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Let's demystify the metadata...
It helps to organize, find and understand data. The key point in this definition is that it describes and gives information about “an item”. Wiki’s definition is “metadata is data that describes other data”, in other words, it gives context, purpose and value to an item. Think about a construction project picture. How would you describe it for marketing purpose? It has a date, project title, country, market, services, etc. These are properties of the project picture that give it context and value and collectively we call this metadata. In Excel this would be information in columns you can use to filter and search. In SharePoint, it's exactly the same and you can do a lot more. You can use it to control views on multiple pages, you can set alerts and reminders, you can restrict access based on it. When uploading a new project image to SharePoint, a form will prompt you to fill in the information according to a predefined structure. When creating your PMIS, certain key metadata will be centralized, such as your company's markets. You don't want each user to define or spell it differently. These "managed metadata" will be made available for all applications on the entire site. It's that simple 😉.
Out of the box, SharePoint is great tool to manage projects of all sizes
Out-Of-The-Box SharePoint comes with all necessary features to produce a fully functional PMIS. It means that your current processes can map directly onto features provided from a vanilla version of SharePoint. In its vanilla version version, SP offers the possibility to create lists, document libraries, email libraries, project mailbox, team calendars, task list, blog, news, photo library, connect to Outlook, Excel, MS Project, send notifications, create landing pages… You can create a fully functional PMIS by avoiding unnecessary add-ons and complicated features that would complicate deployment, maintenance, and could cause problems during future upgrades. The only essential functionality missing in SP vanilla is the ability to drag and drop emails directly from Outlook with a prompt to add metadata. The latter is clearly essential for user experience and buy-in. A number of third-party products can repair it simply and at low cost. An simple example Imagine a construction project site with different lists and libraries. The diagram below shows how the "issue list" interacts with the other components of a simple PMIS. How to track documents and associated emails, track actions, link meetings or calendar events and produce Excel reports that are always up to date. The issue monitoring list can include specific fields (see the post on metadata) such as status or impact on cost / time to allow various possibilities for viewing, sorting, defining notifications, generating reports and research. All of this can be done simply, quickly and without programming. Our approach is to follow three essential steps for a PMIS deployment: Make it work Make it smarter Make it cool and nice Make it work: Use existing functionality to create a portfolio management site that includes proposals and project lists. Create simple and efficient project and proposal templates to fit the different types and sizes you usually manage. Create a few user groups and develop an authorization matrix to protect sensitive information. Deploy the project templates as you go. Make it smarter: Add workflows and integrate all your internal forms. Create beautiful BI dashboards and reports in Excel. Make it nice and cool: Add nice graphics, develop beautiful pages, blogs and create a complete work environment. Adapt all your forms for tablets and phones. It takes more creativity to use native functionality to meet user needs, but it pays off. Take the time to write user requirements (stories) and make sure you keep it simple. It is the only winning recipe.
Why your PMIS should cover the whole project life cycle ?
It is important to emphasize the “project life cycle” aspect of a PMIS. Most projects will go through pre-proposal, proposal and execution phases generally carried out by various teams over a fairly long period. We cannot stress enough the importance of having a PMIS that covers the entire “project life cycle”. This is the essence of a good portfolio management process. Some companies use a contact relationship management system (CRM) for the development and proposal phases. In this case, access to the assumptions and constraints identified, as well as the associated documents must be made available to the project management team. Assumptions and constraints are often elements not covered or ambiguities in contractual documents. The project management team has the obligation to clarify them during the project initiation phase, ideally during the customer kick-off meeting. And we all know how busy the project initiation phase is. Therefore, all information must be known, accessible and complete. We have all experienced at least once the unfortunate consequences of a disconnection between the pre-project and execution phases, between the assumptions and the contractual documents. In many cases, this translates into a poor customer experience, cost and time overrun. The ideal time to discuss the assumptions with the client is the initial kick-off meeting. This is the only meeting in which most of the stakeholders will participate (procurement, contract, project management, engineering). And it's still the honeymoon between the client, the engineers and the entrepreneur 😊. The diagram below shows the key information that needs to go from one phase to another in the PMIS.
What is a SharePoint PMIS?
All projects generate a lot of information in the form of emails, documents, templates, reports and a host of other things. Here is an attempt to define it simply what is a Project Management Information System (PMIS). Purist and geeks, please forgive the simplicity. In simple terms, a PMIS is the set of tools provided to project teams to do their work. In most companies, there are enterprise tools for certain functions shared across the enterprise. For example, costs and purchases are managed with the company's ERP. Therefore, when we talk about a PMIS in the world of project management, we usually mean a set of tools provided to perform the specific work of project management. A simple SharePoint PMIS can include support for documents, lists, forms, registers, emails, meetings, and workflows to cover the entire project life cycle. The benefits of a PMIS can be summed up at a high level as follows: Offer mobility and flexibility with secure authorization and no risk associated with copies made by users Easily centralize relevant emails in a user-friendly way Store your documents productively and securely thanks to version control, approval workflows, without duplication and without adding burden to users Smart way to use lists and registers by linking them to relevant documents, calendars and tasks Notifications (new item in the risk log, due date, overdue tasks, summary of weekly correspondence, etc.) The SharePoint PMIS should be the link between your existing systems to fill the gaps and provide additional possibilities for documents & emails, lists, registers, collaboration, workflows, notifications, views, search…