Microsoft 365 has proven to be the platform for Project Management with its vast variety of toolsets and capabilities. However, given the paradox of choice with Microsoft’s Project Management options, a user can easily become overwhelmed. A basic decision as task management can be tackled in multiple ways, through using MS Planner, Microsoft Lists, Outlook Tasks, or SharePoint lists, and the ‘list’ goes on.
What Project Management Capabilities Do You Need?
Orchestry recognizes this common challenge that both organizations and individual end-users are facing with a stern dedication to resolve this problem. To start, we are putting the best practices with Microsoft Project Management in this blog. With our inputs and insights, you will be able to make the best selection of the best-suited tool for you and your organization from Microsoft 365.
Every project is different, but certain features are common across all projects irrespective of their scope, size, or budget. If you are looking to carve your path to Project Management in Microsoft 365 or are here to seek our guidance, you must be aware of some capabilities that are vital for effective management.
Let us begin with Task Management. For any project, you need to plan tasks throughout the process of execution. Therefore, you also need to have a systematic approach towards, planning, reporting, and executing each of those tasks. What you need for projects is the ability to be able to quickly create tasks, assign them to users, group them strategically so that the whole process is as easy as possible but more powerful than using a spreadsheet.
The next step is focusing on deliverables, every project has them, and more often than not these deliverables come in the form of documents. You require a way to create, edit and manage documents. Document management and collaboration include anything from version history to approvals to co-authoring, and all this on a simple, easy-to-use interface. Luckily for you, Microsoft 365 has a wide range of ways to do this.
No project is managed without effective communication. It is a vital part for both internal and external teams and other stakeholders to be able to communicate the status of the project among other things promptly. Typically, project communication is done via e-mail and we all know the challenges that come with it, like, long threads leading to missed decisions or misinterpretation and generating incorrect information, and let’s not forget the many versions of a final document that gets passed around.
Staying on the subject of communication, a project cycle is incomplete without meetings. Although days of the long-drawn meeting are behind us as we adapt to the new remote work setup, they are still essential to Project Management. Thus, remote meetings with video and content sharing features continue to be a requirement.
To produce a successful project, you must be aware of all associated parties, the members, the stakeholders, and anyone involved in the project lifecycle. It is common for managers to organize their team members with roles and responsibilities while also maintaining a list of external stakeholders so that everyone is on the same page.
Moving on to the miscellaneous aspect of things, every project requires a myriad of information to be passed on and maintained. This could be linked to the various systems you use, your Project Management methodology, or a simple knowledge base to make use of previous project outputs, all of this and more information is vital to a successful project.
Microsoft Project Management Options
Microsoft 365 has a vast variety of toolsets. This creates confusion about where to even begin the process of Project Management. Here are some core capabilities of high-level Project Management options available to you through Microsoft 365.
How Does SharePoint Online Enable Seamless Microsoft Project Management?
Most are already aware that SharePoint Online has many capabilities for Microsoft Project Management. These features include and cover some of the above-mentioned capabilities rather well:
SharePoint Task Management: Through SharePoint online, you can utilize Microsoft Lists or SharePoint lists for basic task management. Another option for task management is MS Planner. You can make use of this to manage tasks that are part of the group that a Teams site belongs to. We’d be remiss if we did not also mention the free cloud-based task management app, ToDo. ToDo runs independently to Microsoft 365 as an individual free application, so not as suitable for project team task management.
SharePoint Document Management: SharePoint outstandingly underpins all the document management capabilities in Microsoft 365 regardless of which solution you use. All actions like versioning, co-authoring, metadata, and much more can be quickly configured and used through SharePoint, plus run through collaborative Microsoft 365 apps, such as Microsoft Teams.
SharePoint Project Communications: Communication is critical in any project for both internal and external stakeholders. To tackle this crucial aspect, Microsoft 365 has the SharePoint News feature. It can be used to create articles, status reports, and general communications that can be published and even rolled out into a News Digest feature in the form of a project report.
SharePoint Information Architecture: SharePoint acts as a host to static information, like all the other content that you need to run a project, such as a link to external resources. The information architecture within SharePoint is sophisticated and allows you to customize how you organize and label your content and how your visitors interact with the content to get work done.
SharePoint Stakeholder Repository: A list of internal and external stakeholders is always useful and SharePoint provides several ways to do this. Be it a SharePoint list with additional details or the contacts SharePoint Web Part, having this information on hand is incredibly valuable.
That’s not all that SharePoint has to offer, there is more like you typically get a group created with SharePoint Online in Microsoft 365. Therefore, you can also leverage things like a shared mailbox for communications, a shared calendar for project meetings, MS Planner for tasks management, and other capabilities.
