The Project Management Institute (PMI) encourages its members to advance the profession. One of the ways to do this is by helping others increase their project management skills. The target audiences for this blog are professional PM’s early in their careers as well as those who manage projects but are not PM’s by title or trade. I will be posting every week or so, offering practical tips and tools on the full range of project management topics. I hope you will find this useful and help you advance your career.
Assembling a Project Status Dashboard is a powerful way to use the capabilities of SharePoint. Instead of having to create a weekly status report manually, SharePoint can do it for you using information you are already updating on the site. This can be a big time saver. The page is updated in real-time as you update the component parts that are shown on the page so the sponsor or other stakeholders can always see the latest status instead of having to wait for you to send it.
Another advantage of the dashboard is that it acts like “mission control” for the project manager. I would always start my day on the dashboard to help determine on what I need to focus. In one place you have your upcoming milestones, high impact issues and risks, and action items due in the next 7 days. You can drill into the details of each item right from that page. This beats looking for each piece individually in documents on a network drive.
I use the SharePoint “web part page” to set up the Project Status Dashboard. A “web part page” allows you to assemble a page from existing lists, libraries and other SharePoint components you have already built on your project site. I like the 3-column format for fitting all of the important information.
Here is the information I include and how I format it:
First Row, across all 3 columns:
The Project Information Announcement – contains basic project information such as the name, number, description and benefits, sponsor name and project manager name.
Second Row, across all 3 columns:
The Project Status Announcement – contains a few sentences from the Project Manager and Lead Business Analyst on the state of the project. I like to update this weekly or whenever an important milestone is reached.
Column 1: The Project Health Scorecard
Column 2: A view on the Issues list containing only high impact Issues, and under that, a view on the risks list containing only high exposure Risks
Column 3: Upcoming Milestones (current month and next month)
Fourth Row, across all columns:
Time Off Calendar for key project team members and stakeholders
Fifth and Sixth Rows, across all columns:
Action Items Due in the next 7 Days – I use a view over the Action Items List.
Action Items Completed in the last 7 Days – I use a view over the Action Items List.
Seventh Row, across all columns:
Key project documents from the document libraries.
You may need to educate and train your users to come here first for information but it will be well worth your time to do so.
The SharePoint Calendar web parts are a convenient way to share date related project information in a convenient format. It also connects to MS Outlook so meeting invitations can be managed in either platform.
Here are the two main calendars I always set up for my projects:
- “Calendar of Events”. I use this to show key upcoming events such as regularly occurring meetings, key milestones and any other events of interest. I always add this web part to the home page as well as making it part of the left navigation.
- “Upcoming Time Off Calendar”. This one shows the upcoming planned time off for key project contributors. I always add this web part to the status dashboard.
When I display these calendars as web parts on other pages, such as the home page and the status dashboard, I use “list view” and limit the number of entries displayed so they fit neatly on the page. As with all SharePoint web parts, users can click an item on the list to drill into the details (e.g. meeting locations and agenda, reason why someone is absent, etc).
Another use for the Calendar web part is to show high level project phase start/end dates. MS Project can be too complex to read or most non-PM’s so the SharePoint Calendar offers an alternative.
A new blog post will appear on July 16.
You can create document libraries in SharePoint for any of your project-related documents but in this post I will only address the libraries I use for Project Management purposes. Having all of your key documents organized in SharePoint is useful for communication, collaboration, reference and external audit.
The five libraries I always establish on my project SharePoint sites are:
- Project Initiation
- Project Planning
- Requirements and Scope
- Project Execution
- Project Close
The Project Initiation library contains the Project Charter, the approved Business Case, the Roles & Responsibilities matrix and any relevant Contracts.
The Project Planning library contains the Master Project Schedule and any sub-schedules, plus any and all project planning documents (e.g. Project Management Plan, Project Activity Plans, etc).
The Requirements and Scope library contains all of the documents related to the project requirements including diagrams and tracking matrices.
The Project Execution library contains all of the formal status reports including both the internal reports only used by the core team as well as the publicly published reports. It will also contain any formal change requests.
