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 driving this thing and coming up with the ideas that go into the hopper. You’re also a tool if you’re on my project team. 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 find most intimidating. The project takes all those little pieces of info you dumped into your SharePoint warehouse and puts them into a database showing how the pieces relate to each other.

The project is like Access on steroids. 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 depends on where you are in the project management process. Near the beginning, when you’re doing a lot of brainstorming to get a project off the ground, SharePoint will be your go-to tool. But once you have some data in SharePoint, you’ll 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 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 going to save that topic for another entry. No doubt you’re looking forward to 4,600 words treating the topic of dependencies. Stay tuned!