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admin | Office Exercises | 06.01.2014
As a Project Manager, I am always looking for ways to better organize my project documents in SharePoint. In this blog post I will demonstrate how you can get from site above to site below, using out of the box SharePoint functionality, without a single line of code. As with the rest of instructional posts and presentations on my site and my SlideShare account, all configuration documented below is utilizing out of the box SharePoint functionality – no coding or additional add-ons required! It will really be great if you first familiarize yourself with another blog post I published on SharePoint Information Architecture. There are a total of 10 steps involved in creating a fully functional, practical and intuitive SharePoint Team Site. Before we create our site, let’s first figure out where the site will fit in the overall SharePoint environment that we have. If you are a small organization you can typically get away with just 1 site collection and host all your project sites and content on just 1 site collection. Now, and this is very important, as you see in screenshot – our structure is almost flat (1 Top-Level site + 1 level down – multiple project sub-sites.
This will significantly simply sites’ administration, security model and navigation for your users.
Now that we put the “technical” stuff behind us, it is time to work on something more exciting.
The list below shows a list of modules (SharePoint Web Parts) that I have chosen, as well as their purpose on our future project or team site. Issues Log – to store a log of ongoing project issues, that are not necessarily tasks (i.e.
So while everything we covered up until this point were more of “best practices”, we are now getting into an area where it is more of a personal preference, taste or choice.
On the screen that pops-up, fill out the site title, web address and also answer questions about navigation. OK, now that we prepared the site and a page, we can add each module we have chosen and customize to our requirements. Below are some basic instructions on how to configure each of the modules (SharePoint web parts) we have chosen. There are lots of ways to configure SharePoint Document Library to store project documentation. Assuming you are following my advice and using metadata instead of folders, I usually create a custom column called Document Type, make it a drop-down, and have user tag the document to appropriate document type when he or she uploads a file.
Here are step by step instructions on how to create a document library and add metadata property called “Document Type” to it. However, it is best practice to define all custom columns (metadata properties) at the very top site (site collection).
Towards the bottom of the screen, we have to specify a list of drop-down choices for our Document Type Column. Now that we created our Custom Column, we need to add it to our document library that we create in step above. Now that the column is added, let’s create a special view to group our documents by Document Type. Go all the way to the Group by Section and choose Document Type from the list of drop-down choices. Once again, we will add the calendar to our site later on – let’s keep moving and create the other web parts first. The SharePoint Task Module contains columns such as Priority (to specify urgency of a task) and Status (to specify status of a task). OK, now that we created all the web parts, it is time to do the exciting part – add them to our page.
What I usually do is create a “quick view” for each web part, limiting it to 2-3 columns of information. Document Library – The view created all the way at the beginning of a blog post (View by Document Type) should be sufficient (only 4 columns). Calendar – Month view is usually the default, but Calendar already has a nice “list view” called “Current Events” whereby it displays only future events (it essentially filters out past events). On the screen that appears, from the Selected View drop down, choose the View that you created previously. Repeat above steps for all the web parts that you wish to have on your project or team site.

