All projects generate a lot of information in the form of emails, documents, templates, reports and a host of other things. Keeping on top of it all can be difficult. A Project Management Information System (PMIS) can help. The Project Management Institute defines a PMIS as:

An information system consisting of tools and techniques used to gather, integrate, and disseminate the outputs of project management processes. It is used to support all aspects of the project from initiating through closing, and can include both manual and automated systems.

Microsoft SharePoint is one tool in use across many organizations that can be used as a PMIS.  Here are 5 tips for using SharePoint to help you manage your project information more effectively.

Create a project calendar

You can create a project calendar in SharePoint to store details of project meetings, key milestones and team holidays – or anything else that is date driven.  The calendar function works on a similar basis to Outlook and you can schedule things with a duration of several days (like a training course), or for a particular hour (like a regular project team conference call).  You can also attach documents to calendar entries, which is a good way of ensuring everyone has the meeting agenda in advance, and this can be updated once the event has taken place so the calendar entry can serve as a repository for documents created as an outcome of that session, like meeting minutes.

Use version control in your document library

If you already have SharePoint in your organisation, chances are you are familiar with document libraries.  These are repositories of shared documents, than can be organized and viewed by date, keyword, or any other metadata and form the bulk of most people’s experience with SharePoint.  Did you know that SharePoint document libraries can automatically manage the version history of your documents for you?  The default setting is that if you make changes to a document the new version will overwrite any previous version.  But you can change the settings to ensure that previous versions are kept.  This is great if you have several people responsible for updating documents, as you can track exactly what was changed as the document evolved.

Sharing information

Give all your stakeholders access

SharePoint allows you to set access controls so that different users have read or write permissions to different areas.  You will probably want to allow at least read access for all of your project team and stakeholders.  After all, nothing you have on the site should be so private that you can’t share it with your stakeholders.  However, you won’t want to give your project sponsor the ability to delete documents – just in case they accidentally click something and you don’t have a back up!

Don’t use the Gantt chart feature for your scheduling

SharePoint does have a Gantt chart function but it is not as powerful as other scheduling tools.  It’s also cumbersome if you have more than 50 tasks and you are not able to customise the Gantt view as much as you would need to.  Instead, use it for high level milestones.  This way you can give all your stakeholders a snapshot view of progress, and it’s an easy way to share the significant achievements on the project without bogging people down in the task-level detail.

Use lists to manage risks and issues

SharePoint lists are easy to set up and there is an out-of-the box Project Issues tracking list which you can modify to be suitable for risks as well.  This gives you the option to manage risk and issue priority, status, updates, owners, solutions and action dates.  You can easily add more columns if you need to keep track of other data, and attach relevant documents.  It’s very easy to update an issue when you have everything in SharePoint, and you can give key members of your team rights to be able to make updates themselves, which reduces the burden on you, although you can still easily see when the last change was made and who by.