I’ve noticed a trend that never ceases to amaze me regarding the management of M365 | SharePoint | Teams consulting projects.

I’ve seen this again and again as I have worked on many projects- large and small over the past 20 years. Companies are spending millions. But project teams never commit!

I tend to exaggerate, (just ask my wife), but in this case I’m serious. It is next to impossible to get commitment even though these are the very tools they are asking their company to adopt. Oh, they’ll always set up a Microsoft Team and agree to use it. But that commitment fades away and *without exception* everyone reverts back to email. They forget the true principals of project management success.

Project Management Success with the Top 7 Best Practices

(Courtesy of Simon Buehring)

Managing a project can be daunting. Whether planning your wedding, developing a new website or building your dream house by the sea, you need to employ project management techniques to help you succeed. I’ll summarize the top seven best practices at the heart of good project management which can help you to achieve project success.

1. Define the Scope and Objectives

Firstly, understand the project objectives. Suppose your boss asks you to organize a blood donor campaign, is the objective to get as much blood donated as possible? Or, is it to raise the local company profile? Deciding the real objectives will help you plan the project.

Scope defines the boundary of the project. Is the organization of transport to take staff to the blood bank within scope? Or, should staff make their own way there? Deciding what’s in or out of scope will determine the amount of work which needs performing.

Understand who the stakeholders are, what they expect to be delivered and enlist their support. Once you’ve defined the scope and objectives, get the stakeholders to review and agree to them.

2. Define the Deliverables

You must define what will be delivered by the project. If your project is an advertising campaign for a new chocolate bar, then one deliverable might be the artwork for an advertisement. So, decide what tangible things will be delivered and document them in enough detail to enable someone else to produce them correctly and effectively.

Key stakeholders must review the definition of deliverables and must agree they accurately reflect what must be delivered.

3. Project Planning

Planning requires that the project manager decides which people, resources and budget are required to complete the project.

You must define what activities are required to produce the deliverables using techniques such as Work Breakdown Structures. You must estimate the time and effort required for each activity, dependencies between activities and decide a realistic schedule to complete them. Involve the project team in estimating how long activities will take. Set milestones which indicate critical dates during the project. Write this into the project plan. Get the key stakeholders to review and agree to the plan.

4. Communication

Project plans are useless unless they’ve been communicated effectively to the project team. Every team member needs to know their responsibilities. I once worked on a project where the project manager sat in his office surrounded by huge paper schedules. The problem was, nobody on his team knew what the tasks and milestones were because he hadn’t shared the plan with them. The project hit all kinds of problems with people doing activities which they deemed important rather than doing the activities assigned by the project manager.

5. Tracking and Reporting Project Progress

Once your project is underway you must monitor and compare the actual progress with the planned progress. You will need progress reports from project team members. You should record variations between the actual and planned cost, schedule and scope. You should report variations to your manager and key stakeholders and take corrective actions if variations get too large.

You can adjust the plan in many ways to get the project back on track but you will always end up juggling cost, scope and schedule. If the project manager changes one of these, then one or both of the other elements will inevitably need changing. It is juggling these three elements – known as the project triangle – that typically causes a project manager the most headaches!

6. Change Management

Stakeholders often change their mind about what must be delivered. Sometimes the business environment changes after the project starts, so assumptions made at the beginning of the project may no longer be valid. This often means the scope or deliverables of the project need changing. If a project manager accepted all changes into the project, the project would inevitably go over budget, be late and might never be completed.

By managing changes, the project manager can make decisions about whether or not to incorporate the changes immediately or in the future, or to reject them. This increases the chances of project success because the project manager controls how the changes are incorporated, can allocate resources accordingly and can plan when and how the changes are made. Not managing changes effectively is often a reason why projects fail.

7. Risk Management

Risks are events which can adversely affect the successful outcome of the project. I’ve worked on projects where risks have included: staff lacking the technical skills to perform the work, hardware not being delivered on time, the control room at risk of flooding and many others. Risks will vary for each project but the main risks to a project must be identified as soon as possible. Plans must be made to avoid the risk, or, if the risk cannot be avoided, to mitigate the risk to lessen its impact if it occurs. This is known as risk management.

You don’t manage all risks because there could be too many and not all risks have the same impact. So, identify all risks, estimate the likelihood of each risk occurring (1 = not likely, 2 = maybe likely, 3 = very likely). Estimate its impact on the project (1 – low, 2 – medium, 3 – high), then multiply the two numbers together to give the risk factor. High risk factors indicate the severest risks. Manage the ten with the highest risk factors. Constantly review risks and lookout for new ones since they have a habit of occurring at any moment. Not managing risks effectively is a common reason why projects fail.

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✅ Could I simply not be doing a good enough job explaining why they should eat their own dog food? Maybe.

✅ Could it be they simply don’t get it? These tools require time for the lightbulb to come on and for the true benefits to become clear.

✅ Could the products just not be good enough? I mean that is a possibility, isn’t it? I don’t think so. It is all there and its pretty powerful stuff. IT can figure it out.

✅ Could it be that they “DO” get it but it’s just easier to use email among team members during the implementation? “Let the end-users figure out how to take advantage of the features on their own projects”. Not our problem.

✅ Could it be the time issue? “We are in a hurry and under strict deadlines. We do not have the time to learn something new while also implementing it and dealing with the day-to-day headaches of running a project.”

𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻, 𝗜 𝗯𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗲𝘃𝗲 𝗶𝘁’𝘀 𝗮 𝗯𝗶𝗴 𝗺𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗸𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝘀𝗲𝗻𝗱𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘄𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗴 𝗺𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗮𝗴𝗲. 𝗜 𝗮𝗹𝘀𝗼 𝗯𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗲𝘃𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗼𝗹𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗶𝘀 𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝘀𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲: 

✅Take the time UPFRONT to make sure that everyone involved fully understands how M365 will be used to manage the project and everyone’s roles.

✅From day one ensure a crystal-clear understanding of:

Where do notes go and how will they be structured?

Where to tasks go and how will they be tracked and managed?

How will documents be classified, filed and managed?

How will project timelines be tracked and managed

How will meetings be recorded and stored.

How will risks, issues, and action items be monitored.

If you as the M365 implementers are not willing to make the commitment to use it, how can you possibly expect all of your users to use it? That’s unreasonable.

Get consensus. It is as important to your success as a work breakdown structure, a project charter, or a project plan.

Thoughts? Leave them in the comment section below. 

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