How can MS project users let me know when they've made updates?
February 20, 2018 3:03 AM   Subscribe

I’m tasked with putting together a process for collecting and reporting updates to a large MS project plan. The plan includes high-level details for a number (10ish) of related projects. The project plan is on a SharePoint site and gets updated by about a half dozen folks. I need to 1) create an easy process for people to update/notify me when changes are made to the plan, e.g., add/remove tasks or milestones, change due dates, maybe % complete updates, etc.

So, what is the best way to accomplish this? I’d like something better than sending an email around once a week asking for updates but all I can think to do is to create a template that people fill out. Could I can take advantage of SharePoint to send alerts or create a workflow?

I also need to 2) create a program report for my manager that a) recaps what changed, b) provides a heads up of what’s coming, c) critical path alerts, and d) status. I think I can provide a twice-monthly PowerPoint report with segments for key updates, status for each project (red, yellow green), and timeline graphic of upcoming deliverables/milestones.

Does this sound like a reasonable approach; am I forgetting anything and how can I make it easy for folks to communicate their changes to me. Ideally, I’d give everyone notice that starting March xx, please do the following…

If it matters, I’m with a giant financial company with standard office applications. No downloading or buying special software.
posted by shoesietart to Work & Money (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Could I can take advantage of SharePoint to send alerts or create a workflow?

Workflows are a powerful tool, but they can be complicated to set up and require a deep understanding from all the users. It sounds like you should start with alerts whenever someone modifies the document(s) you are interested in, which are pretty easy to set up. At least in 365 you have the option of this notification coming immediately upon a change, or as a daily or weekly digest. If you choose the first, I'd recommend also setting up filters in your Outlook to send the notifications to a folder other than your inbox; it could end up being quite a few emails to wade through.

These alerts should tell you who made the change, but they won't tell you what the content of the changes are (unless they are changes to the metadata); to figure that out, you'll need to compare the versions before and after the update, which is fairly easy but not trivial to do as long as you have automatic version history set up. if that's something you need to know and can't spend the time to figure out yourself, then yes, workflows could be the way to go, but you'll probably need to talk to your site administrator about that.

Hopefully someone will be along to answer your questions about generating reports up to your manager; that's should all be possible to do if your colleagues are inputting their updates/revisions in the right way, but my knowledge of how to do all that is stale and I don't currently have Project to refresh my understanding.
posted by solotoro at 6:52 AM on February 20, 2018


In sharepoint, under the files menu, properties, is an "alert me" feature to let you know when changes are made. That is easiest, but also "dumbest"

You can also set up workflows for review/approval of changes. Person A makes changes, and when checking in, they should say what changed, and now Person B needs to review and approve it before it gets accepted.

Part of the process would be training: when someone makes a change, they need to be specific in their check-in comments on sharepoint. No comments like "updated doc", but specifics of "updated milestone 3 for task foo, that's currently assigned to bar to now be completed on/by 4-June-17"

These are independent of MS Project, which may have its own featureset for what you want (I don't use project, but I use sharepoint)
posted by k5.user at 6:55 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


In the large-scale project management world, what you're talking about are updates from control account managers, or CAMs, but not everyone uses those terms.

The bad news is that there's not a great way to do this cleanly. MSFT doesn't see Project and Project Server as strategic enough, so they get neglected even though they've become the standard in all but the most serious project management situations.

For their part, Microsoft will tell you "something something workflow something something Sharepoint," but what you really want is something that will capture the discrete updates provided by the contributors for your review, so you can look carefully at those areas of the project and (ideally) compare the updated forecast dates to the baseline, so you can tell if the project is staying on track.

This is a lot different than tracking changes in a Word doc, because a Project plan is a living schedule with a critical path and dependencies, so a change to task 1.2.5.6 -- say, the supplier can't meet the original date, and is going to impose a 6 week delay on a critical part -- can ripple all the way through the plan and blow deadlines 6 or 12 months away.

My employer used to sell a small product that did this, but it wasn't part of our core competency so we kind of moved away from it. The need is still there, and we're likely to rebuild it, but right now there's not a good answer I'm aware of.

One approach involves those providing status on their tasks giving you the discrete detail themselves. IOW, *you* own the project plan, and you get updates from the contributors via email or verbally or whatever. This is not automated, and it's labor intensive, but it gets the job done.
posted by uberchet at 8:54 AM on February 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


One approach involves those providing status on their tasks giving you the discrete detail themselves. IOW, *you* own the project plan, and you get updates from the contributors via email or verbally or whatever. This is not automated, and it's labor intensive, but it gets the job done.

I know you want something more elegant than just emailing people to get updates, but I totally agree with uberchet on this one.

I'm a federal employee, and my job entails tracking and keeping MS Project files for over 100 construction projects (dams, powerplants, recreation areas, and other water-related projects), with over 100 different people providing updates. In the five years I've done this, I've discovered that people will simply not be proactive about updating schedules.

Our process includes having Coordination Meetings once a month so all parties can get together. (Engineers, designers, finance people, contracting officers, construction overseers, etc.) A week prior to the meeting, I email everyone and ask for the latest updates. I update the MS Project file with that information; no one else has access to the MS Project file. (That would be a nightmare!)

Once updated, I provide a PDF of the latest schedules prior to the meetings. During the meetings, I note any more recent updates given verbally. I follow up with an email listing Action Items gathered in the meeting. ("JSmith said he would provide a new date for delivery of materials" etc.) Then a week before the next set of meetings, I send another request for updates, and the whole process starts again.

In your case, with only six people involved, you might have better luck with a different system. But the reality is, people get involved with their projects and almost see the reporting of the progress to be an interruption rather than a necessary part of the process. In our case, missing deadlines can mean threats to health and safety (most important), and ramifications to budgets, so being able to project dates out into the future is vital. I just have to consider nagging to be part of my job description.
posted by The Deej at 9:42 AM on February 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


But the reality is, people get involved with their projects and almost see the reporting of the progress to be an interruption rather than a necessary part of the process
This is SO MUCH of the problem. Seriously.
posted by uberchet at 10:42 AM on February 20, 2018


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