Photo by Stephen Cummings
Sitting in a conference room, very alone, waiting for a meeting to start can be boring and frustrating, especially when nobody shows up. Was the meeting canceled? Was there a memo? Are there still going to be bagels? All of these questions have been asked by literally millions of project managers, workers, contractors, and clients since, well, the building of the pyramids in Egypt. Finally, after 5,000 years, the cloud and Office 365 has come to help.
A major key to the success of a project is communication. Projects where everyone sends updates and changes via email has, at times, been sufficient, but most of the time is riotously inefficient. Particularly if there are more than three people involved. Delivering a form and having everyone make changes and send back updates at the same time in different copies brews a colorful spreadsheet, sure, but it is really just a giant waste of time. Muddling through the confused has now prompted savvy managers to declare, “To the cloud!”
Some companies are already using their servers and/or some form of the cloud to share documents. That’s a start, but giving contractors, subcontractors, and clients’ access to your servers may cause some companies to feel uneasy. Not to worry, there is another way. SharePoint Online offers users a way to easily launch a project-specific site, manage permissions and share, communicate, and update the project team with relevant information.
The Project Site in the Cloud
Building an internal project site for each and every project allows owners, managers, workers, contractors and clients to all access the process at varying levels is easier than ever before. It makes the client part of the team and draws them into the project. It also gives contractors a place to communicate and be accounted for. A project site gives control and can break through some of the chaos that can delay projects and throw it over budget.
- Document Sharing – If you have ever been an admin on a project in charge of collecting all of the documentation for post mortem and audit, then you know the tremendous amount of paperwork that can accumulate through the course of a single project. First off, don’t waste the paper. Secondly, the benefit of document sharing is that anyone can access it at any time. Keeping documents organized, showing changes by who and when, and allowing access to those who need it – when they need it – is what the cloud is all about.
- Timeline – No matter how your project manager prefers to control the timeline, that timeline is always adjusting. Clients add things, contractors get delayed, workers get sick, etc. Updating the timeline can be a huge “time suck” for project managers, but SharePoint makes it easy for everyone to view the adjustments and provide status feedback.
- Deliverable Schedules – If a deliverable is late there is a hit to the budget. One person on the team may only be involved in a single deliverable or many depending on the scope of the project and the value of their talents. Knowing when something is due and seeing project changes can allow each team member to plan their time, recognize conflicts, and use communication tools to seek solutions.
- Meeting Schedules – Who’s going to be there, what’s going to be said, and who’s bringing the bagels are big concerns. Why? Perhaps some people work off-site and need to drive in or call in. Others need to provide the PowerPoint presentation and present in the meeting. People not showing up because they don’t have a reliable way to manage their calendar waste everyone’s time and is no longer acceptable.
- Client Management – Clients are more engaged than ever before, which is both a blessing and a curse. There isn’t a project manager alive that hasn’t had at least one client micromanage the project or simply had some kind of personality conflict. But many project managers have found that most clients feel more comfortable when they are able to get updates in real time, retrieve essential documents, and view budgets without actually having to call a meeting or contact anyone. Putting information into SharePoint allows concerns to be nipped in the bud before they turn into issues that could create confusion, animosity, or an expensive conflict.
- Analytics – Analytics on a project site works just like any other site. You’ll be able to see who’s on the site, when, where they went, what they did, what they looked at, and how long. Think about the control this allows a project manager in being able to tell what documentation is being viewed, what people are accessing the most, and what may need a little bit of improvement.
Office 365 offers a whole suite of cloud services specifically geared toward creating and managing intranets and extranets. You can create a very powerful tool or create a project template specific to your product so that everyone is on the same page. Your company’s projects have just been given a powerful new platform that makes today’s methods truly seem like you were building ancient pyramids.
Call or email me if you have questions about Office 365,