Building a Project Management Information System (PMIS) in SharePoint

A lot of people are using SharePoint to help the project management process. Time and Time again I see organizations stand up out of the box team sites and call it project management. While SharePoint is a great step forward in collaboration and sharing of information, the team site really only touches the surface of what we as project managers need to do to truly manage a project. In this series I am going to discuss the use of SharePoint as a Project Management Information System (PMIS). I will cover some concepts and details on how to use the out of the box features and functions to create a PMIS. At the end of each major post I will also cover some 3rd party products and how they can be used to enhance and or accelerate your PMIS. I will also cover new features for SharePoint and how they can be used to enhance the solutions. This information will become part of the posts once Microsoft releases me from my NDA. Now it is important to note that even though I am going to cover a lot of items in this series, there is no one tool or process that is right for everyone. There are many different ways to mange projects they range from broad frameworks like PMBOK ,Prince 2, Critical Chain, Lean and Extreme, to process Based management like CMMI and ISO. This series does focus loosely on the PMBOK methodologies but the concepts and principles presented here should be easily adaptable to the other methods. This Series also focuses on single project execution not portfolio management (which I will cover in another series). I love SharePoint as a PMIS because of its Flexibility. With SharePoint I can take any organization, no matter where they are in project management maturity, and build a PMIS that allows them to change, grow, and evolve the PM practices over time. Because you can do this over time you can plot a path to any level of maturity. It works especially well for those who are lower in the maturity scale because you can use simple systems and expand them as you are ready. Since the majority of my experience lies in the realm of managing complex and large software development projects, most of the examples that you will see are focused on this. I will also be focusing on using SharePoint lists to manage items. These lists are not intended to replace good project documentation, but to allow users to manage items that will be eventually converted to formalized documents. Before we get into the SharePoint details I want provide some PM fundamentals. I promise in this series I will try to keep the Project Management soap box speeches to a minimum.

Introduction to Project Management Information System Fundamentals
The Project Management Institute defines a Project Management Information system (PMIS) as an integrated approach for the management and distribution of project information. This system does not necessarily have to be electronic but in my experience it is rare to see a good PMIS that is purely in the paper world. What is a PMIS? A PMIS contains all the information required for the stages of a Project:

Initiating

Planning

Executing, Managing and Controlling

Closing

The framework you implement should provide a way for:

Collecting

Organizing

Storing

Processing

Disseminating project information

It also should provide the basis for assessing the status of the project with respect to time, cost, and quality.

Things to consider in the stages
Initiation (Think it through): This is where you look into an idea or requirement to see if it is desirable to turn it into a project. The focus at this stage is on what might be done and whether it is required.

This stage determines the nature and scope of the development. If this stage is not performed well, it is unlikely that the project will be successful in meeting the business’s needs.

In this phase, the project manager can use the PMIS for:

Preliminary budget, labor requirements, and financial structure.

Preliminary schedule

Approval cycle, including defining the Scope of work and presenting the information to the stakeholders

Planning (Plan it Out): In this Stage the detailed planning and analysis happens and the system is designed. Controls should be in place that ensure that the final product will meet the specifications of the project charter

In this phase, the project manager can use the PMIS for:

Detailed schedule, detailed task analysis, project working calendar

Cost management planning, detailed work breakdown structure, integration of control procedures.

Resource planning, including labor/material/equipment requirements, availability of resources, and resource leveling

Obtaining sign-off - This includes establishing baselines for scope, schedule, and cost.

The main goals of this stage are:

Communication - This is the point where everyone with an interest should be made aware what you are intending to do

Realistic figures - costs and timescales are as accurate as possible

Execution, Manage and Control (Time to Do it): Once the project is under way, the project team collects and enters current information. The project team compares the actual to the baseline plan to track project progress. The PMIS should provide cost and schedule forecasts to help the PM to develop scenarios concerning alternatives and corrective actions. It assists the project manager and stakeholders in investigating opportunities for reducing costs and accelerating schedules.

In this phase, the project manager can use the PMIS for:

Materials management, which includes expediting orders, tracking deliveries, and controlling inventories.

Cost collection, which includes collecting actual costs, extracting accounting data, and summarizing cost data.

Performance measurement, which includes monitoring project status, analyzing variances, assessing productivity, and forecasting trends.

Records management, which includes controlling artifacts, tracking contracts, and records management.

Reporting, which includes revising budgets, modifying schedules, analyzing alternatives, and recommending actions?

Closing out (What Did We Learn): During this phase, the project manager and the team can use the PMIS for reviewing requirements to ensure that the project has met all of its contractual requirements. We need to properly organize this information because it provides a comprehensive set of project archives, which includes contract performance review, productivity analysis, final project report, and historical archives.

The 1st step is often the Hardest Step For project managers, the 1st step is the most major step… deciding to implement a PMIS. The next step is to determine the uses of the PMIS to make certain that it will meet the needs of the project manager and stakeholders based on how you execute projects and how you should be executing projects.

Is it a project?
A few simple rules I like to use when identifying whether something is a project:

Is there a set of tasks or activities with a start and end point?

Are there well defined objectives?

Are specific resources needed to be assigned?

Not everything can be defined as a project. Some processes may be developments of existing operations or an extra task for a team or individual. A project is an operation to achieve particular outcomes, usually involving many stages, often involving many resources and with an end point. It is not 'business as usual' type of activities.

