SharePoint when used correctly can be a useful and productive collaboration tool allowing projects and programmes to manage and share data while controlling their own access and security. A mistake many organisations make when moving to SharePoint as a project storage and collaboration tool is to begin using it as simply a shared drive. SharePoint can of course act as a shared drive with security that user administration can control. We will explore some of the ways project delivery, programmes and PMOs can get more from SharePoint. The topics covered are not aimed at a specific SharePoint version but generally the more up to date the version the easy it is to achieve solutions. Below we will explore some of the ways SharePoint can be used as a PMO and Portfolio tool.
Starting with a simple register of projects
A good key first step is a consistent register of projects and programmes. With a clear and unique reference to each project and programme. It might seem unlikely but many organisations are unsure of how many projects are active and what the current commitment is in terms of people, money and other resources. The implementation of a simple project register can address many of the concerns and give quick answers that might typically take some PMOs hours or even days of data collection to answer.
SharePoint provides a standard project site template that allows storage of project related information in a consistent manner across all projects. Most SharePoint user administrators can tailor templates for projects sites that will give a more practical look and feel and align to divisional or organisational standards. If you are able to get all your projects to use SharePoint in a consistent way and with common document names and tags, checking the status across the portfolio becomes an easier task.
As your customers and wider project and change team become familiar with your project site structure people are able to move between projects and immediately access the elements important to them without having to relearn new filing systems
Linking to Project sites
If you have your project sites in place and you have a central register of projects in a SharePoint list then is possible to connect some of the data used in the project sites to the central register, removing some of the overhead of entering the same information in more than one place. This saves on administration time and improves data accuracy.
The volume of links used depends on the depth of reporting you need; starting simple and building up the elements over time is an approach that yields the best result.
Linking and using Project Plans
When beginning to extend the elements you record in your project register for improved dashboards and common tracking you may wish to consider linking your project plan data stored in MS Project. This is much easier to achieve in the later versions of SharePoint and will require a common way of working to be agreed between your project managers.
Potential for automated audit
Good use of meta data, templates and approval workflows can provide the basis for some automated reporting of project status and audit. This allows PMOs to establish the status of key documents and controls. Connecting key dates, dependencies, and document status together to your central register again saves time in chasing up information.
The well planned use of meta data also allows the foundations to be established for analyzing project trends and areas of common concern, allowing for improvement in delivery for future projects.
Automation of some reporting
Another step that is possible once there is consistent data in a common form in SharePoint is the automation of some elements of the project status reporting. Taking summary data from the project site and project register entry to produce reports in an appropriate Microsoft office application, usually Word, PowerPoint or Excel.
Common RAID log across all projects
Once your projects are able to accept and effectively use project sites and your project register has been established you can consider a common RAID (Risk, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies) Log. Use of the unique reference you have established when introducing the project register will allow you to have separate view of the RAID log for each project. Storage of RAID data in one common place allows identification of common issues and more timely use of solutions, it also allows project managers to better manage dependencies between projects
SharePoint can be a useful tool for project delivery and PMOs. It can help reduce the workload in providing central data. A note of caution:- keep the structure and customization to a minimum, if you really need a full PPM tool then building it from scratch in SharePoint will be costly and time consuming. But if the maturity of your project delivery and PMO functions is low then SharePoint can allow some good first steps to solid portfolio data.