The Project Close library contains all of the formal sign-offs and the Project Close checklist that may be mandated by your organization.
You may also wish to create libraries for your Software Development Life Cycle (Design, Construction, Testing, Implementation).
The SharePoint List is a powerful feature. It has a lot of the features of Excel but because it is native to SharePoint you don’t have to open a document to use it. You can also create views and web parts from a list, as well as sort and filter on columns. When I address the Project Status Dashboard, we will use views over lists to create some of the pieces of the dashboard.
Here are some of the key lists you should create as part of your project site. You may find a need for additional lists based on the needs of your project.
- Action Items – I use this to track tasks that are at too low of a level to be on the MS Project schedule. Typical fields on this list are: description, assigned to, date assigned, date due, status, completion date, and comments.
- Risks – I use the SharePoint list for risk management because of the versatility as noted above. Typical fields on this list are: risk description, status, date created, probability, impact, exposure, risk trigger, mitigation plans, contingency plans, risk owner, and comments.
- Issues – I also use the SharePoint list for issue management because of the versatility as noted above. Typical fields on this list are: issue description, status, date created, assigned to, impact to project, date closed, and comments.
- Milestones – I take the major milestones from the MS Project Schedule and place them in a list for easy reference. These are also used on the dashboard. Fields are: Milestone description, planned date, actual date.
- Test Cases – having your test cases in SharePoint is especially useful for projects with two or more testers. It makes it easy to assign work and check status across the testing team. The testers can update the list themselves for assignments and status updates.
- Test Issues – SharePoint has the ability to link lists. Since there are usually more than one Test Issues associated with a Test Case, I like to link the Test Issues list with the Test Cases list to get a complete view of each Test Case.
In Summary, the SharePoint List is a powerful feature and I highly recommend you consider creating lists to replace any Excel project tracking documents.
Using SharePoint Announcements web part is a good way to convey small amounts of important information on your site’s pages. I like to use Announcements mainly on the home page and the project status dashboard page.
You can set an expiration date for each announcement which is useful if the information will no longer be of value after a certain date. You can leave the expiration date blank if you wish the announcement to be “sticky” (i.e. will never disappear from the page).
Here are some example uses for announcements:
- The “Welcome!” announcement. This is placed on the home page with no expiration date and orients the user as to where they are, how the site is used, and who to contact for questions.
- The “Latest News” announcement on the home page. This contains a brief status update and I usually set the expiration to one week.
- The “Project Summary” announcement on the project status dashboard page. This contains the project name, number, sponsor name and project manager name. It also gives a brief description on the project.
- The “Project Status Update” announcement on the project status dashboard page. This is usually filled out by the project manager with input from the main point of contacts from the business and IT sides.
Ask your project team members for ideas in which to leverage announcements for your specific needs.
The Home Page of your project SharePoint site is the initial landing page for collaborators and stakeholders. As such, I like to keep it clean and uncluttered. Here are the elements I like to include:
Heading (Top of Page):
- Project logo (if you have one) and the official name of the project
Left Side of Page:
- SharePoint populates the home page left side with the navigation to lists, Document libraries, calendars, etc. You can customize the order in which things appear and use Security to determine if they appear at all for some users. I recommend listing the most useful or most used items first.
Center of Page:
- The “Welcome!” announcement. This is placed on the page with no expiration date and orients the user as to where they are, how the site is used, and who to contact for questions.
- The “Latest News” announcement. This contains a brief status update and I usually set the expiration to one week.
- “Calendar of Events”. I use this to show key upcoming events such as regularly occurring meetings, key milestones and any other event of interest.
- “Upcoming Time Off Calendar”. This one shows the upcoming planned time off for key project contributors.
Right Side of Page:
- Project Logo (larger than in the heading, if you placed it there.
- External Links. I list quick links to other key sites of interest to the project stakeholders.
That’s it for the home page. You do not want to overwhelm your visitors with information on any one page as that will discourage them from using the site. For some users not used to using SharePoint, you may have to use some formal “Change Management” to get them on board.