SharePoint and Project Management

We’ve had several questions in recent months about the capabilities of SharePoint for project management. By design, SharePoint is a collaboration tool and therefore lends itself naturally for team members to collaborate on a project or several projects with great clarity. The latest version of SharePoint as a project management tool is an excellent choice.

Office 365 (O365) and SharePoint combine for an even more powerful tool. Since the number of O365 companies is growing every day, it is easier than ever to take advantage of the great features below to facilitate project management.

Home Page

Your project home page can easily deliver dashboards for the team to quickly gauge how the project is doing. Your dashboard can include things like summary of work, goals, statuses, etc. This visual can be delivered in several ways, including Power BI. If you create the report to feed the dashboard with Power BI it is easy to deploy with the Power BI web-part that is native to SharePoint.

Your home page can also be built to deliver project specific news, issue tracking, etc.

Further, you can display links to common project functions in the Quick Launch menu along the left-hand side of the screen. This makes navigation clear and simple for your end users. Some suggested areas for Quick Launch might be:

  • Project Help
  • Goals
  • Contacts
  • Plan with task update capability
  • Documents
  • Risk tracking
  • Issue tracking
  • Metrics
  • Status reporting
  • Project close items such as “lessons learned”
  • Project surveys

Project Tasks

You can use an out-of-the-box task list to include dates, assignees, items, etc. This is very functional and easy for your team members to learn to update.

Better yet, you can build your project plan in Microsoft Project and then sync that plan to the SharePoint Tasks list. This would mean you only need one license of MS Project to build the plan. Then, all the remaining team members can update using their SharePoint license. This makes it very cost effective for companies and again, requires minimal training for the team. Or vice versa, you can create your task list in SharePoint and then say, “open with MS Project.” When team members make updates in MS Project their changes will be saved back to the SharePoint list for everyone’s use.

Workflows

Don’t forget about SharePoint Workflows to further streamline your project tasks. These could be used for things such as routing documents for approval or status of issues being tracked. You can use the out-of-the-box workflows or create your own. Workflows can help take the randomness out of your routine project tasks.

If the standard Workflow structure in SharePoint is not your cup of tea, you can always use SharePoint Designer or Microsoft Flow. SharePoint Designer is not for the newbie. You will need to understand some of the coding and syntax. On the other hand, Microsoft Flow has an easy graphical user interface that makes building workflows much easier for the average user. Flow is included with most versions of O365 license. They can’t make this any easier.

Templates

Rinse, repeat! Yes, once you get your SharePoint project management site the way you like it, you can save it as a template. Now it can be consistently applied to each of your projects. The same look and feel will make it efficient for Administrators and End Users alike. And of course, each project can have its own security setup.

Conclusion

The folks at Microsoft have made several updates in recent years to make using SharePoint for project management not only feasible but also a first-rate choice, especially for O365 users. MS Project and SharePoint compliment each other, allowing for better flexibility while saving both time and money.

What are the data security regulations that I need to comply with?

If you are not in the IT, Legal, or Audit department, first seek out a data security, privacy, or IT auditor staff member. If you have more than one of these individuals on staff, you may need to talk to multiple people to get you started. Certainly you will need to work with one or more of these people (if you have them on staff) to obtain necessary compliance.

There are many regulations surrounding data security and whether you need to comply with them depends upon what type of data you process, how you collect, process, and store it, what type of company you are, where you are located and more. Here are some of the types of regulations that exist today:

> PCI-DSS: If you accept credit card payments for any type of purchase, you must comply with this regulation.

> Sarbannes/Oxley (SOX): If you are a publicly traded company, you must comply with this regulation.

> GDPR: If you process personal data from EU residents (even temporary residents), you must comply with this regulation. Canada residents are also protected by “CASL” and US residents are protected by the “CAN-SPAM” act.

> GLBA (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act): Compliance to this regulation is required by banks and financial institutions.

> HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act applies to all companies who collect, store and process personal medical information.

Note: when researching regulations/laws that your company needs to comply with, be sure to search for state and local laws as well as federal and international. Many states like California and Massachusetts have their own relevant compliance requirements.

Should all of our systems authenticate to the same place?

Many software systems can be configured to authenticate to your network account repository – the most popular one being Active Directory. The primary advantage for users is one password for access to multiple systems. For administrators it is also being able to deactivate an account in one central location for all systems. If you are using Active Directory you can then apply policies around user’s accounts as well.

So, for ease of management and to be able to apply available management tools, having central authentication is a time (and therefore money) saver for both users and administrators.

On the downside, authenticating to one repository for multiple systems means that if a password is compromised an unauthorized user could potentially gain access to all systems the authorized user has access to. In addition, if that repository experiences an outage users could be locked out of multiple systems. Thus, make sure you plan accordingly and implement best practices for security before switching to central authentication.

