Project Templates for SharePoint

by Art Gelwicks, Solutions Consultant

litlnemo / / CC BY-NC-SA

Project Management Offices, Project Managers, and team members are all aware that in our normal project lifecycles we often do the same types of projects over and over again. While each project may be inherently unique from a detail perspective, there are many things that can be done to streamline the project start-up process. One of the biggest is project templates.

The classic idea of site templates on SharePoint has been around for a number of years, but there are some inherent flaws to the default approach. While it is a simple matter to take an existing site and save it as a site template, SharePoint doesn’t offer any way to easily tune that project site for the the specific needs of the project type, nor does it offer any aggregation capabilities for rolling the data up from the site to the portfolio.

Let’s use an example to illustrate this point. For our purposes we have three types of projects: Operational, Capital, and Strategic. The teams and needs of these types of projects are very different, even though they do follow our corporate project management methodology. The trick is to allow these project teams to:

  1. Get a head start on the type of project they are managing
  2. Configure the project site as needed for the specific requirements of the project
  3. Keep the ability to roll information from their project up to others which also may have been reconfigured

Accomplishing these feats through native SharePoint is doable, but it requires time and resources to pull it off. External or cloud based solutions provide the structure, but not the flexibility. What you need is a way to have a solution with the power of native SharePoint, the structure of an application, and the flexibility of a solution platform.

Using CorasWorks Project Portfolio Management (PPM), you can start from a basic project template and reconfigure the functionality, displays, navigation, and content of the project site without dealing with the native SharePoint substructures. Whether you have a simple, quick project needing basic collaboration and tracking or a complex engagement requiring all the capabilities of PPM the same solution platform is used to configure the types of sites you need. Create the project site in PPM, reconfigure it as you need, save it as a site template and add it to the template directory, and you’re ready to go. The best part is when you need to update the template based on governance requirements you can do that without starting from scratch.

Managing projects should never be a case of reinventing the wheel each time. Project management matures and grows through experience and learnings from past engagements. Taking the historical knowledge and turning it into usable templates through the CorasWorks PPM is an excellent step to more successful projects for you.

Art Gelwicks is a CorasWorks customer turned evangelist and solution consultant. Art provides a perspective on identifying ready solutions powered by CorasWorks that can be accomplished without extensive technical knowledge while still meeting the business need.

A Common Approach to Managing Teams & Projects

Established vendors have been delivering project and team management solutions to the market for decades.  However, every day, it seems like project management teams are moving their data, processes, and applications away from these established solutions and into lightweight collaborative technologies.  Why is this happening?

It’s happening because the same challenges remain. Projects are still late and over budget, and there is little – if any – visibility into project resources, and where they are currently allocated within the organization.  In fact, project management practices within many companies are no more mature than they were 20 years ago.

This is why innovative companies are looking to lightweight and flexible software solutions that allow them to manage projects in a simple, lean, and consistent way. Collaborative platforms like SharePoint and CorasWorks allow teams to kick off projects within custom designed project and team sites that allow teams to immediately focus on accomplishing project tasks – without all the  unnecessary administrivia and overhead.

But of course, this general type of capability sounds quite a bit like what the established project management vendors have been telling you they can provide as well. Therefore, what is the difference between these “heavier” solutions, and the type of lightweight collaborative solutions provided with CorasWorks and SharePoint?

It’s simple: Lightweight collaborative solutions allow for an entire team to be on the same page all of the time. Self-directed teams working under a framework developed to establish and encourage collaboration – and the resulting transparency – ensures that everyone is meeting their goals, identifying risks, and sharing information in a way that has never been possible before.

In future blog articles, I will address the types of structured and unstructured information that makes it possible for teams to not only manage themselves, but also allow the management team to have a solid picture of project status and resource utilization project-wide. In addition, I’ll discuss how the comprehensive tools within our PPM solution can allow management to quickly focus on specific areas where the management team can provide assistance.

Until the next blog post!

True Project Communication Requires More than Email!

How many times do you hear a Project Manager or project team members complain about all the meetings they have to attend and the reports they have to complete? Status meetings, status reports, team meetings, client meetings…the list goes on. If it weren’t for these darn meetings and reports, we might be able to complete the project. But what would happen if you didn’t? Try running or participating in a project without the communication. Talk about herding cats! Everyone would get initial assignments then basically go their own merry way. At the end, you’d have a bunch of different tasks that may or may not resemble the project at all.

These are two ends of the spectrum when it comes to project management and communication. You can’t meet and report all the time, but at the same time you can’t go without communicating progress and status. What we need is some middle ground.

Most project and portfolio management applications have some level of formal reporting features. This makes it somewhat easier to communicate and share project status. I like to call this the structured work! It’s the work we all know well, our tasks, milestones, risks, issues, etc. But what about the unstructured information? It is usually sent around in email and if you try and find it later, you’re left with trying to find someone who might still have the information in their inbox. How do you currently manage the communication that doesn’t necessarily require a meeting or a report? How do you communicate those items across project team members and other project stakeholders?

Our CorasWorks Project and Portfolio Management Solution for Microsoft SharePoint, introduces a module focused on enabling more “informal” and collaborative communication around a project. Each project is enabled with a Community in which team members (and even executives, managers, and customers) can post questions, ideas, suggestions, or any project-related comments. Only those individuals associated with your projects—or granted specific access—can participate, so you effectively have a private Community for your project members. It’s similar to many of the social networking tools in the market today, so it’s quick and easy for your team members to pick up. And, it integrates with all the great social networking features of SharePoint 2010. It’s fast, flexible, and fun.

Combined with the formal KPI’s and Portfolio Dashboards that are included in the CorasWorks PPM solution, it allows teams to collaborate on the entire project, not just produce status reports!