Use EPM Live Wikis for Team Communication

Many of you will work in distributed teams where you have project team members located in a number of offices. This can be a real challenge for communication. Even a large team based in one city may not all share the same office space. How do you share knowledge with people who are not based locally, without expensive travel or taking time away from the day job to host knowledge sharing sessions? A wiki is one way to help tackle the communication challenge for distributed teams.  Read on to see how project management software can leverage wikis to improve project collaboration. 

‘Wiki’ comes from the Hawaiian word meaning ‘quick’. It also stands for ‘What I Know Is’. Essentially, it is a collection of linked web pages about a topic or series of topics. In project terms, you could have a wiki for a project, or your Project Management Office could set up an enterprise wiki at the portfolio level. Project team members can access the wiki, create new pages for new information or update existing pages with new information.

If that sounds complicated, it’s really not at all. If you can type a document in a word processing package, you can use a wiki. There is no complicated coding required and you can create, update and search pages straight from your web browser.

Wikis in practice

Let me give you an example of how this works. One project manager we know has created a project wiki. Her project is to implement a new IT system for around 2,000 staff, and the wiki is kind of like a Frequently Asked Questions database. Each time someone asks a question, a wiki entry is created, so that in the future other people with the same question can search the wiki and find the answer themselves – the idea is to take the burden off the project team and share information.

This project manager has also created a number of sections for the project team – technical information, data about server models and IP address ranges and so on. This is updated when the project team has new data, or when things change. As a result, they aren’t looking back through emails to find the latest situation, which is risky as they could pull up something that is out of date. The wiki gives everyone the same version of the project status.

Through their wiki, they have also created a great knowledge repository to hand over the operational team once the new IT system is live. Keywords on the wiki pages link to other pages, so the wiki has become like a little website in its own right. People can navigate around the wiki, clicking on topics to get more information, and this will be a great benefit to the IT help desk team when they have to take customer queries when the project goes live.

Working around the world

Wikis have another advantage for distributed teams. They are not synchronous communication. By that we mean that you don’t have to have people there at the same time, like you would on a conference call. Someone in the Sydney office can update the wiki and when the London team come into work later that day they have instant access to the latest changes.

Your project wiki becomes the first place to look for all the relevant project data, wherever you are in the world. Users can upload images, documents, other project artifacts or even videos so that their colleagues always have the latest information to hand.

Wikis allow you to search knowledge

Wikis typically have great search functionality, so you don’t have to worry too much about setting up a good information architecture to begin with. Pretty much the only rule is not to duplicate pages, so if you are going to give multiple people in the project team access to create new pages, ask them to check to see if something on the topic exists already before setting up a new page.

Of course, if you can add a bit of structure to your wiki, your project team will thank you for it later. Try to group relevant topics together, such as status updates and meeting minutes, and use hyperlinks on the pages to ensure it is easy for people to navigate between wiki entries.

A good way to do this is to add simple links to each relevant entry saying something like ‘back to all videos’, ‘go to main meetings page’ or similar.

Some wikis, like the functionality that comes with EPM Live Project Wiki’s, allow you to subscribe to updates through an RSS feed so that you can keep up with all the new entries, and click through to topics that interest you.







You’ll never miss any project updates again!

Initiating a Project – 3 Common Mistakes that PMs Make Before a Project Even Gets Started – EPM Live Can Help!

Skipping important steps during the initiation phase can cause detrimental problems during the intermediate and final phases of a project. EPM Live provides true end-to-end solutions and tools for managing the project from the initial idea to the approval and final delivery. For example, the planning tools, project discussions, collaboration features, and document management capabilities in EPM Live provide the perfect platform for the initiation activities essential to project success.

Following are three common mistakes made by project managers during initiation.

  1. Neglecting to share the Project Charter Document with the entire project team.Giving all resources insight into the purpose and goals of the project gets everyone on the same page and improves the project’s likelihood to stay within scope and on budget. 