When to consider a project management information system
By George Sifri

October 7, 2008, 8:40 AM PDT

Takeaway: A project management information system (PMIS) can provide a framework to help guide the progress of IT projects. Here’s how one company decided that a PMIS was needed to help increase project success rates. Editor’s note: This article was originally published on December 4, 2002. We all know that accurate, timely, and relevant information is essential to the decision-making process of a project and that relying on an inadequate information system puts a project at risk. We all know that information is a valuable resource for project managers. Despite the fact that we all know these things, project managers often fail to deliver the types of information needed to ensure project success. Implementing a project management information system (PMIS) is one way to address critical project information needs. One of my major clients, an international engineering firm, decided to break the cycle of miscommunication and derailed projects by ordering the development and implementation of a PMIS that is able to provide upper management with adequate information about all the projects in the organization’s portfolio. Traditionally, engineers and project managers do not communicate project status adequately with upper management and functional departments; they believe that projects are their responsibility and they have the authority to deliver them. Furthermore, functional departments are often reluctant or do not have time to provide information to project engineers. These circumstances often lead to late, over budget, and low quality projects.

Symptoms of the problem
The following symptoms made us realize the necessity for implementing a PMIS:

       

There was a loss of control through the systematic analysis of the information gathered. There was no system for integrating the time, cost, scope, and quality objectives. Projects were often late, over budget, and of low quality. To overcome the shortage in information, managers created project organizations within the corporate organization that led to duplication and waste of time, money, and effort. The inability of the project manager/team to accurately report the status of the project in terms of time, cost, and work remaining. Here is the approach we decided to use for the progressive development of the PMIS: Identify what is needed. Compare the current situation with what is needed to achieve the aim of the PMIS set by upper management. Bridge the gap between what is needed and what was already in place.

Questions in search of answers
The symptoms we studied pointed to a number of questions:

        

What information do we need in order to adequately plan, organize, and control our project? What information do we need to share with other stakeholders? What information do we need about other projects in the organization that interface with our project? What information do we need in order to coordinate our project’s activities with other initiatives in the organization? What is the cost of not having accurate, timely, and relevant information about our project? What is the cost of having accurate, timely, and relevant information about our project? Is the available information suitable for decision making? Do we have too much data but not enough information? What value does the PMIS add to the project?

Improvement objectives
We agreed that the new system should meet improvement objectives for the project management process. This meant we needed to state the improvement objectives as early as possible so that we could define the requirements of the system in terms of these objectives and facilitate the system’s acquisition process. We decided the improvement objectives for the new system should:

     

Enable the project team to identify and isolate sources of significant variances and determine the reason why a project deviated from its plan. Allow the project team to track the status of the work packages in order to determine the work that is completed and the work that is still pending. Help the project team manage project schedules by providing the basis for work package resource allocation and work timing. Interface and be compatible with larger legacy information systems. Help the project team forecast the impact of certain risks on time, costs, and quality baselines. Give the project team insight into what revisions to the baselines they need to implement, when they should implement these revisions, and why they are implementing these revisions.

Integrate with the work breakdown structure (WBS), which provides the capability to report the status of the work packages throughout the project’s life cycle. These reports include identification of the work package, its associated cost code and schedule, and the individual responsible for the work.

Reengineering the project management process
We analyzed the existing management process and decided that it was inadequate for solving the business problem, or meeting the improvement objectives. Thus, significant changes were required. We had to spend a considerable amount of time developing and documenting the new process before going to the acquisition phase. There was a wide gap between the information requirements we had identified and the existing project management processes and methods. Thus, we needed to develop a considerable number of project management procedures. We settled on eight categories of procedures. The following is a partial list of the procedures and their categories: Procedures for project definition

                  

Preliminary estimate Preparation of technical specifications Startup review Procedures for estimating and cost control Bottom-up estimate preparation Cost control Cost feedback Procedures for scheduling Glossary of planning terminology Project milestones Procedures for human resource management Coding procedure Procedures for procurement management Selecting vendors Appraising vendors Procedures for materials management Expediting Inventory control Inspections for quality assurance Vendor data Procedures for documents management Numbering system Distribution profiles Filing structure Procedures for integrating the proposed PMIS with other information systems Data dictionary

Conclusion
We have identified the need for the system, the symptoms of the problem, issues to consider, improvement objectives, and the infrastructure required (in terms of manual procedures) to implement a PMIS. In the next installment in this two-part series, we will expand our definition of a PMIS, describe the information needs of stakeholders, the main components of a PMIS, and the acquisition process.

Project Management Information System (PMIS) are system tools and techniques used in project management to deliver information. Project managers use the techniques and tools to collect, combine and distribute information through electronic and manual means. Project Management Information System (PMIS) is used by upper and lower management to communicate with each other. Project Management Information System (PMIS) help plan, execute andclose project management goals. During the planning process, project managers use PMIS for budget framework such as estimating costs. The Project Management Information System is also used to create a specific schedule and define the scope baseline. At the execution of the project management goals, the project management team collects information into one database. The PMIS is used to compare the baseline with the actual accomplishment of each activity, manage materials, collect financial data, and keep a record for reporting purposes. During the close of the project, the Project Management Information System is used to review the goals to check if the tasks were accomplished. Then, it is used to create a final report of the project close. To conclude, the project management information system (PMIS) is used to plan schedules, budget and execute work to be accomplished in project management.

an information system consisting of the tools and techniques used to gather, integrate, and disseminate the outputs of project management processes. It is used to support all aspects of the project from initiating through closing, and can include both manual and automated systems.

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