Another 4 processes to streamline with SharePoint

In an earlier post, I discussed 4 very common time-consuming processes that you can make more efficient by using SharePoint. But I guess that the next 4, although perhaps less common, still occur quite often.
You can make your project managers, your business venture managers and your IT department very happy if you can show them that you can facilitate these processes with a SharePoint Team Site.


5. Corporate projects needing input from many countries/businesses

Forget sending large status updates in PowerPoint or Excel per email. For large central projects, use a site where you can collect the status updates from every country or business in a list. If you need security, or want to allow that country or business to share their project documents and other information, you can use a site collection instead, where every country of business has their own site. You can use a Content Query Webpart to collect all updates in another site for the Project Manager.

It helps to create one page where the collective progress is shown – you may lose confidentiality but it will reduce the time needed to create reports and it will help the business to see how their own efforts contribute to the projects’ or company’s goal. Of course everyone will be able to set alerts.

All this will reduce inbox overload, make the project progress much more transparent and save the Project Manager lots of time in reporting.

Some examples:

  • Centralizing the organization
  • Capturing procurement terms and conditions
  • Local milestones for a divestiture
  • Action plans following the global employee satisfaction survey
  • A global sustainability project

Example: PMO in a Team Site

6. Business experiments 

Why spend time and money on dedicated software if you are not 100% sure that your new business venture will be successful? Start with a process in SharePoint and see how things turn out. It will perhaps not do everything you think you need, but as you work with it you will learn more about your eventual software needs, helping you to define better requirements. And if your pilot fails, you do not have to add software costs to your losses.

Example: High Tea Reservations. 

7. Temporary pre-ERP solutions

If your “Problem Process” is not yet in scope for your ERP-system,  why not check if you can move it to SharePoint before making the leap to ERP? It may not be the ideal solution, but you may be able to iron out those process wrinkles, which will make your process more efficient now. And moving to your ERP-system later will be less painful because you have a better process to start with.

Example: CRM in a Team Site, now with screenshots!

8. Legacy processes 

Chances are that you still have a few of those one-trick-ponies from the nineties or noughties in your application portfolio.  The companies that created them have merged ten times or gone bust, there are no updates or support, the manual is lost, the user interface is outdated and they may even need separate log-on. This is a good opportunity to free up a server, use the regular support system, apply SSO and a familiar look-and-feel and generally reduce complexity.
We have used an InfoPath solution to replace an outdated Idea Submission programme, and replaced a visit-pass-request-system by a simple Custom List.

All these examples will help with “The daily dose of SharePoint” that your employees need to become more familiar with SharePoint. The more different uses of SharePoint they see, the more they will learn that SharePoint is a versatile tool that you can use every day, for almost every process.

Image courtesy of tungphoto at

DoMoreWithSharePoint – Promote your services

It has been some time since my last post about the process we used to “DoMoreWithSharePoint” so let me do a short recap:
All businesses have a strong need to streamline processes, use workflows, manage requests and collect complaints. Not everything is in scope, or in scope yet, for the company’s ERP system. There is always a need for facilitating those simple processes that will never make it into your ERP system. Yet SharePoint is there, but most people do not know how it can help them, except for sharing documents and using the odd Calender or Announcement list.

So there is a big opportunity for everyone who can bridge the gap between the business needs and the SharePoint offerings. We have done that with a solid process for custom Team Site configuration. In earlier posts I have discussed people, process, project and priorities, and now it is time to talk about promotion. Because you will have to do some evangelisation work and communicate your happy message to your employees!

How do I get my message across?
We found that examples work very well. Try to find a few people who want to pioneer, or who have actually asked you how to use SharePoint for their purpose. Those first projects will provide the first materials.
I have used a presentation with screenshots and a few bullet points of the problem, the solution and the benefits (as I do in my examples on this Blog).

Who are my main target persons?
People who may be interested in this are generally various business heads and IT, but also managers of specific projects your organization is involved with at the moment. And there will always be other employees looking for ways to work more effectively.

1. IT Service Managers
Your local IT service managers can be your biggest fans and customers. (They can also be rather hesitant, because they are not always fully aware of the capabilities of SharePoint, or are used to look for solutions elsewhere) They will generally receive the questions from the business for “new functionality”. Employees may have seen something, or they just want to do something in a better way, without knowing exactly what they want.  They often “have a friend who has just started up and works cheaply”. Your IT service manager would do better by running all these requests by you, so you can pick out all projects where SharePoint can do the trick. Advantages? Plenty! Think about

  • no investment in new functionality
  • consistent navigation and look-and-feel if you use a Team Site
  • integrated support
  • updates and migration incorporated in your intranet/SharePoint plans.

2. Business Heads
We conducted a yearly “roadshow” and targeted a different audience each year. One year we focused on general managers of the different business, another year we went to logistics managers, the next to sales managers, etc. We created a new deck of examples every year, selecting those solutions that we thought would appeal to that group. In a face-to-face meeting we asked them

  • what their business targets and priorities were for the coming year
  • if they were happy with the way they were sharing information with their teams and peers
  • if there were any processes that could do with some streamlining

Generally, these questions combined with our presentation led to a couple of opportunities, which we would then prioritize. Sometimes they would forward us to someone in their team for the exact information, but that was OK since it meant they were sponsoring that project.
And even if this round did not bring opportunities, at least they were aware that our services existed.