    A Project Charter Document outlines the project goals and objectives, sets the stage for what the project is intended to accomplish, and identifies what success will look like at the end. Keeping this document close at hand, posting it in a central location, and referring to it frequently during meetings will keep the project on track and remind the team about the priorities and the ultimate end goal. 

    How EPM Live helps with the Project Charter?

    I post the Project Charter in EPM Live and refer to it on the Project Home Page and in Discussions to ensure it is always available and visible to everyone involved.  EPM Live offers version control and check in and check out features to ensure continuity.

  2. Ignoring the need for a well-documented Communication Management Plan. You can never assume that everyone knows their role or how to best communicate with stakeholders. To avoid duplication of work, frustrated team members, stepping on toes, or poor communication due to misunderstandings about who’s doing what, it’s important to document, share, and perform communications planning up front before the project kicks off.

    A Communication Management Plan outlines information about meeting cadence, communication channels, contact information for all internal and external stakeholders and resources, and an escalation plan when issues arise. It’s important to make sure that the team reviews it and all stakeholders have signed off on it.

    How EPM Live helps with my Communications Planning?

    I also post the Communication Management Plan in EPM Live so it is stored in a central location and easily accessible to everyone.  I use the Project Home Page to post information about upcoming meetings, roles, and contact information. Finally, I love how easy it is to set up meetings and create contacts with details about their contact information and role right from within EPM Live!

  3. Skipping the formal Kick-Off Meeting. When rushing to begin a new project especially when timelines are tight, it can be tempting to save precious time and skip the kick-off meeting. Kick-off meetings set expectations, ensure everyone involved is on the same page from the get go, and lays the foundation for a well-executed project.  Some PMs may mistakenly opt to send a simple kick-off email instead, or worse swiftly dive into tasks and deliverables. You can never assume that everyone reads their email or knows where to go to get the latest information.

    How EPM Live helps with my Kick-off Meetings?

    In my kick-off meetings, I refer to the Project Charter and Communication Management Plan which I have posted in Documents on my EPM Live site. I also post the Kick-off Document so the team can review it before the meeting and refer to it throughout the project. I can set up the meeting directly from the Project Home Page, and make an announcement about it as well. I also explain during the meeting how the EPM Live project site works.

Ultimately, communicating with key resources early on ensures that the project plan will be something that everyone can stick to and that ongoing communication will be appropriate and effective throughout the project lifecycle. EPM Live is a powerful tool that helps PMs be effective and communicate during the ever-so-important initiation phase.

A perfect balance of scheduling options, project management best practices, collaboration tools and reporting provides a simple, yet powerful solution. EPM Live is available online and on-premise, and seamlessly integrates with other business productivity tools such as Microsoft Project, Outlook, and Excel.


No Excuses. Use Proper Project Management for Marketing Campaigns Too! EPM Live Makes It Easy.

At EPM Live we like to think outside of the box when it comes to the ability Enterprise Project Management. Who needs multiple systems when you can configure the right software to be an all in one work management solution for your entire organization. Project Management solutions are not only for large-scale technical, construction, and manufacturing projects, they’re also a necessity for marketing campaigns, big and small.  Essentially all projects have the same basic management needs; optimization of time, cost and resource alignment. You may have heard the excuse with regards to the management of a marketing campaign; “It’s only a small project, it’s not worth the time and effort of putting together a project plan. We can just use a spreadsheet”. However, this approach carries great risks.  The ability to complete a marketing campaign on schedule, within budget, and with fair resource allocation, necessitates careful project planning.

