Using SharePoint for Project Collaboration

All right, so these last few entries have been a no-doubt scintillating exploration of what project management is, what tools you can use to facilitate project management, and why you should use those tools. But all the talk in the world isn’t going to actually accomplish anything. Nobody ever completed a project sitting around discussing it.

I don’t know about you, but I can read everything in the world about a new practice or technique or interface, but unless I actually do it, I’m not going to have a full understanding of it. So I had to come up with a test case for this learning process I’m documenting.

This project, this Project blogging project, is going to be my test case.

The first thing I needed to do was to create a workspace for myself, somewhere to stash all my ideas and questions, and documents. Down the road, I’m going to need a calendar and maybe a task list and probably some other stuff. But up until now, everything I’ve done with this project has been done via Outlook (emails back and forth with my editor, Bamboo Nation’s John Anderson, and with Tim Cermak of Innovative-e, who is my Bottom-Line PM project guru), and Word (my article drafts).

Now it’s time to put SharePoint into action.

I work from home a lot, so it makes sense to put the pertinent project artifacts in a central location where I can access them from anywhere, instead of having half my articles on my hard drive at the office and half on my hard drive at home. Putting these artifacts in a central spot also lets John and Tim access the information. Suddenly, everything is a lot neater and more manageable than when we were all emailing various versions of my posts back and forth. This is collaboration at its most basic.

I created a project site on Innovative-e’s SharePoint test environment, an Office 365 site. My project site is very rudimentary at the moment. Right now, all it has is a place to put shared documents, a discussion area, a calendar list, and a task list.

I can tweak the way the project site looks and behaves, and I can add a bunch of components and link the site to the tools I use most (Word, Outlook, Excel), and eventually, I’ll be able to link the whole thing to Project. But for the moment, I’m just stowing my post drafts on it for Tim to look at. He’ll be able to open up the documents and make changes to them right there on the project site. Then I can open them again and make further revisions. Instead of discussing draft changes and ideas via email, we can use the “Team Discussion” section of the site, which is essentially an online message board for members of my project team.

Everything I know about SharePoint, I learned from Dux Raymond Sy, my colleague, and a SharePoint MVP. When I first came aboard here, Dux’s book, SharePoint for Project Management was my bible. I have also found the vividly illustrated Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Plain & Simple by Johnathan Lightfoot and Chris Beckett to be enormously helpful. My other go-to SharePoint resource is the marvelously substantial and thorough Beginning SharePoint 2010 – Building Business Solutions with SharePoint Amanda Perran, Shane Perran, Jennifer Mason, and Laura Rogers. If I’m poking around SharePoint trying to do something new, I’m going to be pulling one of those three books out.

I’m happy to say that I was able to create my project site without referring to any of these books. I am learning. I am on my way!

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