Part 1 – Planning a Project
I recently wrote an article introducing a simple approach to collaborative project management and how using tools like SharePoint and Microsoft Project will provide guidance for your team and set them up for success. We also looked at four items to consider when initiating your project site. Once you have accomplished these two steps, it is now time to earn your stripes by planning and setting up your project.
Elements of Project Planning
At a minimum, you will need a Project Definition/Statement and a Task List (of some sort) on most projects. Any additional artifacts you will use to help manage the project should have been decided in earlier in the project initiation process (unless you skipped that stage!).
Complete the Project Statement
The Project Statement can also be known as the Project Profile, Project Charter or Project Definition. This is the master project document and communicates to one and all the intention of the project and high-level information. In this document you will want to make very clear what the goal of the project is. It is important for all involved to know where the finish line is.
Define and Allocate Tasks
Decide on the Tasks needed to complete the project successfully or at least the tasks you know about at this stage. You might elect to use a simple task list or maybe a WBS (work breakdown structure) that has parent and sub-tasks and dependencies between tasks (i.e. one task cannot start until the previous task finishes). You may also elect to use Microsoft Project to draw up the task list and assignments.
Add Other Project Artifacts
Assuming you have created your Project Statement and Project Tasks, you can now create any extra artifacts required to manage your project. If you are lucky enough to have local guidance, you are creating the artifacts from given templates. If you are really lucky, you are creating the artifacts using templates given in your collaborative site (hopefully Microsoft SharePoint!). Candidate artifacts include goals, documents, issues, risks, etc. In essence these are the chosen project management sub-processes for your project.
Assign the Work
Some Project Managers tend to do more work on the project than they need to and often find it difficult to delegate. Given that we are talking about collaborative project management, it is important to remember that the project work can and should be delegated.
If your project is simple and your project team is small and you just know who is free and not free, then you could have assigned the tasks and artifacts to your Team Members as you created them.
Some organizations have a more formal definition of roles in use, and in this case you will likely have assigned a generic role to a task or artifact in the two steps above. In this step, you will now need to assign a person in place of these generic roles. This can be a quick way to setup a project, where a project site comes with a list of tasks and artifacts that have generic roles pre-assigned. In this case all you need to do is assign the person to the role.
In other cases where the organization is very large and people are committed to many projects, you will not know who is free. In this scenario you will need to draft your plan to see who you need and when. Then you will need to check resource availability before you can make an assignment. In certain organizations you will even need to formally request resources.
Desk Check the Plan
By this stage your project should be well planned but it is not harmful to have a step where you stand back and review it thoroughly. Now that you have created lots of tasks and artifacts, you should look at the entire project in a Gantt (time sequenced) chart; you may see adjustments it makes sense to make before the plan goes live.
It is also a good idea to have some of your colleagues peer review your plan.
Notify the Team of Responsibilities
It is all very well to plan a project in detail but you will need to let team members know the plan for success. The more high-quality communication on your project, the better the chance your plan for success will come true. Project Team Members are very smart and capable—so empower them by letting them know what is going on. Some mechanisms to do this include:
Part 2 – A SharePoint Example
Above we looked at some best practices you should follow when planning a project. In this section, we will look at how this process would work in practice in a SharePoint project management site.
Add Your Project Statement in SharePoint
As mentioned above in Part 1 of this article, the first thing you want to do to organize your project in SharePoint is to add high level project information to your project statement, seen above in the “Initiate” phase on the Quick Launch of your project site. This would be a simple form that captures the data.
Some of this Project Statement information (e.g. status, scheduled finish date, etc.) gets updated through the course of the project. In many cases, Statement information is used to collate project status reports as the project progresses.
Include Project Artifacts
The documents library in your SharePoint site is the place to store any project artifacts, deliverable documentation, requirements gathering documentation, etc.
The beauty of storing your deliverables right in the SharePoint site is the fact that the most up-to-date document is always available, with version history. So if your team is collaborating on these documents, there is no more wondering if you are looking at the right information!
Work Breakdown Structure Tasks List and Project Sync
What is project management without having a list of tasks? Below is the Work Breakdown Structure Task List in SharePoint 2013. As you can see, what’s really neat about SharePoint 2013 is that you can group items together with summary tasks, similar to what you would be familiar with in Microsoft Project.
It’s incredibly easy to plan and move tasks around in SharePoint 2013 (much like Project), but you can’t calculate in the browser using SharePoint. You have to push the plan out to Project 2013 to get calculated answers.
So you plan the project using the WBS list in SharePoint 2013, and then calculate the earned value, resources, or schedule with MS Project. Clicking “Open with Project“ creates and opens a Microsoft Project file that can be manipulated as normal. Every time you change the list or the MPP, they will also be kept in sync automatically.
Notify Team Members of Responsibilities
The final step in your project planning process is to notify the team members of their responsibilities. In SharePoint there are two easy ways to do this.
The first is to notify team members via email. In SharePoint you can automate the reports so that they are emailed to the team on a regular basis. You might choose to send ‘My Work’ reports every Monday morning, every morning, or whatever interval you feel is appropriate for your team. In the same way, you might choose to automate the Project Status report to senior management every Friday afternoon, explaining the weeks’ progress.
The other is the use of “My Work” Reports in the project site. People do not want to have to navigate through the project site to find their work, so set up an easy to find “My Work” report on the Quick Launch. Any time a team member logs into the site, they can navigate to this report with one click to find their open activities.
Once you have built out your SharePoint project management site and assigned the responsibilities, you are well on your way to successful collaborative project management. In future articles we will look at how to report on project status in SharePoint and Microsoft Project and re-plan when (not if!) things go off track.