The only remaining component is Project header (that long horizontal space above the web parts. Likewise, the security of each of the web parts we added, automatically inheritance security from the project site.
The best practice is to never break the inheritance of security from the site the web parts sit on.
Now that we placed all of the modules on the whole page, we have to cleanup our navigation menu on the left hand-side. Now that we create a project site – we need to be able to replicate it for all of future project sites. You will be prompted to enter details which you did before when we created this project site. One of the most frequent requests that I get is an ability to create some sort of dashboard by pulling certain content from an existing project or team site. You can also combine the power of metadata (SharePoint columns) and Calculated column functionality in SharePoint and have a column value be based on some mathematical formula involving other columns. With the transition of SharePoint to the “cloud”, Microsoft has made external sharing of content in SharePoint available to the masses. Very similar to Risk Register List above, you can create Custom List in SharePoint and convert those Excel logs that you have and surface up on SharePoint. If need be, Calendar information can be synchronized with user’s Microsoft Outlook calendar.
As an independent SharePoint & Office 365 Consultant and certified Project Management Professional (PMP), I help small businesses and non-profits unlock the power of SharePoint so they can improve the bottom-line business results.
Following my very popular slide deck from 2013 on SharePoint Project Management (35,000+ views!), I have been getting lots of questions on how to actually go about creating a functional project site or team site in SharePoint. As stated above, I published a whole post on this, that will give you an overall idea of SharePoint site collections, site structure, etc.
All the sites you create in addition to this Top-Level Site will sit underneath the Top-Level Site.
Though there is an immediate need to create a decent project or team site template, in the long term, you might want to store additional project information that is common to all project teams you have (i.e.
Like stated above, you could use Top Level site as an entry point for your project team with some sort of dashboard, common content and links to all project sites (PMO Homepage).
Another reason for such “flat” setup is this would allow us to easily roll up specific content (i.e.
As you probably sensed from my previous blog posts, I am all about simplicity and intuitive designs for the end user. Because we have chosen Team Site Template, SharePoint threw in few default modules and web parts for us to start with. True, you could use all web parts AS-IS, straight out of the box, but to make the SharePoint site user-friendly and improve SharePoint User Adoption (link), you need to do some significant configuration. If you have been following my blog posts, you know that I am a big advocate of using metadata in place of folders. And in our case, Project Site Document Library is a great candidate for metadata. The cool thing about this approach is that you can then create a view where you group the documents by Document Type and you get a nice and clean document library all organized and easy to follow.
I strongly suggest you also check out my blog post and slide deck on metadata as it provides STEP-BY-STEP instructions on how to setup Metadata as well. Calendar is meant for tracking key project dates, team meetings dates and staff time off (vacations). In addition to just creating list of tasks, users can also add them to a timeline, which can be displayed along the SharePoint Task List. One important technique I did not mention previously is to first create an additional “compressed view” for each web part. The team or department site homepage is meant as an entry point for a user and as an access to all available functionality. Multiple the # of modules we have on our site times # of project sites you plan to have and you get the idea. If you notice, SharePoint has been putting all the links to the modules on the left hand-side. There is lot of additional customization you can do to take your SharePoint Project or SharePoint Team Sites to the next level. For example, in some cases you might want a snapshot from all the project sites of all the project tasks that are still outstanding.

MS Project is a really powerful tool – but let’s be honest, it is complicated to use and has a long learning curve.
Project Risk Register is a great example of a log that you can move from Excel to SharePoint.
Unfortunately, external sharing in SharePoint is very confusing, cumbersome to setup and maintain. As an independent consultant who works virtually and remotely, my services cost a fraction of what you typically would pay SharePoint consulting firms.
Some might call it a “team site” and use it for any sort of team collaboration (not necessary a project per se).
All the project sites would then sit directly underneath the Top-Level site (in other word, they will be sub-sites directly underneath the Homepage. There is no “one-size-fits-all template”, every organization is different and has different requirements and needs.
The instructions and screenshots you will see below is what I typically configure for my clients, but once again, feel free to adjust according to your organization’s needs and requirements.
I typically choose Team Site Template, as it automatically gives you the layout I described above + ability to easily change it as required. Since we have our own list of web parts, let’s clear the page first so we can start with blank sheet of paper.
And because it is all metadata, you can easily filter your document library for any type of document, say “Budget” files. If you need to track and tag specific information, you can add additional columns using method we used for Document Library. Depending on your business scenario and how you want to set things up – you might want to leave it as-is or break the inheritance and assign unique security to each site. Unless you want to manage security and site administration on a full-time basis, don’t do that! Or you want to quickly access all the budget documents or project charters of all your projects.
I spent 15 years in Project Management and I never burdened my team with using this not so friendly tool. You can set it up such that you can calculate let’s say your Risk Rating based on weight and risk score. Department site terminology is also often used to store and collaborate on documents among employees of a given department. You upload “typical” project documentation like agenda’s, budgets, meeting minutes, project charter, test documentation, etc. The Choice type allows you to specify a list of drop-down choices that will appear as a menu to the end user to choose 1 choice from.
Well, by default, you have all the columns associated with the web part added to your standard view. The SharePoint Task web Part we have setup above empowers your team members and allows them to use a “lighter” version of Project Scheduling Software by filling out drop-down choices online and not worrying about “fancy stuff” like task dependencies, resources allocations, etc. Another reason for using separate Site Collection is if you intent to share content with external users.
But if you just implement this basic step (Document Type) – you will be well ahead of the curve!
Project or Department Name, project manager name or names of key project leads, some basic project characteristics like start and end dates, budget, etc.
I also recommend that you remove the columns you are never going to need or have users fill out.
Not to mention that when you have new members joining or leaving teams – all you have to do is just add or remove them from security groups.
As such, I will interchangeably use all these names throughout the post, as in reality (and design and architecture-wise) – they mean same thing.
If you are to put this web part on your home page, it won’t fit in the designated area and the whole thing will look ugly.

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