Tag Archives: project management

Using Microsoft SharePoint for Project Management

In our July 24, 2012 blog post “Using Hashtags in Microsoft Outlook as a Project Management Strategy,” I discussed strategies we employ at Sector Learning Solutions to manage smaller, internal projects using tools such as Microsoft Outlook.

In that post, I mentioned that we manage our larger client-based projects using Microsoft SharePoint 2010. Our management team prefers to use SharePoint for administrating projects because when it comes to collaboration, SharePoint is the Leatherman of multi-tools. Sure, Outlook is comparable to a Swiss Army Knife- reputable, reliable and familiar- but when it comes to selecting a place to store and locate “one version of the truth,” it tends to fall short.

“Email is a victim of its own success,” says Sector Learning Solutions’ CEO Gerry Brimacombe. “I get so much email, spam and legit[imate], that it is really not a good place for me to store or even receive information. By creating and using SharePoint sites to store project documents and project team members’ contact information, it helps me to breathe easy to know where to find the information I need, and know that it is the latest version.”

“And let’s face it; we use a lot of subcontractors who (like me) often work from home offices. Having a “home page” for every project, which all team members can access, just makes life easier and more efficient for our clients”.

When discussing Project Management tools, Microsoft Project certainly deserves a mention. It is a super powerful tool – yet using it often feels like using an angle grinder to file your nails. Sure, it works and boy does it get the job done, but its overkill – and over-complicating a situation can be dangerous. “Sometimes the overhead of using a powerful tool just doesn’t always pay off,” says Gerry. “I know several senior project managers that choose to not use MS Project, or they use it to plan a project but not manage it.”

MS Project is certainly the right fit for your needs when planning projects that require tracking dependencies, managing costs, and calculating Earned Value, yet when it comes time to manage the project by sharing information and communicating tasks, deadlines, issues and risks its functionality is moot.

According to the Gartner Group, the number one reason that projects fail is due to communication issues. Since MS Project doesn’t directly help project communication, a strategically planned project requires additional tools to allocate tasks to project team members to ensure deadlines and budgets are met.

-Kelly Marshall,
Director of Communication,
MS Project 2007/2010 training &
MS SharePoint 2007/2010 training @

Sector Learning Solutions

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Using Hashtags in Microsoft Outlook as a Project Management Strategy

Have you ever had to manage a project that does not require the power of Microsoft Project, but calls for more organization than a to-do list?

Andrea Vascellari, digital marketing consultant and CEO of itive.net, offers seven solutions in How to Use Google Calendar as a Project Management Tool, an article posted on LifeHacker.com on June 15, 2012.

I felt like sharing this article because we at Sector Learning Solutions use many of the same techniques that Andrea recommends to managing resources and deadlines for our large client-based projects in Microsoft SharePoint, as well as our smaller, internal projects in Microsoft Outlook.

For internal projects (such as planning our Marketing strategy for 2012), we create a separate calendars in Microsoft Outlook to ensure we can view all imminent deadlines for the project by work week or the month on their own – without having to sift through unrelated appointments and to-do items in our personal calendars. When we want to determine free and busy times for ourselves or colleagues, we use the Overlay feature to compare our personal calendars with the project calendar.

Outlook Appointments are used to mark milestones and deadlines, as well as block off time for individuals to complete specific tasks. Client and personal privacy is maintained using the ability to share and restrict calendar access as well as mark individual Appointments and Meetings private.

One new idea that Andrea shares in her article is the idea of using hashtags in Google calendars (e.g. 2-for-1August2012SharepointSpecial#) for internal data management. I’ve always relied heavily on Outlook Categories to group like-items together. The only issue being that you are restricted to 25 colours options. By incorporating a unique hashtag for each specific project you work on, you can reserve your category colours for more general classifications.

Outlook, like Google calendar, is searchable; therefore it makes sense that using hashtags should allow Outlook users to track and report on specific items over time. Testing time!

Right away, I noted an issue when testing hashtag functionality in Outlook. Outlook search ignores the actual hashtag character (i.e. “#”) – even when using double quotes to ensure search results match the exact phrase within the quotes. In fact, its search function appears to ignore all punctuation and special characters.

That means when I search for “test#”, a list of every appointment with the word “test” in the subject line comes up, instead of only the two appointments I created with “test#” in the subject line.

So it appears some modification is necessary to implement Andrea’s hashtag concept to work in Outlook. You can still use a special phrase for all Outlook Appointments tied to a specific project – as long as you only use letters and numbers.

For those of you just getting started with using the Search feature in Outlook, here’s a reference page by Microsoft on how to narrow your search criteria for better searches in Outlook.

Great idea Andrea – looking forward to implementing this technique to improve my time and project management!

Coming Up: Next month I’ll discuss how we use Microsoft SharePoint 2010 to manage our larger client-based projects.

-Kelly Marshall,
Director of Communications,
Outlook 2007/2010 Training @
Sector Learning Solutions