How is Click Dimensions different from online services like MailChimp?

Click Dimensions is integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 (CRM). This means when you login to CRM, you will see Click Dimensions options included with CRM options on most menus. Click Dimensions offers not only typical menu options for mass emailing marketing materials, but also collects website visit information like Google Analytics does (they are not the same but both supply similar information). Because it is integrated with Microsoft CRM, Click Dimensions can automatically update Contacts, Leads, and Accounts, and make use of custom workflows to gather more information on how your marketing efforts are progressing in real time.

Even tariffs might not slow multifamily construction

The continued activity despite these cost increases has been a bit of a headscratcher for the industry, lending some credence to fears of overbuilding, yet the industry shows few signs of reversing course. Perhaps the prospect of tapping the swollen demand pool for multifamily product is just too sweet to pass up for your average developer.

Read more at HousingWire.com

Read Chuck Ehmann’s RealPage article here.

Sacramento latest city to mandate local hiring

The Local Hire and Community Workforce Training Program encourages contractors doing work on projects funded by the city with budgets of $1 million or more to allot 50 percent of their total workforce hours to area residents. The ordinance prioritizes residents of the city of Sacramento, followed by residents of Sacramento County, and then residents of the surrounding counties that make up the Sacramento region.

In addition, 20 percent of the total hours worked by apprentices on the project must come from “priority apprentices,” meaning people who reside in one of 11 economically disadvantaged zip codes and are either a veteran, a prior offender, a welfare recipient, a foster youth, a homeless person or a woman. The program also will include a high school internship component.

Get ConstructiveDive.com insight on this and similar programs here.

See the Sacremento Bee article here.

Wall Street versus Builders and Wells Fargo

“After a tough report last month, this is strike two for the housing market,” said John Pataky, executive vice president at TIAA Bank.

“While recent monthly reports warn of a change in momentum, year-to-date housing data show actual growth.”

“Builder confidence, while showing signs of having been shaken in recent months, remains high.”

“Rising material prices have been a detriment to new development for much of the year. Given higher costs for materials such as lumber, many projects now fail to pencil out and have been delayed, especially for entry-level homes. However, material prices have begun to ease recently, a trend that should continue in the second half of the year.”

See the charts and read more from both sides of the debate at ForConstructionPros.com

Our IT strategy needs to plan for change; we can’t pre-plan even a year at a time. Can you help?

The strategy needs to include not only budgeting of dollars but also timing.  You should always be looking at this based on a minimum of two years.  But, start with one year and you will see how easily you can roll into 24 months.  Tie your strategy plan to your company’s fiscal calendar year.

Include in your plan the items, the timing, the reason, the dollars and the manpower.  You should also include risk factor analysis for each item.  This will help you identify potential hiccups ahead of time and be ready to respond quickly.

The best approach to an IT strategy plan needs a two-prong approach.

The first channel is based on what the IT team knows needs to be done to support the organization’s infrastructure.  This includes things like server/hardware upgrades, cloud-based changes, major software updates, security systems, etc.  You will also want to include IT staffing projections to support the company and the projected plans.

The second channel is to be sure you are aligned with the organization.  Two to three months before your year end, you should meet with each functional area lead and get their plans for the upcoming 12-24 months.  Learn things like head-count planned, initiatives projected, etc.  Remember to include major initiatives such as an acquisition and minor initiatives such as a staff reduction.  The IT plans should be interwoven with the entire company.  It sounds simple, but adding staff to the AP department translates to more client machines and licenses, as well as additional support from IT.  Do you have enough staff to support the planned growth?

By documenting your plan, you will be able to substantiate any budget and/or initiative changes for things that were not planned from other departments.

Remember, your overall goal is to be proactive instead of reactive.

Consumer prices up 2.9%, leaving Americans worse off

The Labor Department said Friday that the consumer price index ticked up 0.2 percent in July. Annual inflation matched the 2.9 percent pace from June, which had been the highest level since February 2012. Core prices, which exclude the volatile food and energy categories, rose 0.2 percent in June and 2.4 percent from a year earlier. Core prices have risen at the fastest annual pace since September 2008.

Adjusted for inflation, average weekly earnings have fallen 0.1 percent in the past 12 months. Read more at The Associated Press website.

Tech still not on minds of many CEOs, survey shows

The commercial construction industry has been notoriously slow to adopt new technology, and the results of a survey by Vistage shows that respondents will likely continue in that vein in the coming year.

Despite construction and engineering managers’ reluctance to incorporate new, digital tools in their workflows, venture capitalists recognize that construction technology will inevitably change the market and have therefore been pumping billions of dollars into…

Read more at ConstructionDive.com and get the Vistage Q2 2018 CEO Confidence Index for Construction.

Get the Vistage Q2 2018 CEO Confidence Index (not specific to Construction) and more surveys on the Vistage Research Center website.