Project management is an essential function of every organization, with all levels requiring the ability to track and manage projects to some extent. Unfortunately, most organizations spend money and effort with the best of intentions on a project management tool that cannot be applied across the entire organization. This benefits only a few employees, such as the professional Project Manager, but leaves a majority of other departments and roles, including Marketing and IT, to use insufficient methods like Excel for project management needs.
The reality is that the level of project management functions varies across organizations. One size does not fit all. After more than 1,000 customer deployments, SP Marketplace has seen a variety of project management models in a variety of different size organizations.
In large enterprises or for certain project-heavy industries like construction firms or IT companies, there is a need to manage large-scale projects, often managed by project professionals. This requires rigorous processes, resource scheduling, and extensive reporting.
While these projects are critical for the organization, there also exists many smaller projects in departments that are managed by casual project users, often department heads. Applying the same rigor and processes as large projects can result in a situation where managing the project takes more time than the project itself. It is for this reason that many managers still use Excel for projects. In this blog, we will look at options for how to manage and track small to medium projects.
Office 365 and SharePoint provides an excellent platform on which to manage projects. There are several options that span the scale, from simple task management to full-on large project management with MS Project Server. Let’s take a look at the options:
It’s also important to take into account the things that you will be tracking with your project, such as issues that arise and documents relevant to the project. How will your team collaborate and share information during the project? How will you view key indicators across all projects for your department or organization?
First, let’s define a project. For this blog, a project involves more than six tasks, involves more than one team member, and the progress needs to be reported to management. If the project is smaller than this set of parameters, it is considered a set of tasks. Next, let's explore our options.
Manage a Project with a Task List
For SharePoint 2013 the Task List has been upgraded to allow for sub-tasks that enable users to view project tasks in multilevel perspective. As with many new features introduced by Microsoft, this one is a 50-footer (looks good from 50 feet away but the flaws appear as you move closer).
Tasks and sub-tasks can be set up easily enough but it is in the List Views where things fall apart. You can view the multilevel tasks in the All Tasks list view, but add any type of grouping and it disappears. Insert a new task in the mix and again you lose the order and multilevel perspective when viewing outside the All Tasks view. Also, if you use a separate task list for every project, how do you report across all projects? How do you track related items, such as documents or issues?
Using the Project Site Template that comes with SharePoint
In answer to the questions above, there is a site template in SharePoint that addresses these requirements. It is called the Project Site Template and it looks like a Team Site; it even provides many of the same features, such as a documents library and a news feed.
The Project Site Template is an excellent way to track a project in a single site that also enables your team to collaborate, share documents, and track project tasks. However, this also is problematic because if you have seven simultaneous projects, you now have seven sites that you and your team need to traverse in order to access tasks, documents, and other attributes. And if you want a roll-up view of the projects, you will need to wield some fancy SharePoint tricks.
Using MS Project with the Project Template
Another popular approach to managing projects is to use MS Project with the Project Site Template. This actually is what the Project Site Template was originally designed for - as a SharePoint site to link to MS Project.
With this option, the project manager can define the project using MS Project, upload the tasks to the SharePoint Template Tasks List and away you go. Team members can update tasks and changes synchronize with MS Project for the client. This sounds neat but there are some downfalls.
First, you need MS Project Pro, the more expensive ($995) version on every project manager’s client. Second, your projects are still scattered across separate sites.
SharePoint Project Tracker - the Small to Medium Project Management Alternative
After many meetings and discussions with customers, we here at SP Marketplace concluded a slightly different model was necessary; one where projects could be set up and tracked in a single site while still providing links to related documents, issues, and discussions.
Here at SP Marketplace, we designed SharePoint Project Tracker, a SharePoint site template that can be used as a tool by casual project managers in departments, such as IT, Marketing, Finance, or Services.
With SharePoint Project Tracker, Managers can roll-up projects’ status in a single view and drill down on each project to view all tasks, issues, time logs, email correspondence, and documents. Team members can view, access and update tasks, issues, documents, etc., in a single work activities page, all using SharePoint.
When supporting project management requirements across your organization, try a project management solution that is flexible enough to provide the right size, on a common platform, SharePoint Project Tracker.
To learn more about SharePoint Project Tracker and how it can help your organization more effectively manage and track projects, visit SP Marketplace online or schedule a live demo with one of our Office 365 experts.