Put Project Management on Hyper Speed

By Nathan Lockwood, MCP, Eclipse Consulting

Project Management With SharePointDo you ever find that you are so wrapped up in the project plan that you can’t work on the project? Now there are new tools that can help automate standard or repetitive projects. If your work is similar for each client engagement, then why not get it into a tool that will help you work faster and keep better track of tasks through automation? You might be surprised to find out that the application that can help you do these very things is Microsoft® SharePoint®.

With SharePoint®, you can now add what are called workflows. It’s important to note that your SharePoint® site must be located on a server running Windows® SharePoint® Services 3.0 to create a workflow. So, what are workflows? Think of workflows as a process that has a specific start and end. So, how can workflows put your project on hyper speed? Workflows consist of events, actions, conditions, and steps that are programmed by you to automate the management of your project. Below, you’ll find a description of these components:

  • Events are what start or initiate action. In a process flow diagram, they could also be referred to as a trigger.
  • Actions are tasks that can be performed by the workflow or by people. For example, your workflow might include the following actions: send an email message; create a task for a team member; update an item; check an item out; and check an item back in.
  • Conditions are rules or logic that you apply to SharePoint® lists and items. When the conditions that you set are met, an action results. For example, you might have a document review process that requires certain people to review documents related to specific topics because they are the expert in that area. When you set up a condition, the workflow can automatically route documents to predefined people based on the keywords that the documents contain.
  • Steps allow you to group and organize a set of actions and conditions. How you use steps really depends on the workflow and what you are trying to accomplish.

Once you have workflows documented, you can also modify or tweak them for projects that may have specific nuances or requirements.

Does this mean that you no longer need project management software like Microsoft® Project®? Not necessarily. SharePoint ® contains task lists, but does not show the interdependencies of tasks. So, for more complicated projects, you’ll probably still need a tool like Microsoft® Project®. In fact, you can actually combine the best of both worlds. With Project 2010, “A Project Manager (PM) can use all the advanced scheduling capabilities that exist in Project Professional with all the collaborative capabilities that exist in SharePoint.” (Source: Project 2010: Introducing Sync to SharePoint)

So, depending on the needs of your projects, you might need a combination of solutions. Microsoft® Project® is better at creating task interdependencies and scheduling whereas SharePoint® provides a collaborative workplace, document management, and automation to keep your project running smoothly. SharePoint® also gives you great dashboarding to visually see the status of your project. If you also need to track your team member’s billable time on a project, then you may want to add a CRM database solution into the mix.

Are you looking at different project management tools and wondering which ones are right for your company? It can be confusing. Rest assured there are solutions available to fit your business and your project needs. With the right tools in place, you can: save time, streamline your processes, instantly get a snapshot of your project’s status, and gain new insights for improvement.

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Nathan Lockwood is the co-owner of Eclipse Consulting, a technology firm that helps businesses become aware of and understand the technology that is available to accomplish their business goals, and helps them implement it. He may be reached at nathan@eclipse-online.com.

© 2011 Eclipse Consulting, Inc.

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SharePoint® – Organize and Get Fingertip Access to Your Project Files

By Nathan Lockwood, MCP, Eclipse Consulting

SharePoint is like a library for projectsSharePoint® is like a library that is Web accessible. Why the analogy of a library? There are a couple of reasons:

  1. It is a central place where many people can come for information.
  2. Anyone who wants to take something from SharePoint® has to check it out. And, when they are done, they have to check it back in.

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Everyday Tools and Applications – Simple Changes to Save You Time and Money

By Ryan Schave, MCP, Eclipse Consulting

Clock-Cash-CalculatorMost businesses have everyday tools and applications for accounting, emails, productivity, spreadsheets, presentations, customer data, line of business applications, and inventory management. The tools and applications you use should enable you and your employees to efficiently complete tasks and work. You might be shocked by the number of hours that are inadvertently “wasted” every day. If you want to save time and money, then optimize your use of the features that are built-in to your everyday tools and applications. Continue reading

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Please! Don’t Buy New Hardware or Software!

By Nathan Lockwood, MCP, Eclipse Consulting

business man holding up hands stop or wait gestureSave your money! Don’t purchase new hardware or software. Instead, spend your money on your business. Get the technology working for you, rather than just paying to have the technology. Many of our clients find that they buy the hardware and the software that they need to run their business. But, they don’t really benefit from the full power of their technology.

For example, we have worked with  clients who have purchased a customer relationship management (CRM) application such as Microsoft CRM, ACT or Goldmine to help run their business. They had used up their budget for just the software and didn’t get past adding their contacts and putting in their data. They didn’t leave time or money for figuring out and building reports that would help them analyze the data to manage their business. Continue reading

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IT SHIFT: BYO (Bring Your Own) Computer or Tablet

By Ryan Schave, MCP, Eclipse Consulting

Companies choose BYO computer or tablet policiesCan allowing employees to use their own computing device lead to improved employee attraction and retention rates? You bet! I would even venture to say that in the tech industry, the technology used by potential employers is becoming a bigger factor in a candidate’s decision of where to work.

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The Cloud and the iPad … a Marriage Made in Heaven?

By Ryan Schave, MCP, Eclipse Consulting

iPad made to work with the cloudThere’s no doubt about it! The iPad and the cloud were made to work together. The fundamental way that the iPad works is by an app connecting to software that is housed “in the cloud”.  Very little is stored on the iPad itself.

The iPad provides businesses with new possibilities, but don’t forget that the capabilities of the iPad would not be achievable without the cloud.

If you envision an iPad user relaxing on their couch and passing time, think again. The iPad and the cloud is a marriage made in heaven and it can make workforces more productive and efficient. Continue reading

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Can You Really Run Your Business “in the Cloud?”

Cloud-Based Solutions Save Businesses MoneyThe answer is a resounding YES! You can run an entire company virtually, and appear as though you are a larger company and that all your employees are in one location. So, what cloud-based solutions can make all this possible? Here is a checklist with a few different solutions that can move your business to the cloud: Continue reading

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Is the Cloud Just a Money-Making Scheme?

Is Cloud Computing a Money Making Scheme?Well, the answer to that question is yes and no. The objective is to make IT less expensive while budgeting IT investments as a constant expense versus a capital outlay. So, although the intent was not some grand money-making scheme, it will lead to increased revenues for cloud service and product providers.  Basically, with cloud computing solutions, you can budget, plan, and manage your IT expenses better.  If you’re not spending huge money on hardware, you’ll have more money available for the “possibilities” of technology  and how it can work better for your business. Continue reading

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Is the Cloud Secure?

By Nathan Lockwood, MCP, Eclipse Consulting

Cloud Computing - Digital Data SecurityWhether the cloud is secure or not is by far the biggest concern for businesses and individuals. The “cloud” is still a physical place. It’s just that it’s somebody else’s server in some other location, accessed by you via the Internet. Unfortunately, the answer to the question about whether the cloud is secure is just as gray as the rain clouds in the sky. It depends on the cloud service provider and who is hosting the data and where the data is stored. Continue reading

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Is the End of Hardware Upgrades in Sight?

By Nathan Lockwood, MCP, Eclipse Consulting

Even if you move to cloud-based networks and software, upgrades of some type will still be required . Instead of upgrading servers and increasing bandwidth, you will need to upgrade the devices that are used to interact with the cloud.

Hardware upgrades will not be ending, but the nature of the upgrades is changing. Hopefully, the upgrades of the future will be more affordable than upgrading servers, increasing bandwidth, and replacing laptops. Continue reading

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