Step 3- Log a Status Report
All Project Managers need to communicate regularly on a Project and this is facilitated by logging a Project Status Report. The details noted by the Project Manager are the following:
- Project Status Comments
- Major Accomplishments
- Major Activities Planned
The Status Reporting was then enhanced to capture the Planned Budget from the ERP System in the Statement (via a Workflow) and the Current Budget tracked in the SharePoint Project. In this case the Budget was tracked in the SharePoint Tasks list and using the Synchronization with MS Project, the Current Cost of the Project was then made available.
Step 4 – Report on the Data
Finally, using the BrightWork Reporting Engine, Dashboards were configured to chart and track the Planned Budget from ERP and the Actual Budget in SharePoint over time. Each time a Status Report was logged it captured the Week Ending date which enabled the charting over time. A KPI or Metric was also configured to give an RYG Icon when comparing the Budget values and their associated tolerances. Using the BrightWork Reporter Scorecard this KPI was also tracked over time. The Project Manager then had the visibility to see how the Project was tracking against the original Budget and made the correct decisions and adjustments in time if required.