I am Kevin Townsend, a Managing Consultant here with Bamboo Solutions. And this is our new webinar series online called, PANDA Talk. Think of this as a Bamboo delivered TED Talk but a little bit more techy and supposedly less than 18 minutes long. Today we’re gonna talk about Project Management and why we believe SharePoint is the perfect tool to successfully manage your team’s projects and tasks.
Bamboo Solutions is a Product and Services company with over 8000 customers served worldwide. We’re a Microsoft Gold Partner. We’ve got over 50 products currently helping our customers extend SharePoint and provide added functionality to both their On-Prem and SharePoint Online environments. Since 2001 we’ve been developing products and consulting with customers on SharePoint and have amassed an impressive amount of experience with SharePoint solution delivery.
I come from 12 years of consulting on Microsoft SharePoint for all sorts of organizations. Commercial, Government, Defense & Intelligence… I’ve seen a fair share of requirements across groups and organizations that used SharePoint in both business-critical and support capacities. And I’ve worked with teams that come in all sizes, shapes and character. I am a little partial to solving problems using Microsoft SharePoint, hence the focus today, on Project Management in SharePoint. It’s where my experience is.
Each of us manage a series of tasks every day of our lives. We have personal tasks and employment related tasks. As we go through life, we learn of patterns and practices that have proven to be more efficient or productive in our attempts to manage the things that need to get done. Today I want talk about task management, which is a key piece of most project management software solutions. We use project management solutions in our work lives, to help us manage and keep track of the tasks, documents, events and any other items that are just too many to rely on memory alone.
PMI defines project management as the “application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements”. They go on to say that project management “has always been practiced informally, but began to emerge as a distinct profession in the mid-20th century”. Crazy right? We’ve been, as humans, doing project management since the mid-20th century and yet today, there is still no one-size-fits-all solution. I believe this is because of the individuals and their unique perspectives that every person brings to the table are extremely diverse.
This talk isn’t about the history of project management, but as I was thinking about why… we as professionals do so much of this, and how every customer has a different process, team and tools to accomplish this… I started to mentally highlight why SharePoint is the perfect solution to accommodate all of these varieties.
Why is that? Why do I believe that SharePoint, specifically Office 365’s version, SharePoint Online, why do I believe SharePoint Online presents the greatest opportunity for matching your unique project management needs to a tools capability set?
It’s been interesting, over the years to hear what people think SharePoint is. And I don’t say that as if they are right or wrong in their understanding of what SharePoint is, because I think SharePoint is what you need it be, or what it’s been configured to be for you and your team. Commonly, people understand SharePoint, simply as a document management solution. I can’t tell you how many SharePoint consulting engagements I’ve been on that were stood up, file shares of massive amounts of documents were uploaded, and that was it. The site was a glorified network drive. But that’s unfortunate because SharePoint does so much more. And most implementations that I’ve been a part of, have only scratched the surface of it’s capabilities.
SharePoint has a multitude of lists and libraries that we can provision to track things like Calendars, Tasks, Documents, etc. We can build custom lists to track potentially anything you’ve been doing in Microsoft Excel. We can leverage third party extensions to add more functionality and capabilities around specific use cases. Then to glue all of it together, we’ve got Microsoft Flow to help us automate our processes and bring in integrations from external applications. The potential that we have in the modern SharePoint Online platform, is more than a document management solution… it’s more than excel in the browser… It’s a platform that empowers someone with who has little interest to learn something new and a specific use case in mind… A platform that provides the tools, the pieces and the glue to deliver something that meets “YOUR” needs/requirements.
Microsoft has done an amazing job of taking the SharePoint application to new heights recently. Today we have responsive design, we have modern and great looking site designs, we have intelligence built in… We have an experience that resembles what you’d expect in an attractive, performant and secure online solution.
I won’t go into affordability, because affordability is a relative thing to you and your organization. But… For a fairly low monthly per user price point, you can obtain an amazing amount of licenses and online applications for your team to use through Office 365. SharePoint being one of them.
This is why… SharePoint.
Now, how can we accomplish Project Management in SharePoint Online
As I mentioned a moment ago, my experiences have been far and wide in my consulting engagements over the past 12 years. Meaning that I’ve seen the most basic of Project Management implementations to the most complex. Today, we have so many more options for building a PM solution on SharePoint Online. Today, we’ve got products that come with our Office 365 licensing like, Microsoft Teams, Planner, OneNote, PowerApps, PowerBI, Forms, OneDrive, Stream… on and on. I feel like every month, something new is being added.
All that to say, that the options we have available to us to accomplish our vision for better project management are always improving and increasing. My solution for you today, most likely won’t look like the solution I’d propose in 6 months.
