Tools of the Project Manager’s Trade & the Relationship between Microsoft Project and SharePoint

So now that we've defined what project management is, in its essence, how do you actually do it?

I have at my disposal three different tools to enact project management.

The first of those tools is me. Yes, I'm a total tool. I'm the one driving this thing and coming up with the ideas that go into the hopper. If you're on my project team, you're a tool, too. Congratulations!

The second tool is SharePoint. SharePoint is the piece that enables collaborative planning in the early stages of a project, and communication throughout the project. SharePoint is the warehouse in which are stored all the thoughts and ideas and little pieces of info that come together to make your project come together.

The third tool is Microsoft Project. This is the one I know the least about, and the one I find most intimidating. Project takes all those little pieces of info you dumped into your SharePoint warehouse, and puts it into a database that shows you how the pieces relate to each other.

Project is like Access on steroids, and it has some delightful Excel-like capabilities that not only provide powerful means of manipulating the data you feed it (now with added database functionality!), but also give it a look and feel that takes a little of the edge off its scariness. (Seriously, I wouldn't ordinarily come near Project voluntarily – it is only because I am being told I should play with it, and the fact that it looks a little bit like Excel, which doesn't scare me at all, that I'm willing to undertake this Project project.)

Which tool you choose to use depends on where in the project management process you are. Near the beginning, when you're doing a lot of brainstorming to get a project off the ground, SharePoint is going to be your go-to tool. But once you have some data in SharePoint, you're going to want to connect all that information to Project to expose new ways of looking at the information and how to tie together all the little relationships that information has to other bits of info about your project.

This relational way of putting together information is something known in the PM world as creating "dependencies." If I talked about dependencies in this entry, it would be about 5,000 words long. Dependencies are a big deal in the PM world. I'm gonna save that topic for another entry. No doubt you're looking forward to 4,600 words treating the topic of dependencies. Stay tuned!

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