While project managers everywhere know that Microsoft SharePoint is a powerful and effective platform for doing project management, not all users of the technology know it has inherent and situational disadvantages. At least, that’s the shared opinion of Eamonn McGuinness, CEO, BrightWork, a provider of SharePoint applications for collaborative work and project management, and Mike Taylor, president, Innovative-e, a Sharepoint consulting and technology services company.
Just in case you haven’t heard, SharePoint is a large suite of collaborative, Web-based products built on a document management platform. It enables users to host websites that access shared work spaces, information stores and documents, as well as host applications such as wikis and blogs. Users can manipulate proprietary controls called “web parts” or interact with pieces of content such as lists and document libraries.
McGuinness and Taylor see two key advantages and disadvantages of using SharePoint for project management:
Advantage No. 1 and Disadvantage No. 1: SharePoint’s out-of-the-box, ease-of-use quality – “People can use it out of the box for project management,” said Taylor. “SharePoint is great for people who are not very sophisticated about either technology or project management. It allows pretty much anybody to do basic project management and workflow.”
The danger, however, is that while SharePoint is easy to set up and use, it can become difficult to manage unless project members understand the project’s processes and goals, he notes. Fundamentally Taylor believes that SharePoint highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the people using it as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the processes they have in place.
“People can learn how to use SharePoint with a minimal amount of training,” said McGuinness. “The tool is very accessible, even for non-technical people.”
Both McGuiness and Taylor agree that SharePoint allows users to create web portals very quickly―portals that provide a high level of integration with other Microsoft technologies.
Advantage No. 2 and Disadvantage No. 2: SharePoint’s collaborative capabilities – SharePoint is a collaborative tool that brings people together and allows them to do project management, which is a collaborative process, said McGuinness. “The problem with SharePoint is that it lacks the process element,” he said. “The SharePoint platform is good for collaboration, but it’s not wired for specific functions such as project management.”
Project managers need to realize that SharePoint is a platform “designed to do many, many things but it doesn’t give you most of them,” said McGuinness. “SharePoint crystallizes the old issue of software giving you what’s necessary for your needs but not sufficient for them.”
That’s where templates come in, he points out. “For example, BrightWork’ s pmPoint templates provide targeted solutions to key project management goals,” said McGuinness. “Our templates are not just for project managers. They also support team members, program managers and project office teams.”
While acknowledging the usefulness of templates for project management, Taylor notes problems frequently arise when companies do not invest enough time into training people.
“Companies need to train people not only to use SharePoint for project management but to collaborate with one another,” said Taylor. “Too often, companies call us for help after things start to go bad―instead of inviting us in at the beginning of a project.”