Successful marketing campaign execution requires:

  • Estimating team work efforts accurately and recognizing dependencies
  • Managing scope change through analysis, options, opportunity costs/trade-offs, and formal communications with the stakeholders
  • Anticipating risks and devising contingency plans to manage them
  • Meeting project financial targets
  • Reporting project status accurately, transparently, and in a timely manner
  • Creating open channels of communication and ongoing collaboration
  • Administering basic project tasks such as project setup and status reports

EPM Live Enterprise Project Management solutions ensure that work is delivered within the established timeframe and to a high standard. EPM Live Project Software makes it easy to setup and execute effective project management for any project- yes, even the small marketing campaigns. EPM Live provides easy-to-use planning tools, document management, collaboration tools, reporting, and other PPM essentials that are created in minutes and immediately available for sharing amongst team members and stakeholders.

It’s actually pretty simple to get started.  We set up all of our marketing projects including events, campaigns, email and internet marketing, etc. within EPM Live and modified the data points (on our own without the need for a technical guru) to reflect the data we needed to see. 












After they were all entered, we created our cost categories and began to enter estimated cost for all projects.  We were able to establish resource plans as well as cost plans for the various costs associated to each campaign.  Although I’ve whited out our cost values, you can get an idea of the various cost categories you can create by looking at the graphic below.  On top of that, we were able to create our own cost types (budget, forecast and actuals) to be able to track against moving forward. 













Next step, detailed project schedules!  We created our schedules in Microsoft Project and published them to EPM Live using the EPM Live Project Publisher.  What a cinch!  Now we have our projects, cost plans and schedules on in one centralized location!  For our less complex schedules we used EPM Live’s online planner.  Once we had all of our project data entered we then leveraged EPM Live’s Outlook Publisher to publish our EPM Live tasks to Outlook so that we could work directly from there.  Now we have the choice to go to the “my work” view within EPM Live as seen below…… 











or simply navigate to our Outlook task list and access and status our tasks directly from there. 














So as you can see, managing marketing campaigns in a Project Management Tool has never been easier! 

EPM Live offers three editions of our Project Management solution to meet the needs of every organization. Easily deployed online or on-premise, EPM Live will give your team the tools they need to create efficiencies and empower resources to work smart and get more work done.

With EPM Live there are no more excuses to not use proper project management techniques for your organization’s marketing campaign. Get started today with a Free Trial!

Use SharePoint to Build Your Next Project Schedule

As many of you know, SharePoint 2010 allows you to build project task lists within your SharePoint sites.  That being said, the functionality can be somewhat limited if you are needing a more comprehensive tool to schedule your tasks.  If you are looking to manage a project in SharePoint and you need the flexibility of a scheduling tool but you also need it to be user friendly and easy to use, take a look at EPM Live’s schedule management capabilities.  EPM Live’s project planner has all the typical features of a scheduling tool including:

  • Summary tasks (indent and outdent)
  • Predecessors/Successors
  • Milestones
  • Gantt chart
  • Critical path
  • Baseline
  • Resource assignments

Notice I say “typical”.  There are also many features you simply won’t find anywhere else in regards to other SharePoint Project Management solutions.  These include:

  • A SharePoint-based resource pool that can be easily customized with critical resource data important to your organization
  • A “my work” rollup that users can access and view all of their work across all projects regardless of what site it resides in
  • Out of the box schedule, resource and cost reports stemming from your project schedule
  • Out of the box schedule dashboards and views

In addition to the above, there are many other advantages to building your schedules in SharePoint using EPM Live.  Take a look at the video below to take a quick tour!



EPM Live, Agile and Team Foundation Server

Many organizations are looking for a way to bridge the gap between Agile project & work management needs and application lifecycle development using Team Foundation Server 2010 (TFS).  Team Foundation Server 2010 automates the software delivery process providing powerful tools to deliver quality software while building and sharing institutional knowledge.   An organization that is looking to have portfolio visibility across all types of projects, manage ALL work, and utilize a more robust agile/iterative planning tool then Excel, can leverage the power of EPM Live with TFS integration.

