BPC: Best Practices in Leveraging Microsoft Project 2010 With SharePoint 2010 for Project Management

What's the number one tool used to collaborate in projects? E-mail. The telephone is number two. Shame on us.

—Dux Raymond Sy

Echoing sentiments from his presentation yesterday, Dux Raymond Sy emphasized that communication and collaboration are key to successfully using Microsoft Project 2010 and SharePoint 2010 to create an effective project management information system (PMIS) in Best Practices in Leveraging Project 2010 With SharePoint 2010 for Project Management.

"I'm a big advocate of tools," he said, "but only if they make sense. Tools are tools; it's not fair to blame tools if your process sucks, if you suck."

So ask yourself, why do you suck? Why does your process suck? Why do your tools fail? According to Dux, you're probably lacking a good process. You need well-defined requirements, vision—and a clear, relevant project management (PM) process.

"Tools don't run projects," Dux noted. Responsible and accountable people use tools to make projects successful, not vice versa. "Get your priorities in order. Realize that Project and SharePoint are tools." So before you just dive right into Microsoft Project 2010 and SharePoint 2010, define your project and do the initial planning before you begin using these tools.

Establish an effective standard for PM processes. "Does every [project manager] manage projects the same way?" Dux asked. Of course not. "[You] need to implement a standard way of [managing projects and processes]. Think about what you're doing and what your world is."

So how can Microsoft Project 2010 help you with your PM processes? The key is understanding what Project 2010 is and does:

  • A project management tool that supports:
    • Project schedule development and management (such as planning and tracking)
    • Resource management
    • Project reporting
  • Project 2010 assumes that users are already familiar with a PM process.

Ask yourself if Project 2010 is going to suit your needs. "A lot of people use Project to make the Gantt chart and color code it," Dux said. Then they print out the chart, post it in the board room, "and that's the end of it. They look at the same picture [week after week]. They're not using it for tracking. If that's all you want, forget Project; use Excel."

Once you've decided Project 2010 is what you need, and after you have the right people and processes in place, how do you take advantage of Project 2010 and SharePoint 2010 together and create a PMIS?

Again, Dux stressed the importance of understanding what your desired tool is supposed to do. A PMIS:

  • Is a standardized set of automated PM tools available within the organization and integrated into a system.
  • Contains real-time information that’s essential for initiating, planning, executing, controlling and closing a project.
  • Is used by the project management team to:
    • Support the generation and maintenance of project artifacts
    • Facilitate communication and feedback
    • Monitor project activities
    • Control project changes
    • Analyze and forecast project performance

To get started, create a PMIS upon project initiation. As soon as the project is defined, create a SharePoint site to serve as the PMIS. Dux suggests working with your IT department to create relevant templates for your PM needs. This provides value because you're using what you're already familiar with—out-of-the-box SharePoint—but now you have specific content related to what you need to do your job effectively.

Begin project planning by developing the initial work breakdown structure (WBS) before you start to use Project 2010. "You gotta do your homework to find out what's needed to make this project a reality," Dux stated. "You're not even concerned with the schedule yet."

Once the WBS is created, open Project 2010 to create a project plan. Fill in your tasks and identify your estimates; create your network diagram and build your dependencies.

Use the Work column along with the Duration column to better track your project, Dux advised, and take advantage of Project 2010's new feature: the Task Mode, which lets you choose whether you want to manually schedule your project or let Project 2010 automatically do it for you.

Use SharePoint 2010 to facilitate team and project collaboration. Use the calendar in SharePoint to create recurring events and integrate them with your Microsoft Outlook calendar—something users are already familiar with, Dux pointed out. Use SharePoint's discussion board to step away from e-mail. These features help you manage multiple ongoing projects and save you time since you only have to enter in data in one place. They also make SharePoint a PMIS: it's a centralized location that everyone has access to. It's easy to search, and everything is documented.

A typical project manager tracks schedule, budget and change, Dux said. Project tracking entails monitoring, analyzing and correcting. "That's why project management can't be a part-time job or an afterthought," he said. "[Project managers] have to monitor what's going on."

Project 2010 and SharePoint 2010 work together to help project managers stay on top of their projects, especially with Project 2010's ability to sync project task lists with SharePoint 2010. This means that:

  • Project resources can enter updates in SharePoint.
  • Project managers can sync updates with Project 2010.
  • Custom field information can be used to generate reports.

Sync your task list to SharePoint, making sure Finish Variance is displayed in order to calculate the difference between the baseline finish and the actual finish. "This is valuable for your status," Dux noted. "You can take that data and put it in a dashboard."

Use SharePoint to display information from the project task list by creating dashboards with out-of-the-box web parts and chart templates, Dux suggested. Use the dashboard for reporting to save yourself time and to automate several processes using out-of-the-box SharePoint features such as alerts.

Create workflows and change request forms with the help of your IT department, templates and out-of-the-box SharePoint workflows, Dux said, to create a truly useful, effective PMIS with SharePoint 2010 and Project 2010.

For more on the Best Practices Conference, check out the agenda or follow the #bpc10 hashtag on Twitter. For more on Dux, visit his Web site, or follow him on Twitter.

Check out our full coverage of the Best Practices Conference 2010:

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