Get started with SharePoint tips for project and portfolio management

Nelson Ruest, Danielle Ruest and Marie-Andree Furlong

While people who aren’t already using project and portfolio management software or integrated collaboration tools aren’t eager to jump into the PPM fray, there’s nothing more

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frustrating than trying to find information that you know is on the shared drive when you don’t have the magical search phrase or path to locate it.

Don’t beat yourself up: It isn’t easy to find information in a standard file storage system. It doesn’t matter how well organized you are personally or how well developed your file and folder structure is -- storing information in a file share just isn’t intuitive. Many midmarket companies are looking to SharePoint as an easy and budget-friendly solution for this virtual mess. If you have Windows Small Business Server, you already have SharePoint bundled in -- it can also be downloaded for free with Windows Server.

You know that strategy matters more than software, so if you’ve chosen standard SharePoint 2010 as your solution, we have three SharePoint tips to help you get started and manage a successful implementation project.

1.  Identify your pain points in order to highlight your data and document management needs.

Before integrating a Web portal infrastructure, survey users to get an idea of what really gets in the way when they try to locate information.  Users have the best firsthand knowledge of what’s really making them crazy, and document management frequently ends up being a major pain point in every sphere of an IT-driven corporation. Once you have identified your major pain points, you’ll have a clear idea for the requirements of your SharePoint site project. 

2.  Inventory your assets to be covered by your SharePoint implementation.

Inventory the entire document and information assets located on your file shares. This will reduce the amount of work required for the SharePoint implementation, the storage capacity required for the portal and the sustainability efforts required to maintain the portal.

As IT administrators, we all know that managing and organizing network drives can be a nightmare. Worse, we often do not even know what information those drives contain. Take inventory in preparation to centralize all the information into one single corporate brain. You can use a search tool to create an inventory spreadsheet that will reflect the entire list of documents stored on a network drive, which will expedite archiving and purging of your organization’s information -- think of this as a document spring cleaning. Include information stored on your Intranet or on any Wiki websites you currently maintain. It’s vital that you don’t forget personal drives in your inventory -- they’re often gold mines of information.

3. Design the SharePoint intranet homepage.

Next, take pencil and paper and begin to draw the image of what the SharePoint pages should look like. You can make this step a bit more creative and interactive with good Web mockup tools such as Balsamiq that will allow you to easily draw webpage prototypes.

Document management frequently ends up being a major pain point in every sphere of an IT-driven corporation.

Since you don’t want your SharePoint content to create a new messy storm of information, it’s crucial to set basic rules and regulations for the creation of personal and shared portal pages. This is why SharePoint allows you to create templates that simplify and standardize the addition of new content. Make sure you put them in place before your users start creating their own content.

The key in a successful design is to create a positive SharePoint experience for the end user, so your goal is to create a portal interface that’s everything but boring.  For example, add the upcoming cultural events of your organization or insert a cartoon on the homepage to ensure that the SharePoint portal will generate a smile each time users see it. Be careful to not get too carried away -- keep your SharePoint Portal simple and user friendly.

Once you’ve identified your needs, completed the inventory of your information assets and designed what the portal should look like, you’ll have all the necessary information required to start the implementation of Microsoft SharePoint in your organization.

Danielle and Nelson Ruest are IT experts focused on virtualization, continuous service availability and infrastructure optimization. They have written multiple books, including Virtualization: A Beginner's Guide for McGraw-Hill Osborne, and MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-652): Configuring Windows Server Virtualization with Hyper-V for Microsoft Press. Marie-Andree Furlong is change management coordinator and technical writer at British Columbia Ferry Services Inc., the world’s largest ferry fleet. Contact them at infos@reso-net.com or editor@searchcio-midmarket.com.

This was first published in May 2011

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