So… Yesterday, figuratively speaking, I might try to accomplish your basic project management needs by creating a new SharePoint site to act as our Project Hub/Portfolio. And then I’d go and build some sub-sites for each project that contained a few out-of-the-box lists and libraries. I’d build a Calendar for tracking project events and important dates across our project. I’d also build a standard task list for managing and tracking tasks. We could update the task list to collect some data in each task that was unique to our particular line of business. We could add the task list to the calendar and see our tasks and milestones plotted visually. And of course, we’d create our Document Library for managing our documents related to the project. Again, inserting any custom fields we’d want to collect data in, related to our documents. Then we’d setup that project home page to surface all of these lists in a way that were brief, intuitive and informative. If we were getting fancy, we’d go and configure Managed Metadata so that we could standardize our metadata throughout the system and across all of our projects. Maybe we’d setup some workflows for document or task approval/review type processes. And that works. It has worked, in some variation of that simple solution for a long time, organizations both large and small of have successfully managed projects over the years using this type of solution.
Sometimes there are more formal project management requirements… for example the need for Gantt charts, Microsoft Project Integration, resource utilization tracking, issue and risk management, Quality management, etc. And we’ve accomplished these things through, primarily, using Microsoft SharePoint capabilities and features.
But let’s look at the landscape today.
Today, I’m consulting on multiple client projects that are interested in leveraging newer options given to us in Office 365. We’re looking at how clients are more collaborative and agile in their project management needs than before. There’s a high level push to drive projects towards scrum and Kanban for task management and to allow for a more social project management environment.
Looking at the list of tools that I highlighted earlier as offerings in Office 365, we are starting to build a project management solution that focuses around Microsoft Teams as the entry point to your day to day. Behind every Microsoft Teams Team, lives a SharePoint site. Each Team get’s a unique set of permissions and some standard functionality like a Document Library, a OneNote and the potential to add any other SharePoint entity (lists/libraries). And then from within a Team, we can add through integrations, some of those other applications that are provided to us. So we’ll connect, Planner to do our task management and provide a simple way to organize our backlog in a Trello like experience (Kanban). Planner is deeply integrated now with Microsoft ToDo, another app available to you in Office 365, that will combine all of the tasks you have assigned to you across Office365, including flagged emails marked for follow up.
If we take a look at our team at this point, we’ve got a few tabs in our team… Conversation for chatting and referencing project assets to collaborate on, we’ve also got our files tab, which is a direct look into that document library that was provisioned with the team/project. There’s a tab in our team for Planner, to manage our tasks and backlog of upcoming work. Before there was Microsoft Flow, we would use SharePoint Designer to write custom workflows for automating business processes and doing advanced things with SharePoint data. Today we have Microsoft Flow, which has capabilities that reach far beyond anything we have ever been able to accomplish with Designer, previously. Microsoft Flow not only provides an intuitive interface for designing custom workflows for your SharePoint data, but it also has connectors for over 277 different online services that you could potentially integrate into your SharePoint list data or send updates to based SharePoint data changes.
This modern project management solution doesn’t fit everyone. We still have to accommodate the waterfall type projects out there with formal project tracking requirements. We can’t Kanban everything and still meet the needs of everyone. But the direction that we’re heading with Microsoft’s apps and offerings, is to a more collaborative state. If we build standard task lists to manage our projects as opposed to using Planner, then we can still get that Gantt view and task dependency functionality, all the while, now gaining the conversational support that Microsoft Teams brings to our projects. Regardless of your waterfall or agile project management preference, surfacing tasks in Microsoft Teams is an option to ensure your team is working and communicating as seamlessly as possible.
In our experience with helping organizations implement their flavor of Project Management in SharePoint, there are two other tools that I’ve yet to mention… (SLIDE)Also included in Office 365 at some levels. Power Apps and PowerBI. PowerApps, PowerBI and Microsoft Flow, make up the Microsoft PowerPlatform. Microsoft says “Because Power BI, PowerApps, and Microsoft Flow are designed to work together, everyone across your business can quickly and easily build custom apps, automate workflows to improve business productivity, and analyze data for insights—no matter their technical expertise.” Microsoft PowerApps gives us the ability to develop applications against our existing or new SharePoint list data. We’ve built PowerApps for our customers to surface things like project task lists to mobile devices, enabling field engineers to submit updates to their equipment checks and include photo updates to equipment installation projects, as well as provide geolocation of service engagements.
Now that everyone is contributing to our projects, whether that’s through SharePoint, Teams, PowerApps, etc… Then leadership is going to want to know what kind of metrics do we have around that data and they’ll potentially want some meaningful visualizations that PowerBI can provide.
So we have options… Lot’s of them. We’ve briefly talked through basic SharePoint project management implementation and a little about how we’re starting to see new customers implement a PM solution using Office 365’s modern toolbox. Depending on your budget and requirements you can accomplish just about anything in SharePoint. Microsoft continues to improve on the features and capabilities of it’s Office 365 platform. On the Microsoft 365 Roadmap, there are over 139 features in active development right now, and 132 in a “Rolling Out” status. You can check out what’s coming by searching for the “Microsoft 365 Roadmap” if you’re interested.
There are plenty of solutions out in the world for providing project management functionality… But in my experience, you’d be hard pressed to find one as customizable, intuitive for your users, secure and as affordable as SharePoint Online.
I hope that this has provided a glimpse into how you and why you might want to leverage SharePoint for your Project Management needs. I hope I’ve highlighted some things here that were of benefit to you and provided some insight into new possibilities for your team.
That is all I have for you today. I hope you enjoyed this PANDA Talk and if you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us… please visit our website at www.bamboosolutions.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org