The shift from process-focused to people-centric project management spurred the advance of collaborative project management software. SharePoint On-Premises and SharePoint Online/Office 365 are among numerous platforms that aspire to win companies’ loyalty on the project management field.
What are their strengths comparing to other well-known brands, such as Asana, Wrike, Trello, and Slack? What are the benefits of using Office 365 and SharePoint for project management? And how Microsoft platforms can support your project teams regardless of methodologies they apply?
As a SharePoint or Office 365 owner, you have a privilege. You shouldn’t decide on an ideal set of project management tools at once. Both platforms allow you to adapt them to a variety of project management scenarios and different project teams on your own or with the assistance of SharePoint consultants.
Now, let’s take a look at some of these scenarios and consider optimal Office 365 and SharePoint project management tools for your teams depending on their working style and project management models they stick to.
The key characteristics of an intense project management are an overwhelming pace of project workflows and unstoppable multichannel collaboration. Whether teams manage one large-scale project involving numerous participants or several smaller projects at once, the major goal is to ensure the consistency of projects and tasks by keeping multiple project members on the same page and ensuring their uninterrupted communication.
Intense project management implies project teams to be in constant motion, so project participants rarely stay sitting in front of their computers all day long. On the contrary, they organize multiple meetings inside and outside the company and collaborate constantly via different media, including chat and video conferencing apps, both desktop and mobile.
The optimal project management solution should support a great number of project activities regardless of the user’s location in order to minimize their collaboration effort.
What SharePoint and Office 365 can offer? SharePoint project sites can be the core of your solution. They will serve as a centralized hub for time tracking, project-related content, and project communication. SharePoint sites will be the key source for project managers and team members to have comprehensive project overviews at their fingertips and control project activities.
However, project sites alone can’t satisfy teams working in a project wheel. On the one hand, you have to complement them with additional collaboration tools, on the other hand, you might need deeply professional project management components.
To cover the collaboration need, you can consider coupling your on-premises SharePoint project management solution with blog and community sites to diversify team collaboration and with Skype for Business to enable instant chatting and video conferencing. In Office 365, there are even more opportunities for dynamic teams that can benefit from SharePoint communication sites, Microsoft Teams, Yammer, and Planner to coordinate their activities. Moreover, these applications will enable continuous collaboration with project participants outside of the organization.
To strengthen project management capabilities of your solution, you can couple SharePoint with Microsoft Project to take advantage of both applications. However, you will need to invest in additional MS Project licenses for your server-based solution or online subscriptions for a cloud one for $7, $30 or $55 per user per month depending on the plan and functionality that you choose.
Moderate project management flows at a slower pace. It is often content-rich and includes regular analysis of intermediate results, as well as team activities, such as brainstorming or team building. Teams can manage one or a few long-term projects that don’t require any rush. Such a project management style is typical for marketing, HR, or legal departments.
An optimal project management solution, in this case, should satisfy teams’ need for diversified content management features, analytical tools, and collaborative spaces for team activities.
What SharePoint and Office 365 can offer? Both SharePoint team and project sites will suit your project teams. In this scenario, a SharePoint site will serve both as a project coordination center and as a competence center where teams accumulate their knowledge. A SharePoint site will also help team managers to distribute project tasks, assess team members’ productivity, and control their load. At the same time, it is a suitable place for you to organize brainstorming and team building areas, where project members will be able to share their ideas and discuss them.
As for Office 365 subscribers, they can leverage the Power BI web part right on their SharePoint team sites, for example, to analyze project results or employees’ productivity. Additionally, a team can choose an extra collaboration channel for a more informal communication. Both Microsoft Teams and Yammer can suit these purposes well.
Additional perks: SharePoint communication sites can help project teams to distribute important project updates and achievements across the company. As for teams that focus on visual content, they can use Office 365 Sway and Stream apps to collaborate on media content that will be connected with their project management sites.
While companies often focus on a collaborative approach to project management, let’s not forget that employees look for their piece of privacy even in deeply collaborative teams.
Both SharePoint and Office 365 can help you create a more employee-centric project management solution. For example, you can consider creating dedicated workplaces for project managers to organize their content, store reports and project summaries, and track teams’ performance. In SharePoint On-Premises, you can use MySites for these purposes. In SharePoint Online, you can launch modern SharePoint pages within SharePoint sites to allow project managers to build a workplace according to their needs using the available page blocks.
You can apply the same user-focused logic to the entire solution and let all team members create their own workplaces when they need. This way, you will offer collaborative project management and individual workplaces within the same solution.
The suite has also various task management tools for teams that don’t need a fully functional project management solution but still want to have a better control over their activities in SharePoint and Office 365.
SharePoint Tasks will suit those employees who use SharePoint actively. Tasks in SharePoint represent a list of activities with their attributes that users can fill in according to their needs. With the help of a timeline, users can visualize their tasks, control deadlines, and shift tasks.
Outlook Tasks will help those users who rely on in-box collaboration heavily and want to manage their activities in the mailing app. One of the strongest sides of Outlook is a detailed representation of each task owing to numerous task attributes, which enables employees to create detailed task profiles.
Planner is a project and task management tool available as a part of Office 365. Planner lets teams organize their tasks into buckets, assign responsible employees, and follow the overall project flow via project charts. From February 2018, the Planner web part can be added to modern SharePoint pages, so no more additional integration effort is required to consolidate two apps. Planner can also be an optimal solution for teams sticking to the Kanban project management methodology.
To-Do is another app to manage tasks in Office 365. Launched in 2017 as an expected substitute for Wunderlist, To-Do allows users to manage both private and business-related activities. To add a collaborative touch, To-Do tasks are integrated with Outlook Tasks, which allows employees to synchronize their activities in two apps.
Apart from delegating projects of different complexity and intensity to your SharePoint solution, you can also use it to address broader corporate challenges.
Usually, project activities include management of a great number of documents, including project requirements and outlines, proposals and agreements, reports and deliverables. By launching project management in SharePoint, you can provide teams with built-in document repositories for each particular project site where team members can organize files according to their needs. Employees can collaborate on documents right within their project management solution, thus avoiding document duplication or loss.
While working on a project, teams not only apply the knowledge they already have but also acquire new expertise. In a SharePoint-based solution, you can accumulate team knowledge. What’s more important, you can make it reusable. You can create dedicated knowledge storages on a separate subsite, on a SharePoint wiki or a blog, where team members can keep important knowledge as well as store valuable information from external resources. They will be able to transfer new knowledge to a corporate knowledge base for general use or share with another team looking for a similar experience.
If your company invites third-party teams and companies to work on a project, you don’t need to use other systems. You can leverage SharePoint extranet capabilities to create a centralized collaboration hub for subcontractors. This will allow them to use all the SharePoint project management capabilities and communicate with internal teams. At the same time, you will have a full visibility of project participants, which will allow you to assess their performance and provide assistance when required.
Finally, let’s remember that SharePoint is a corporate chain connecting all employees. So, project teams never stay isolated from the rest of the community. For example, if a team lacks knowledge to fulfill a particular project task, they can look for a person with the needed expertise and discuss a problematic point together right in SharePoint. They can also look for a piece of content that contains answers to their questions even if it is located out of the team project space. This shortens time and effort that teams spend to solve new project challenges, as well as erases borders of project collaboration by making it easy and painless.