How Can Microsoft Teams Help with Project Management
It is important to remember that when you create a Microsoft Teams team you also get a SharePoint Online site with it. So all the great features we mentioned about SharePoint Project Management will be a part of your MS Teams capabilities as well. But what are some Microsoft Teams specific capabilities? Let’s explore:
MS Teams Channels and Posts: Microsoft Teams Channels allow you to do two very powerful things. First, you can break up your conversation by topic and have posts that are relevant to your project. Second, for each Channel, you also get a folder in the SharePoint site that is part of your team which provides an easy way to link conversations and documents together.
MS Teams Tabs: Tabs allow you to surface any Microsoft 365 and third-party application in the Microsoft Teams interface. This means that if you are using multiple solutions for a project, such as using SharePoint for document management, Planner for task management, and maybe an external tool like Jira to log issues, you can see all of these tools from within a single interface. Thus, Tabs makes MS Teams a unified Project Management experience.
MS Teams Chat: Chat allows you to have private conversations with your team members or external stakeholders. Whereas the posts functionality allows you to dialogue within channels of your Microsoft Teams teams.
MS Teams Online Meetings: MS Teams Meetings allow you to schedule meetings that can include internal and external participants. You can also share content and ensure that everyone is on the same page throughout the meeting. Considering how meeting-heavy certain projects are, the ability to create and have meetings using a single interface for all your other collaboration needs is very powerful.
MS Teams Calling and Telephoning: This not a feature specific to Microsoft Project Management capabilities, but if your organization has enabled this capability then you can also use Microsoft Teams to make phone calls as well.
Microsoft Project Management with MS Project
Microsoft Project is a simple yet powerful tool to get you to manage projects effortlessly. It has many capabilities that facilitate smooth management and has recently been updated with other interesting capabilities too. You can follow along below, to see how Microsoft Project helps you achieve your project goals.
MS Project Planning and Scheduling: Starting from scratch, you need to begin a project with adequate planning and scheduling. Project Online Includes common scheduling tools to assign project tasks to team members. Moreover, team members can customize the view to their liking and make use of the ability to oversee the schedule in any of these formats – Grid, Board, and Timeline.
MS Project Reporting: MS Project is a straightforward way to track progress on different projects. The pre-built reports help visualize project progress along with a view of resources, programs, and portfolios.
MS Project Roadmaps: There is nothing as important as transparency and flexible access when collaborating with many team members on a project. MS Project Online allows you to build visual, interactive roadmaps by aggregating different project types across your organization for visibility.
MS Project Timesheet: With MS Project Online you can capture project and non-project time separately. Thus, you will be able to segregate time spent on payroll, invoicing, and other business tasks as per your classifications.
MS Project Resource Management: The resource management capabilities of MS Project are sophisticated and allow you to request and assign resources to users so that your projects and tasks are suitably staffed. You even have features like heatmaps that showcase how resources are used between team members. Built-in reports come in handy for resource management as they can compare resources and forecast usage. The capabilities of resource management enable you to optimize assignments.
MS Project Portfolio selection and Management: To determine the correct path for your project you can make use of its modeling capabilities. Proposal review and evaluation are simplified as you can weigh them against your business drivers to help determine the proper project plan and foresee any resource limitations.
All of these features are a perfect match for Microsoft Project Management in Microsoft 365 however all of this comes with an extra licensing fee. For instance, the Project Plan 3 license that gives you access to timesheets, reporting, and roadmaps is more expensive than the entire E3 license. But if you are keen on end-to-end Project and Portfolio Management and your organization is willing to invest the extra amount, then Project Online is the way to go.
Smarter Project Management in Microsoft 365 with Orchestry
Organizations leave a lot of untapped potential in Microsoft 365. The critical aspect of making the most of the platform is the knowledge of what tool should be used for what purpose. Orchestry is your guide in this regard, as we have built our service around the overlooked confusion and challenges you may be facing with Microsoft 365. Our goal is to simplify working with and in Microsoft 365, SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Teams, by empowering your team and stakeholders with strategic governance, adoption, provisioning, and change management solution.
Concerning Microsoft Project Management, Orchestry has been developed with user experience and requirements in mind. We have carried out the process by asking the right questions that revolve around the structure, management, and integrations of Microsoft 365 environments.
In the next part of this blog series, we will be addressing our process towards building the pre-built Project Management Workspace Templates and how they can be utilized by IT administrators and end-users alike for Microsoft Project Management.
In the meantime, if you are interested in exploring Orchestry’s capabilities yourself, request free access with us to get started.