Apologies for the convoluted title of this article, the good news is that the concepts are a lot more digestible than the title!
In my previous article I outlined some of the benefits to be derived from using “out of the box” SharePoint workspaces with Project Server. In this article I will explore the potential of SharePoint workspaces to deliver even more value to mature project management processes.
In order to create a new SharePoint Template and to make the changes suggested in this article you will need Administrative privileges on the Server that hosts Project Server as well as being a member of the Administrators group for Project Server.
A SharePoint Template is typically based upon a SharePoint site that has been created and modified to suit specific requirements. To create a new site go to the site actions tab in Project Web Access and select “Create” , on the Create page select the Sites and Workspaces option displayed under the Web Pages heading. Follow the prompts displayed on the New SharePoint Site page, selecting the Microsoft Office Project Workspace template as the basis for your new template.
Once you have been through the preliminary actions to create your template I guess the first place to start would be with the look and feel of the site itself – you can use any of the themes to change the colour scheme to be more suited to your corporate colourway, if you are really adventurous you can use SharePoint Designer to go beyond the themes available.
Incorporating your company logo is another popular requirement. One thing I have learnt is that trying to point to your own logo even if it is stored in the apparently correct folder within IIS tends to result in failure. A neat work around I have discovered is to rename the site logo image in IIS and to then upload your company logo to the IIS folder having saved it with the same name as the original default site logo image.
Having settled upon a colour scheme or theme and included your company logo the home page can now benefit from some attention. The site image “webpart” is an obvious candidate for the chop as it takes up space that could be better used by other more useful webparts.
There are a host of webparts you can elect to display on the homepage of your site template. The webparts that are available by default within SharePoint should address the majority of user requirements especially as some of them can be configured to display specific information defined by the user, the “Relevant Documents” webpart being a good example. If you are feeling adventurous you can develop your own – I have managed to create one or two webparts myself so this proposition is not as daunting as it may sound. The alternative would be to source a developer to create a custom webpart to suit your requirements.
Moving on to document libraries the default document library does not have the versioning or force check out features enabled, these two options can allow for more effective collaboration on documents. With versioning you have the option for major versions only or major and minor versions with a cap on the number of versions that are retained.
Allowing management of content types is where SharePoint document libraries can really begin to deliver significant benefits. If you employ standardised documents for requirements, PID, Project Charter, Stakeholder analysis or any other project related process the pro-forma document types can be added to your SharePoint site as a “content type”.
Content types should be added at the highest level of your Project Server/SharePoint site hierarchy. If you are unfamiliar with this aspect of SharePoint this article can help you exploit this feature of the tool. You may well wish to do this before you embark upon creating your new workspace template.
Once you have added appropriate content types to your site hierarchy the next step is to create some custom document libraries, you can then invest these with both versioning, force check-out and of course specific content by allowing management of content types. Once management of content types is enabled you can then select the option to add more content types from existing site content types, this may sound a bit contradictory but the term existing site content types refers to the site hierarchy rather than the specific site or template you are working on.
I have helped customers where we have created a series of document libraries to support their project processes by creating document libraries with content for processes such as initiation, requirements gathering, reporting, quality control, change control, meetings, termination, stakeholder analysis, project close and review. The big benefit of this approach is to make adherence to the company processes even more relevant and realisable. Having SharePoint document libraries invested with standard documentation formats helps promote and support the project processes being employed by the organisation in a seamless and immediate fashion.
So if you create a suite of document libraries to mirror your project processes don’t forget to enable versioning, content types and force check-out for each library. If you want to further extend the capabilities of your instance of SharePoint you can consider enabling “Content Approval” – this will require documents to be approved and will also mean that certain audiences only see what is approved whereas other more elevated users may see documents that are evolving between major versions.
One common gripe from users of SharePoint is that a site calendar does not display any of the items in the project schedule and that the tasks list does not display any tasks from the project. Whilst it is possible to include a web part to display a Gantt view of the project in the projects workspace why bother when it is already available in Project Web Access (PWA)? Similarly tasks are visible in PWA. Tasks in PWA are drawn from any project the user may be assigned to, in essence there is just the one place to visit to pick up tasks, imagine the potential for chaos if an individual had to visit every SharePoint site where they are a project team member to check and update their tasks.
These two lists, Calendar and Tasks, are purely SharePoint components and do not interact with the associated project plan in any way. To avoid potential confusion it is suggested that you rename these two list items. For the Calendar list “Project Events” is a suggested name, for Tasks “Action Items” is a suitable new name.
The next thing to consider is the risk and issues lists that are part of the default Project Workspace SharePoint template. Again versioning is not enabled by default but can be turned on for these lists. Issues have a Category value that by default shows values, 1, 2 & 3 – these are not particularly meaningful so why not edit them to suit how you want to categorise your issues. Examples of categorisation may include the following:
You may well have your own views on what categories are important to your organisation. These category values provide a useful ways and means of differentiating issues. You can even create a custom view in the Issues list to group Issues by category. The benefit of both issues and risks in the project server 2007 offering is that they are included in the OLAP Cube build and as such are available for reporting and analysis using Data Analysis views – this feature means that the recording and tracking of issues and risks becomes a much more visible and powerful measure of the status of your projects.
One last point, if you embark upon creating a new SharePoint template make sure you do not simply save an existing site as a template as it will be associated with an existing project and trying to then use it as the basis for the default workspace template will result in an error. You have to create your new template from scratch.