EPM Live’s partner OAG International, a Gold Certified Microsoft partner, has built an out of the box integration with Team Foundation Server to strengthen your application lifecycle management solution by bridging the gap between Agile project management using EPM Live’s SharePoint based project and work management, and application development using TFS 2010. . We’ve brought together the best of both worlds to create a win-win situation that enables project management/Scrum master and development teams to collaborate and communicate a project timeline and progress using familiar tools such as Visual Studio and EPM Live WorkEngine, or PortfolioEngine on Microsoft SharePoint 2010.  Key highlights include:

  • Robust Agile Planning:  Tightly integrate TFS tasks, resources and activities with EPM Live to get the right information to the stakeholders for planning and collaboration.  Synchronize backlog items with TFS, and use the Agile Planner to iteratively plan and track tasks, defects, etc.
  • Jump-start Adoption:  Your development and project management teams can stay in their comfort zones and easily collaborate and communicate a project timeline and progress using familiar tools.
  • Focus on Productivity: Your employees can utilize the “My Work” module of EPM Live to view all the tasks assigned to them. They can also use the Timesheet module to report time against all their assigned tasks. Managers can perform what-if analysis and optimize resource utilizations.
  • Faster Agility: Utilizing the project roll-up and dashboard functions in PortfolioEngine your agile team will gain faster insight and gain greater control over projects resulting in improved project performance.

How does it work?  Simple….  Each project, or release, is associated to a TFS Project for synchronization.

Then, from EPM Live, Project Managers or Scrum Masters, can easily synchronize the backlog list to Team Foundation Server.  Project Managers, or Scrum Masters, can leverage our pre-built templates such as the Software Development – Agile EPM Live template.  Your team can log defects, features, user stories, and task as they arise, chat in team discussions, and share documents.   Built-in reports let you see relevant project dashboards and artifacts such as Burn Down reports. This template leverages the EPM Live Agile Planner which provides drag-and-drop capabilities for moving backlog items into specific iterations, moving items between iterations, and for decomposing user stories and defects into tasks and subtasks. The EPM Live Agile Planner provides dynamic rollups of Story Points and Work Estimates compared to Point and Work Capacity Values, so that over-allocations can be viewed and addressed.  Immediately capture team status, time and new requests from a simple SharePoint user experience.   View resource workload assignments across all types of work, including backlog items.  You could also leverage the PM plus Agile select template which is our “hybrid” approach to support using waterfall (predictive) and agile (adaptive) methodologies within one template.


On synch, all work items are given a unique ID to be used for mapping purposes, and you can navigate to the work items within TFS:

Now, with all project data in one system, executives have visibility to the complete portfolio of all projects and all work with over 60 pre-built reports!

For more information on our TFS Integration, VIEW VIDEO.


2012 Resource Planning – Download a Free White Paper

Employees are the most valuable asset and the biggest expense for most organizations.  Any organization that fails to manage their resources to ensure sufficient capacity is available, and that they are being assigned and managed efficiently, risks losing control of its project and work costs and having its business activities seriously constrained.  The ability to deploy employees effectively against often conflicting projects and other work priorities enables organizations to optimize their return on human resource investments. In order to maximize both task throughput and company morale, resource and project managers need an efficient system to place the appropriate staff on the right teams at the right time.

Over the past year EPM Live has had the opportunity to work with thousands of users to improve their overall effectiveness of delivering projects within their organizations.  Given the current economy and status of many businesses today, there has been an overwhelming need to improve Resource Management planning and processes throughout 2011.  In the spirit of the New Year, here are a few tools to help you with your 2012 resource planning!

Download a Free Resource Management White Paper

Other Resources

Email your entire project team with a few clicks in Project Publisher

One of the greatest challenges a Project Manager has is keeping everyone informed and connected with the latest and greatest when things change… I said when things change because we all know that dates shift, resource availability fluctuates, scope creeps, and risks can manifest into issues.

Using the EPM Live Project Publisher, a Microsoft Project add-in, you can easily get everyone on your project team — literally: every resource on your project team — informed with the favorite business communication tool of this age: email.

