Earlier in the month we looked at 5 tips for using SharePoint as a project management information system.  SharePoint is a powerful tool, but it can be easy to slip into the habit of just using it like you do your shared network drive – a place to store documents in folders.  There is much more to it than that: functionality that can really help you manage your projects more effectively.

1. Check documents in and out

When you have documents that are work in progress and multiple people making changes, it can get confusing to know who has the document open at any one time.  One document can only be worked on by one person at a time, and if you don’t automatically get a message telling you so, you could find that all your changes are lost because someone else gets there before you.  The check in/out function in SharePoint stops that from happening.

If you check a document out others can still read it, but no one else can make changes to it until you have checked it back in.  You can set this option as a requirement for your SharePoint site, to ensure all users are prompted to check out documents for editing.  You can do this in the Library Settings menu.

2. Set up alerts

Alerts are a great option if you have a team that is non co-located and doesn’t look at SharePoint all the time.  Those team members might not notice when a new document is available or when you have posted the minutes from the meeting last week.  An alert is an automated email that is sent when something new happens on the SharePoint site.  Users can subscribe to alerts themselves if there is a particular library or list they want to receive updates for.  Alternatively, you can subscribe people to an alert, so you can be sure that those required get notification of new items.  For example, every time you add something to the budget tracker you can notify your Finance department, as they probably won’t use your project SharePoint site as often as you do.  Or you can set up alerts for your team so they get sent an email every time a new project document is added.

Alerts can be configured to be sent when new items are added or when something is deleted or modified.  You can also set if you want to receive alerts in real time or as a daily or weekly summary, to help manage information overload.

3. Use a contact list

You need to know who to contact for everything on your project, right?  You can use a contact list to store key pieces of information about your project team members like:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Fax number
  • Job title
  • Normal office hours
  • Photo

You can also configure your contact list to display internal and external contacts separately, so you can easily see who works for the same company as you and who is a supplier or other third party. You might want to store slightly different information for third parties, such as who is the main contact for accounts, or what the main switchboard number is.

Photos are a useful addition as they can create a sense of team, especially if you don’t all get together very often, or the team is new and no one really knows yet who does what.

4. Make the most of RSS feeds

SharePoint has the feature to import RSS feeds.  You can make these appear on your project SharePoint site homepage, so everyone stopping by will get to see the latest news.  Choose feeds that relate to your project somehow, like news from your industry or from your main supplier.  If your company has a blog you could also link to that.  One of the good things about pulling RSS feeds into SharePoint is that it encourages your team to use the site as their main source of information about the project and everything related.

5. Work out what do when you project finishes