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The Microsoft SharePoint Team Services Web tool enables project managers to build project Web sites to support the project team. Through SharePoint, project teams can do the following:

  • Post announcements about important project issues and news
  • Post notifications about important project events such as team meetings, code walks, documentation reviews, and other project milestones
  • Post links to other online resources of interest to the project
  • Hold online discussions about the project, tasks, and related topics
  • Share project documents online for review—sharing documents online also creates a ready project documentation repository
  • Post links to online information residing on other corporate intranet servers or external Web sites
  • Provide an online listing of important project contacts, including product managers, project managers, development staff, support staff, outside vendors, partners, and, most importantly, customer contacts

Moving your project communications to SharePoint means skipping a lot of development time, which also saves resources. In cases in which an organization may already be tied into a corporate intranet, or when its intranet has gone “cobweb,” SharePoint is a good choice because it’s not very resource-intensive and it offers a high degree of customization and interactivity right out of the box.

Obtaining Microsoft SharePoint Team Services
Microsoft SharePoint Team Services is available as a separate install as part of FrontPage 2002 or Microsoft Office XP Developer Edition. This project management resource may already be available within your organization, but you may not be using it as a communications tool.

Posting project announcements
Project announcements appear on the home page of SharePoint. You can use project announcements to post project news such as deadlines and date changes. Announcements are not for scheduling project events; rather, they’re for project-related news. Clicking on Add Announcements opens the Announcements: New Item page, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Posting project events
Project events appear on the SharePoint home page. Events are different from announcements and can include meetings, company events, and other activities requiring team members’ attendance. Click Add New Event from the home page to open the Events: New Item page.

Posting project contacts
SharePoint lets you store important project contacts in a central repository on the SharePoint Web site. The entries you create can be as detailed as any PDA or PIM, including full name, company name, job title, mailing address, e-mail address, important phone and fax numbers, and Web page. Click Add New Contact on the home page to open the Contacts: New Item page, where you can enter information for a new contact.

Posting project links
It’s possible to build quite a list of bookmarks of important Web sites, with the proliferation of online resources on corporate intranets and the ever-growing use of the Web as vendors’ primary support tool. However, these links usually reside on team members’ PCs as part of their browser favorites and typically aren’t available to the entire team. Figure B shows an example of the Links page.

Figure B

Sharing documents
You can place project documents such as requirements, use cases, and project plans on a SharePoint team site.

You can access project documents from the team site’s home page or from the Shared Documents page. The Shared Documents page is fully customizable, so you can build a shared documents repository to meet your project team’s requirements. Team members can also upload and even create new Microsoft Office documents from the Shared Documents page (see Figure C).

Figure C

Running online discussions
Online discussions offer project teams a reliable way to track relevant discussions. Team members can log on to the site and join the discussion by typing their comments into a Web-based form. The General Discussion: New Item page has a field where you can type in a title for the discussion entry and a field where you can type in the body of the discussion entry. Figure D shows an example of a General Discussion page.

Figure D

Posting and assigning tasks
You can also post tasks online and assign a task to a team member, depending on your role. Applicable information when adding a new task includes:

  • Task title
  • Task status
  • % complete
  • Assigned to
  • Description
  • Start date
  • End date

Figure E shows an example of the Tasks page.

Figure E

Using SharePoint
The SharePoint site I’ve shown in this article is an out-of-the-box implementation residing on a standard PC running Microsoft Windows XP Professional and Microsoft Internet Information Services 5.1. Microsoft SharePoint Team Services must be installed on the server that is designated to host the application.

Additionally, you can create multiple SharePoint Web sites, so one installation of SharePoint can support multiple projects.

You have the option to customize every major element of the SharePoint site with customizable online forms.

Securing SharePoint
You manage security for the team site from the Site Settings Page, where a site administrator can manage users and assign them roles defining their access to the team site and its features. There is full control over who has access to the site, making it an ideal platform for project teams that need to manage their communications and documentation from a central location.

Passive vs. active site usage
So you say that, if you build it, they won’t come? To help you make sure your project team members go to the site, SharePoint also includes a subscription feature enabling users to subscribe to the major site components, meaning users will be notified via e-mail when the site changes. Subscription options include:

  • Subscribing to announcements, contacts, events, general discussion, links, shared documents, and tasks.
  • Notifications when anything changes or when a list item is added, changed, or removed.
  • Timing for notifications, including when the change occurs, once a day or once a week.

Running SharePoint for your project team
Running Microsoft SharePoint Team Services as a project communications tool and central repository for project information is a productivity booster because it pulls team information to a central location rather than leaving it scattered across team members’ hard drives. Best of all, you may already have this capability. All you need to do is take advantage of it.