3. “Special Project” Managers
Whenever there was a new cost reduction program, an acquisition or divestiture coming up,  an environmental awareness campaign started; whether this was global, regional or local, we always tried to find the program or project manager. We offered him or her to set up a Team Site where they could manage the information and/or the progress. (See my earlier example of a PMO Team Site.) After a few of our “PMO solutions” the business started to ask for a PMO-site before the official kick-off of the project!

4. All employees
To ensure that other employees were also aware of our configuration  services, we  used all our channels to get our message across

  • Publishing examples in our intranet blog
  • Presenting at get-togethers
  • Asking Communications to publish articles when we had delivered a particularly interesting solution (such as the Incident Log)
  • Suggesting SharePoint alternatives for every “mistake” we saw people make, such as sending commercials via email to a large audience, using internet survey tools rather than a SharePoint survey, collecting data in Excel files, etc.
    I must have irritated a couple of people over the years by always giving them unsolicited feedback about their working methods  🙂
  • Whenever they asked for help or requested a Team Site, we gave them the option to configure the site for them, especially if we thought it would be beneficial (and they were prepared to make that small business case we needed)

Despite all our efforts there were always people who did not know, or did not want to know, what SharePoint could do for them. But we never tired of trying to get our message across.

What do you do?
Have you been doing this in your organization? Until now I have never come across an organization where custom-configuration is done in a consistent manner, so I would like to hear from you!

A Program Management Office…in a Team Site

As promised in my last post I will elaborate some more on the “PMO Team Site”.

When do you use this configuration?
We have used this for every large program with many individual projects.  It can be a global (such as actions from the yearly Employee Satisfaction survey), business-wide (e.g. increase the profitability of a business unit), or local ( like improving efficiency of a production location) project, with the following characteristics:

  • a set of projects (generally > 10)
  • where all results and revenues are reported together
  • there is a Program Manager for the complete set of projects
  • each individual project is managed by a different project manager
  • to be finished in roughly the same timeframe

What were the issues?
The risk of a set of projects, managed in different ways, is that the Program Manager has to chase everyone for updates, will receive these updates in various formats, and needs to spend much time to turn these diverse bits of information into one proper report. While the official reporting is done once a month, management is always asking the Program Manager “how things are going”, which means the Program Manager has to know the status on a daily basis. And this may cause some stress…

What are the benefits of this setup?
Every project manager updates his or her projects in the Team Site in one list.  This enables uniform reporting and automated aggregations.
There is no document editing involved, so no issues with check-in/check-out or overwriting changes.
The Program Manager can spend time on analysis, progress and solving issues, rather than on collecting and aggregating data.
The online reporting also allows for many different permanent slices-and-dices (views) and real-time graphs of progress, making the need for official progress reports even less.

The priority of these configuration projects is generally very high:

  • Many people save lots of time by having one place to go for the project’s progress
  • These projects are generally very much aligned with business priorities
  • External partners can have access to the Team Site and online meetings, so they spend less time and money on travel

How is the TS set up?

  • The backbone of the site is an issue list or custom list, with “versioning” on. Versions are useful to store monthly updates, but also to see the progress of the project over time.
  • Every project is one line item.
  • The “Assigned To” is the project manager. She or he edits their own item(s) on a regular basis.
  • We use many different metadata columns depending on the project, e.g. country, department, business unit, workstream, project type, etc.
  • The fields that are updated most often are on top, allowing the project managers to edit with as little scrolling as possible.

    Frequently edited items (highlighted) are on top of the edit form
  • We prefer choice fields over lookup fields. The project’s metadata are known and do not change during the project, so we do not need to make it easy to add options; and choice fields in the list reduce the risk of someone accidentally adding, deleting or editing an option.
  • Project managers have no “delete” permissions to avoid accidents.
  • “Traffic lights” give a quick overview of progress and pain points.
  • We create many views to slice and dice the information.
  • In most cases, making all projects visible to all project managers is beneficial and stimulates discussion and a healthy sense of competition. In some cases we filter all views on “Assigned To”= [Me]. This is the case when layoffs, reorganizations, acquisitions, divestitures or other major business critical outcomes are expected. In those cases, the Program Manager will set personal views. (Most people do not know how to create personal views or do not want to take the time, so this is quite safe)

    Overview of all projects
    Overview of all projects, sorted by Due Date.

Using traffic lights
Everybody always loves traffic lights as status indicators, which makes it easy to see “the good and the bad” at a glance. We have used 3 ways to create them:

  1.  Texts (Green, Yellow, Orange, Red), with a description of what these terms mean. This is very basic, but often works well. It is also the most simple and stable solution.
  2. Uploading coloured icons and asking people to add the appropriate link.
  3. Using a calculated fields to color code. This is a more sophisticated way, but not always necessary. I do not have much experience with it.
Stoplights back end
2 ways to work with Stoplights, 1. Text, or 2. Picture

Some interesting views and graphs

  • Projects not modified in 30 days or more. This view is helpful for the Program Manager to chase the project manager for updates
  • Red and Orange projects. This view shows the projects that need management attention.
  • Projects grouped by Phase, by Workstream, by Country etc. These views all help the Program Manager decide where to take action and where to find success stories and good practices.
  • Views with sums on the realized savings or revenues.
  • Gantt Chart
  • My Projects
  • Graph of projects by Phase. This shows progress of the complete PMO and is very useful for Management. (See also my Telesales example)

    PMO Phases
    From left to right: Start of Program, During Program, and End of Program.

Are you also managing programs and individual projects in Team Sites? Please let me know!