Editor's Note: The following MVP Monday post is by SharePoint Server MVP Dux Raymond.
Are you stuck in an environment where project management procedure is more of a happy accident than a smooth process that properly employs tools that will enhance collaborative processes on projects?
Currently, you may be working in an enterprise where most project management efforts are ad hoc and not organized for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. In such scenarios, you may be used to using email, spreadsheets, Word documents, a file share (or ideally, SharePoint), and mobile devices to manage your projects.
These tools are integral to effective collaboration, but they don’t always provide a keenly robust project management solution on their own, without an established process in place to define how they’re used and integration to ensure that all project information is synced and collected in a central location.
Without a standardized process using standardized project management tools, you’ll also find gaps, like a lack of project reporting, consistency in look and feel of project artifacts, a centralized place to store documents and other project artifacts, version history and control of project documents, a shared project schedule accessible to and updatable for all members of the team, and a way to collaborate in real-time on project artifacts.
Learn to use Office 365, Microsoft Office 2010, Microsoft Project Professional 2010 and Windows Phone 7technologies to put together a streamlined project management system that encourages effective collaboration and will yield a more complete, standard and workable solution than your on-the-fly project management efforts have yielded.
Create a standard project site with a set of templates that enhance a consistent look and feel and provide a basis for all your collaboration sites. You can do this with Office 365, which has SharePoint Online built right in, along with other Microsoft tools like the full suite of Microsoft Office products. Watch how to create a project site on Office 365: http://youtu.be/5TxbZrliMjs
Use the integration of Microsoft tools in Office 365 to make project info available to your team. A good first step after you’ve created your project site is to integrate the calendar on your site with Outlook. This enables you to create meetings with team members without having to leave Outlook and go to the project site. Sharing a project calendar among all team members, accessible as a separate calendar on each of their Outlook clients, ensures that everyone will have the project calendar available in that most-used and familiar of tools: Outlook.
For more on Outlook integration, watch this video: http://youtu.be/J10yW_LQvOo
Simplify revisions by collaborating in real-time on documents using Office 365. Team members can look at and edit project documents at the same time, with changes visible to each person viewing the document. This real-time collaboration works with Word 2010, PowerPoint 2010 and OneNote 2010. Find out more about document co-authoring, watch this video: http://youtu.be/x4zeYAFrkaY
Link document libraries on your project site with Outlook to make mobile document collaboration easy. Email is probably the number one collaboration tool businesses use, so people are used to using email heavily in the course of their work. When a team adds a document library from their project site to their Outlook clients, they’re able to access and update documents even when they’re away from the office, via their email clients. Office 365 facilitates working offline via Outlook and syncing up with the SharePoint site when team members have connectivity again. Here’s a video on integrating a document library with Outlook: http://youtu.be/J10yW_LQvOo
Link Project Professional 2010 to facilitate sharing your project schedule easily. Tasks, schedules and other critical project management pieces created in Microsoft Project Professional 2010 can be linked to your SharePoint 2010 site, much in the same way that you’ve linked Outlook to your project site. This enables everyone to visualize critical project dates, tasks, and other important project milestones as updates are made, because changes made in Microsoft Project Professional are updated on the project site everyone has access to.
Watch how to synchronize Project 2010 with SharePoint Online: http://youtu.be/ywGKKnJF2aI
Take communication between team members to the next level. Yes, yes, we all lean heavily on email in the course of our work, but email can be messy: not everyone has access to every relevant thread, and relevant email threads get lost among other emails in the inbox. Creating a discussion area on the project site using Office 365 lets all team members have access to all project-related emails and see the history of the discussion thread. These discussions, too, can be integrated with Outlook so that people can stick with the familiarity of email for communication, while still syncing project communications to the project site.
Watch how to integrate project site discussions with Outlook: http://youtu.be/J10yW_LQvOo
Enhance Reporting using Office 365. Sync Excel with your project site to enable team members to add pertinent information used in reporting to a central location, and then to have access to the finalized report. Rather than sending bits and pieces of info necessary for reports back and forth via email, team members can put all information into the same document on the project site, and then a report can be generated from the information put into that one bucket.
Here’s a video on syncing Excel with an Office 365 project site to facilitate more efficient and collaborative reporting: http://youtu.be/hvGZotB2SZs
Use OneNote to consolidate project notes. Less ubiquitous than Outlook, OneNote lets project teams take notes (including multimedia entries, like photographs), and Office 365 lets team members add those notes to a project site. There is a OneNote desktop client, but OneNote really shines when you use it with a Windows phone (where the functionality is integrated), or use the OneNote app developed for other mobile platforms. Virtually everything you can do on your project site with a computer can also be managed on your phone, particularly if you’re using a Windows phone.
Here’s a video on mobile collaboration with a Windows phone: http://youtu.be/k6yz_Hs69e4
Create a project dashboard to make accessing and visualizing reports simple. Everybody likes pictures, graphs, and charts. SharePoint Online makes it easy to put graphical info on your project site as a dashboard for ease-of-access for team members and senior stakeholders alike.
Creating a project dashboard video: http://youtu.be/2GxDSNz6Zt4
Keep track of changes to project artifacts and control who gets what kind of access. SharePoint Online contains robust out-of-the-box change control capabilities to help you keep your project documentation manageable and clean. See how your documentation has evolved with a history of change requests, and control who can make changes to documentation. Find out more about automating business processes: http://youtu.be/kwrDx-XHBUg
Upgrading your current ad hoc project management platform need not initially involve complicated and sometimes overwhelming changes for you and your project change. Office 365 helps you ease into a more managed and structured project management process without drastic changes that can feel foreign and thwart user adoption across members of your team. The complete integration of familiar tools like Outlook, Word and Microsoft Project Professional with SharePoint Online means you can slip a more efficient and easily accessible (from anywhere!) project management process that will cut wasted time and increase true collaboration and productivity.
For more tips about how to use Office 365 to enhance collaboration within a managed and manageable project management solution, download the whitepaper and videos for “Leveraging Office 365 for Project Collaboration Success”, available here: http://bit.ly/zs0iM2.
Also, I invite you to learn more about maximizing Microsoft tools for your project management needs at the upcoming Microsoft Project Conference on March 19 in Phoenix, AZ http://msprojectconference.com
With over 15 years of experience in Information Technology and Project Management, Dux has earned a reputation as among the leading experts in leveraging technology to enhance project management. A certified Project Management Professional (PMP), he is currently a managing partner and the chief evangelist of Innovative-e, Inc., a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner focused on leading, inspiring and being the catalyst of organizational transformation that enables clients to achieve tangible business result.
As a thought leader in maximizing project team collaboration, he is the author of "SharePoint for Project Management" published by O'Reilly Media. He is focused on empowering organizations on how to leverage the benefits of SharePoint technologies. A sought after speaker, Dux is a SharePoint MVP and has presented in various Microsoft and Project Management Institute (PMI) events worldwide. He regularly blogs on topics related to project management, SharePoint and globalization at MeetDux.com.
The MVP Monday Series is created by Melissa Travers. In this series we work to provide readers with a guest post from an MVP every Monday. Melissa is a Community Program Manager for Dynamics, Excel, Office 365, Platforms and SharePoint in the United States. She has been working with MVPs since her early days as Microsoft Exchange Support Engineer when MVPs would answer all the questions in the old newsgroups before she could get to them.
Nice article, THKS