Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Project Server 2010: Timesheet Functionality Simplified

Written by Brian Wiedower. Published in SPTechWeb on March 23, 2011.

In many organizations, SharePoint is used with Project Server 2010, as managers try to get a handle of how projects are running and whether more resources are required.

The use of Timesheets in Project Server 2007 provides the necessary level of resource-assignment progress reporting that project managers and resource managers require to more accurately stay on top of resource utilization and project status. The Timesheet feature introduced in Project Server 2007 enables resources to report on their progress against project tasks, and also report non-project work to give a complete view of a resource’s work week. However, there are several challenges that exist for those using Timesheets that are addressed in Project Server 2010.

One challenge that organizations encounter is that the submission process requires a resource to complete multiple steps to submit his or her task updates. No matter the level of training that’s provided to resources, inevitably a resource will fail to complete all the necessary steps. Timesheet submission reports will show that the resource has submitted his or her timesheet, and a project manager may have updates from many resources, but they may not realize that they are missing updates from that one resource. The omission may not be discovered until after maintenance has been completed on project schedules, if it is discovered at all.

A resolution utilized by many is the CodePlex AutoStatus service. The service detects the submission of a timesheet and performs the import step and remaining steps for the resource, thus removing the requirement for a resource to remember to perform those steps. This solution does require the service to be configured and installed, and it has proven to hit performance issues for organizations with thousands of resources all submitting timesheets on Friday afternoons and Monday mornings.

While the AutoStatus service has been the answer for many to ensure resource progress reporting is completed successfully each week, a scenario that can occur still must be addressed by those using the service. A resource reports progress against a task, and the update is accepted by the Project Manager, but then it is discovered that the update was made to the wrong task. The resource makes the update to his or her Timesheet by removing his or her updates from the originally submitted task and applies them to the correct task. When the timesheet is submitted, the AutoStatus service detects the submission and will complete the submission process as before.

However, the service is typically customized to filter out task updates that have nor progressed for some time to help with the number of approval updates Project Managers receive and have to review, so the hours from the original task are not sent to be processed and will remain in the project schedule. The resource must go to his or her My Tasks page, select the original task from his or her task list, and submit it for processing.

If you are still with me, you can see where the use of Timesheets in Project Server 2007 for progress reporting can be a challenge. Thankfully, in Project Server 2010, this is all simplified and addressed by one configuration option: Single Entry Mode.

For those needing the Timesheet functionality in their progress reporting process, the Single Entry Mode feature invokes the system to perform all the necessary submission steps after a timesheet is submitted by a resource. Additionally, the scenario of zeroing out progress reported to a task incorrectly is handled with no additional work from the resource other than correcting the hours in their timesheet and resubmitting it.

So, this is great news for those organizations moving to or starting up with Project Server 2010 and planning on utilizing the many benefits Timesheet functionality provides.

Brian Wiedower is a consultant with Houston, Texas-based EPC Group.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Governance Plan: The Key to a Successful SharePoint Platform

Written by Anthony Guevara. Published on SPTechWeb.com.

March 2, 2011 — IT alignment is at or near the top of every corporation’s list of goals, but successfully realizing appropriate alignment requires a structured, proven framework. Building a comprehensive strategic Governance Plan that is aligned with the organization’s business strategy is essential to ensuring the success of your SharePoint deployment. For any organization seeking to achieve maximum performance, the role of IT has never been more vital.

A Governance Plan is an oft-overlooked process when implementing a SharePoint environment. Without appropriate governance, it is easy to deploy a solution that will become unstable, unsupportable and non-scaleable. It is also an easy way to ensure poor performance and a poor user experience, which results in a low adoption rate.

The Governance Plan is a guidebook that outlines the administration, maintenance and support of the SharePoint environment. It describes how SharePoint will be managed, defines roles and responsibilities, and helps establish rules for appropriate usage.

An item that should top any list to define in the Governance Plan is the roles and responsibilities of the Governance team. This will ensure that you get a holistic view of all of the individual components that must be governed, but also how the system itself will be utilized. This is important in order to define a Governance Plan that has the appropriate balance of policies and rules, but is flexible enough to provide a platform that users will actually use.

The most important role to define is the executive sponsorship. Being able to create a robust governance plan is not good enough. Being able to implement the plan with the appropriate executive support is vital. This will ensure that policies defined will be followed, users will be given appropriate time to learn, and the communication strategy will be endorsed by key executives. With user adoption in mind, this is important so that the users do not feel that it is IT against the user community, but a change in business processes that will make it easier to get to business-critical information and help make day-to-day work easier to accomplish.

To round out the rest of the roles, it is important to select individuals who are familiar with day-to-day operations in their particular groups and have the ability to help make decisions as it pertains to features, functionality and changes required to implement the new technology. These roles will represent the user community and help define the overall plan.

Anthony Guevara is senior solution architect and CIO at SharePoint consulting company EPC Group.