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.
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.
A new blog post will appear on June 4.
If your company uses Microsoft Windows for your computers, chances are you also have the free version of SharePoint available to you (ask your Windows administrators). If you do, SharePoint is a wonderful tool to use to assist in Project Management and to enhance communication and collaboration on a project.
In the upcoming posts I will address the following topics:
- Part 1 – The Home Page
- Part 2 – Announcements
- Part 3 – Key Lists
- Part 4 – Document Libraries
- Part 5 – Calendars
- Part 6 – The Project Status Dashboard
- Part 7 – Security
I am not going to describe the mechanics of working with SharePoint. Microsoft has plenty of online resources and courses to help you with that. I will focus on how you can take advantage of SharePoint features and functions to assist your project management.
One way to monitor and track the status of your project is to conduct a recurring project status update meeting. For most projects, weekly will suffice. Attendees should be the work stream leaders and key contributors. This meetings should be structured and have a standard framework that the attendees know in advance so they may prepare. Like all meetings, they also should be efficient. Stay on topic and finish early if possible.
Here is a recommended framework:
- Accountability:Review the task commitments planned for the prior week. For the ones not completed, get to the root cause of why. If there were obstacles preventing completion, work to remove them. That is an important part of the PM’s job. If the task is taking longer than planned, discuss with the team options for getting back on track.
- Commitment: Plan the tasks for the upcoming week. Assign owners and get commitment dates directly from the task owners.
- Awareness: Review the major milestones for the current month and the upcoming month. Make sure everyone has their “eyes on the prize”.
- Issues: Review the high impact issues. Determine how the team can collectively help resolve them.
- Risks: Review the high exposure risks. Determine if the probability or impact as changed. Ensure that the risk mitigation plan is being followed and the risk contingency plan is still sound. Ask if any new risks have arisen.
- Availability: Review planned time off for key team members. Make the sure the schedule accounts for this time and there is a backup plan.
- Open Forum: Ask each attendee if there is anything else they wish to discuss. It should be a topic of general interest to all or most of the attendees. This is important to make the team members know they have a voice in the project.
For larger projects I create a form for each work stream with the structure above. I update it at the status meeting and distribute it to the work stream owners at the end of the meeting. The work stream owners update the form by end of day two business days prior to the next meeting and send it to me. This has worked very well and I highly recommend this process.
Your Project Status Reports, like all communications, will vary with the audience. For large projects, your two main audiences are the Executive Steering Committee and the Project Sponsors. All status reports should have heading level information such as the Project Name and Number, a brief description, and the date and author(s) of the report.
Listed here are the elements I recommend including on the status report, with the designation “ESC” if you should include this item on the Executive Steering Committee report and “PS” for inclusion on the Project Sponsor report.
- The Project Health Scorecard (defined in the posts preceding this one) – ESC, PS
- High Impact Issues – ESC, PS
- High Exposure Risks – ESC, PS
- Upcoming Major Milestones and dates – ESC, PS
- Key activities completed since the last report – PS
- Upcoming key activities – PS
- Upcoming dates where key project team members have a planned absence – PS
- Call-outs (comments of significance you want to include in the report but don’t fit into the other categories) – ESC, PS
You can use MS Word, Excel or PowerPoint to format the report. Make it pleasing to the eye and uncluttered. In a future post, I will show you how to design a status report page on your SharePoint Project Site.