One of the challenges that we face (and I am sure we are not alone) is the rapidly changing “project status” reports. For those that deal with gathering information and writing status reports for funders, you will probably shout a loud “Amen” to this challenge. The challenges often come from two sources:
- different information received from different project sources
- different information needed by various funders (i.e. individuals vs foundations vs organizations, etc)
So a couple of us started brainstorming quite a while ago about how we best manage the information that we have at our fingertips and the reports that are generated by our creative team. We started with a simple document library concept thinking that if we put our reports in folders organized by subject we would be able to cut and paste as needed. We quickly learned that this wasn’t going to work. So we continued to limp along a little while.
We began to realize that one of our biggest problems was not the accumulation of reports. That was easy. The hard part was the gathering (and dissemination) of consistent, accurate information. Often, if one staff member called their source for an update about a particular project, they received one packet. If a different staff member called a different source, they might get a different packet and not even realize that a) information was already available and b) what they were just given might be different from what the first person received. (Okay, I realize that this may point to a much large systemic issue that we will get to later. But for now stick with me.)
Then, thanks to the blogging of some of my peers such as Michele at Bamboo Project and Beth at Beth’s Blog, the light bulb came on. Why not use a wiki to manage the information? After setting some simple rules for how information is formatted when it is added to a page in the wiki, we should be off and running. The fluidity of a wiki is really perfect for keeping track of the most recent information about the various projects that we have at any given time. In addition, it allows the staff who write reports to gather the information that they need quickly and share new information with other staff just as quickly.
So then the question became – what platform? So I went to our IT team to see what help I might get for a hosted solution. Being somewhat familiar with what is available I knew we could get something that would work well for us. But I received a rather surprising response – “Why not try Microsoft’s SharePoint?” Not knowing much about it other than conceptually I agreed to at least consider it. After spending some time in quick review, I realized that we may have stumbled on a great solution! (Notice I didn’t go so far as to say the “p” word . . . perfect.)
And so, Project SharePoint is born. I’ll try to post more details as we complete the setup but for now, here is a brief synopsis:
- SharePoint has built in shared document functionality
- SharePoint has a built in wiki which (so far) seems to be very easy to set up
- SharePoint runs on the corporate intranet and can also be configured for remote access
- Calendar, task, and communication duties in SharePoint can be integrated with a user’s Outlook
Much of this we are still working on so I’ll keep posting as we go.