These tools are worth the effort to set them up!
Of course some investment is required. Successful technology solutions need to be evaluated, acquired, socialized, taught, supported, and governed. The good news is that these steps are now much easier to do. There are many SaaS-based solutions that are easy to try, easy to use, and with the popularity of tools like Dropbox and Google Docs, most people already understand the core concepts and see the value.
The benefits of having a well-implemented project site are significant:
- Team members quickly find key documents
- The risk of using the wrong project artifact is minimized
- It’s a great place to store large files (such as recorded web meetings)
- Earlier document versions are archived (but retrievable)
- Project managers, sponsors, and even customers see progress
- New team members and stakeholders onboard quickly
- Project wrap-up files are easily completed
- Prior assets are available for reuse
For example, HRchitect has great success using project sites on Box.com to manage complex HR Technology Evaluation projects. If you’ve been involved in a project like this, you know that these projects rapidly generate a multitude of documents that need to be collected, reviewed and (carefully) shared among an evolving list of stakeholders. Not only is it important to publish key project management documents such as goals, schedules, meeting notes, and contact information, but it’s also necessary to collect source materials, requirements, RFP responses and all of the attachments that go with them.
The benefit of a cloud-based solution is that both consultants and clients can readily access the site as an organizationally neutral place. It offers a way to transfer sensitive documents that we don’t want to send over unsecured email. We have also found that Box.com has good access control features that allows the project manager to control who sees which folders and how they can use the information.
However, there are a few critical things that need to be done to make this successful. These include:
- Keep it simple – Don’t make the folder structure more complicated than necessary and use well-understood terminology. For example, a typical structure for an evaluation project would have folders labeled: Project Management, Discovery, Requirements, Proposals, Demos, Evaluation, and Contracting.
- Be descriptive – Make sure that files are named in a way that describes their purpose such as “Sample Employee Headcount Report – Latin America.” Some tools even allow you to create both structured and unstructured “metadata” (notes) about these documents.
- Plan for versions – Have a strategy for whether or not you will keep old versions of documents and if so, how will this be done. Either create separate folders for evolving documents or move files to an “archive” sub-folder. Another tip is to use version numbers in document names that you know will be constantly changing.
- Gain commitment – Have an explicit conversation with the team about the benefit, purpose and scope of the project site. For instance, be clear about whether you will still use email to deliver documents, and that the document management site is strictly for storing
- Set an example – Before introducing your site to a team, load several documents and build out the core folder structure. Make sure that you consistently post your own materials as you gently remind others to do the same. Also be prepared to move things around a bit to keep the structure intact.
- Try the features – Many of these tools have useful advanced features. For instance, you can tag either folders or documents to notify you when they change. Another example is that Box.com has a nice iOS app that allows you to easily access documents on a tablet or phone and it lets you download documents for off-line viewing. (Great for airplanes!) You can even try out real-time group document editing.
Hopefully these tips have helped motivate and orient you to set up your own solution. Make your project a success!