9 Ways SharePoint Makes your PM Best Practices Better
June 5, 2011 6 Comments
As I work with different clients, I usually run across the same project management related theme. Project Management is a very mature competency with very well-defined concepts, processes, and tools. There are a lot of resources available to help organizations improve the PM competency, including one of the best professional organizations I have worked with, the Project Management Institute (PMI). However, clients still have projects that fail, or are significantly challenged (e.g. bad quality, scope creep, late delivery, over budget). Clients are frustrated with inconsistent delivery results from project to project. The root cause of project related problems are often linked to shortfalls from a project management competency perspective.
Project Management Best Practices
To address this shortfall, I generally start the conversation with clients about establishing Project Management best practices. Practical application of best practices drives a consistent project management approach, and tangible business results:
- Quicker ramp-up of project managers
- Easier integration of projects in a multi-project environment
- More productive project managers (not inventing processes & tools on the fly)
- Better overall team performance (including measurement of performance)
The Project Environment
The other element associated with driving improved project results is the project environment in which we work. Enterprise Environmental Factors and Organization Process Assets are the most commonly referenced process inputs within the PMBOK. They are the things that your team inherits as it launches a project:
- Existing systems (finance, timekeeping, project management)
- Knowledge bases (repository of information about processes, previous projects, organization)
- Standards / Guidelines (particularly important in a regulated environment)
- Process, Policies, and Procedures (commonly describe Project Management and SDLC related information)
- Historical information (artifacts from previous projects)
- Culture (organization channels, communication vehicles, teamwork)
It is important to understand whether the client’s project environment enables improved project performance, or represents a project constraint. Does the environment enable you to launch and execute the project effectively, or constrain you (weighing you down with baggage and roadblocks)? Some of the questions I ask to determine the answer to this question are:
- Are the systems tied to the PM best practices, or create “incremental steps”?
- Are policies, processes, and procedures fully integrated into the project work to be performed?
- Is information about other projects accessible?
- How do people work together? How is information shared?
9 Ways Collaboration Tools Improve Your Project Environment
SharePoint 2010 is an enabling tool utilized to dramatically improve the project environment (within both single and multi-project environments). Creating a more productive project environment helps clients efficiently implement the “right” best practices for their project office. Here are my thoughts around the ways in which collaboration platforms like SharePoint are most effectively used to upgrade your project environment and enhance your PM best practices.
- Single Source of the Truth: Creating a project site that establishes an accessible centralized location for all stakeholders to obtain current information about the project is the obvious starting point for uplifting your project environment. Project teams usually start by using the site to store key project deliverables, but highly effective teams leverage it to manage project related functions: risks/issues, change requests, team meetings, roles and responsibilities, and project performance metrics.
- Organization of Project Deliverables: How many times do you on-board a new team member to the project, and you tell them “everything you need to know about the project is located on the share drive”? The new team member soon gets lost in the many layers of document folders, and he/she becomes frustrated and non-productive. Assigning meta-data to the project documents (e.g., deliverable type, deliverable owner, and deliverable status) provides the ability to quickly organize the project deliverables without creating document folders. In addition, this approach enhances the search capabilities of your collaboration tools.
- Version Control: Another important element of using document libraries to effectively maintain/manage project deliverables is the concept of version control. SharePoint’s version control features control and track the current version of the document. Use of the “check out” and “check in” feature in SharePoint helps ensure that only one team member is working on a deliverable at any single point in time. In addition, the “check in” function assigns a version number (major or minor version) and captures comments describing the type of update made to the deliverable. This feature eliminates the need to save a version number or date in the document name (creating multiple files for the same deliverable in your document library).
- Process Automation: Using workflow and alerts within SharePoint provides the ability to streamline the review and approval processes for key best practices such as project change requests. This feature “pushes” information to key stakeholders at the appropriate time (vs. relying on the stakeholder to remember to frequently check for information). In addition, the workflow can be fully integrated with email, further streamlining the approval processes.
- Structured Data: Using lists provides the ability to capture project data in a structured manner. Information like status, deliverable type, dates, and names are validated based upon pre-configured criteria. This approach significantly improves the quality of project data previously maintained off-line in spreadsheets.
- Views for Target Audiences: The use of views for site lists and libraries provides the ability to present information in a manner that is appropriate to the specific audience or purpose. For example, a view of the risk and issues tracking list for the Project Sponsor may be limited to the high priority and impact issues/risks.
- Templates: Your project best practices can be pre-configured in the form of a site template (e.g., metadata, lists, libraries, links, and workflow). At the time a project is initiated the template is used to create a fully functioning project site. This approach saves a ton of time for each team setting up the project site, and it establishes consistent best practices and data captured across all projects managed by your project office.
- Team Engagement: There are several collaboration type features that promote engagement of team members in project activities. These features include blogs, wikis, discussion forums, and meeting workspaces. The collaboration features allow team members to engage in dialog through the site in a manner that can effectively increase the timing and quality of communications across the team.
- Key Performance Indicators: Key performance indicator features present project metrics by directly accessing the data maintained on the project site (risk, change, project status, project budget). Using this approach the project manager can be proactively focused on potential problems and corrective actions (vs. performing the tedious process of compiling and formatting the project performance reports on a weekly or monthly basis).