Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Implement your corporate Risk and Issue Management methodology in Project Online

Project Online (or Project Server) should be configured, not to say customized, in a way that it supports your business principles and procedures around Project Management. It should reflect your (probably tailor made) Project Management methodology. The first thing you generally do is to configure your way of doing project plans, by creating your own Enterprise Custom Fields and Lookup Tables that would be used together with your custom views.
Moving forward, your Project Management methodology might contain a method to manage risks and issues. This post is about configuring your own Project Online instance to match your Risk and Issue Management methodology. I choose the Issue list as an example but the same applies to Risks or Documents. Note that identical approach can be used for any custom features such as change requests, decisions log, assumptions and constraints…

Approach
The implementation relies on the usage of SharePoint Content Types. You can find more information on this topic reading: Introduction to Content Types on MSDN. Content Types, being centrally managed, can be easily updated to reflect your methodology changes, and those changes can be applied to any existing Project Site (avoiding to ask you poor dev team to manually update all project site lists after any changes).
The trick is to update the existing Risk or Issue Content Types (or create your own), understanding that Project Online relies on some fields of those content types. It means that you should never delete any of the existing fields. If you remove some fields (aka the trap of the beginner), the publish process may throw an error. Even for SharePoint dev superheroes, it’s very complex to recreate those fields (it’s not just a story of recreating the fields with the same names). You cannot delete fields, but you can create new ones or hide some of the existing.
If you are not familiar with this, here is a step by step procedure to create your own Issue Content Type and use it in Project Online.

Implementation
As we said, we need to keep existing fields. The easiest way to do it is to start from an existing Project Site.
Create a new Project that provision a Project Site (using one of your EPT). Once the site is provisioned, you can delete the project (not the site of course) to keep your projects database clean.

The first step is to activate management of Content Types (on the Issue list). Go on the List Settings and click on Advanced Settings.


Note that other options can also be tweaked as you want (example below for the item versioning, which can be activated or not). You may also consider using approval workflow to manage your items.


Back to the list settings, you will see the Content Types section displayed.


 At this stage you have 2 options to proceed, update the existing content type (the option described below) or create your own content type, and hide the usage of the default one.
Before being able to add a new metadata (column) to your Content Type, you need to create them as Site Columns. Go to Site Settings page, under Web Designer Galleries click on Site columns.


Then click on Create, set the name and properties of this columns, add it to a custom group you have created (easier to find custom columns later) and click OK.
Back to the Content Type information page, click on Add from existing site or list columns.


Select the column(s) you want to add (good to have them grouped) and click OK.


As explained in the approach section, you should never remove “unnecessary” column. However, you can hide them.
Click on the column you want to hide, on the Change Content Type Column page, click on Hidden (Will not appear in forms).


On the end user side, it’s like the column does not exist, but for Project Online it does and it can be used normally during the Publish event.
Other tweaks you can do, update an existing column; that’s often the case with Category. Click on Edit column:


Add your own categories, update the description to stick to your corporate methodology.


You can set the column order to define how they will be displayed in the forms (Create/update):



Finally, create or update your views to display needed custom fields.


And, if you have created a new Content Type, you might want to hide the default one, click on Change new button order and default content type, and make the default content type not visible.


Additional note
I am working in the sport industry and we deliver similar events each season. I admit that from a pure project management perspective, this should not be considered as projects. Anyway, we have investigating the opportunity to use a central list of risks (or issues) that could reside at the root of the Project Web App, which will contain all risks (or issues) from all events instead of being located at event level (i.e. Project Site). We foresee some benefits like cross event (project) risks, or risks that could last longer than the event itself (e.g. corporate consequences derived from an event cause). Reporting will also be easier and most probably queries more performant. In such case, the page “Issues and Risks” should be recreated.

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