Project Publisher works with all EPM Live product versions, so no matter whether you have a free project workspace, or an EPM/PPM system, you can use this trick!

We have a few assumptions to cover:

  • The first is that you have a Microsoft Project file setup – scheduled & linked, as you see fit.
  • The second is that you have the project resource loaded into the schedule and assigned to tasks. One way to check is to see whether or not you have people showing up on the Resource Usage view, with assignments on tasks.
  • The third is that you have already done the Project Team build on your EPM Live project workspace. Of course, for the communication to get delivered to the person, their correct email address has to be in the system.
  • The last is that you have done the Resource Mapping with your Project Team & the Microsoft Project schedule.

So, let’s get to this. Smile

Open Microsoft Project, click on the Publisher tab, and then click the Communicate option. Email team is right there:

Compose your message using your favorite desktop email application, and send it off. It should be that simple!

Share your project plan when you are good and ready!

Did you know that you can use the EPM Live Project Planner to create and refine a schedule, and then keep that data “under wraps” until you are ready to make it public?

For example, if you create a Project, then Edit Plan and choose the “Project Planner” — a tip here is to set as default so you don’t get prompted each time you go back in — you can “Save” your planned schedule as many times as you’d like until the plan looks exactly how you want it to look.

The data that is in the saved plan will not be pushed out to your workspace  — and therefore visible to others — until you Publish.

So, when you are good and ready, notify everyone on the team of their individual assignments, and, of course, the overall big picture of the project schedule.

The trick here is to Save your plan as many times as you’d like until you are ready to publicize it, and then Publish.

Happy scheduling!

Helping Teams Communicate More Effectively Using Comments

Every Project Manager and project team needs tools to communicate with and amongst the project team easily and efficiently.

The Comment thread acts like a simple discussion board to allow very quick, focused and accessible conversation on any particular Task, Issue, or document. Let’s explore the communication barriers that this Comment feature was designed to resolve.

Communication barriers with…

  • Email: the communication tool that was once revolutionary has become a burden in a lot of organizations. Conversation is restricted to the number of participants and the growing number of email communication makes finding information (that you know you have in there somewhere) a little more difficult.
  • Discussion threads: possibly focused, but not necessarily quick. These threads can become off-topic as they grow longer, and the conversation is not physically linked to a specific Task, Issue or Document on the Project.

Introducing: Comments!

Communication  is  more effective with…

  • Clarity/Focus – the Comment thread is literally attached to a specific Task, Issue, Document or other item. There is no mistaking what this comment thread is in reference to.
  • Quickness – the Comment box is a popup that you can type and post into with two clicks from the item drop-down menu.
  • Easy access for Commenters – viewing the Comments on an item is as easy as making a Comment. To accomodate the established business requirements for email alerts for everything, when you make a Comment, you are automatically added to the thread for notification of additional comments on the thread! So you can get back to an item’s Comment thread from a link in your Inbox if you’d like.
  • Accessibility to the entire project team – Anyone can view a Comment thread on an item that they can view. The Comment thread serves as a source of “documentation” on the item’s history.

Using Comments, you as the Project Manager can quickly communicate to your entire team an idea, request or update on any item in your project workspace. And for people who are new to your project, viewing the comments on newly assigned tasks, issues or documents will allow them to get up to speed on previous discussions, decisions and directions on Tasks, Issues and Documents on your project.

As a project team member, you can trust the Comment thread to be what you need to know about a re-assigned task, handed-across issue, or passed-down document, as well as a viable channel to reach out to your Project Manager and team with requests for help or input.

The beauty of the Comment thread is that it is collaborative information truly integrated as part of the project! We hope you agree that this design is much better than information hidden away in someone’s email box or data stored in an unrelated discussion post in another part of your worksapce that nobody knows about.

The Comment feature is available from the ribbon or the item drop-down menu in all EPM Live products!

EPM Live's Project Collaboration – How We Use Our Tools Internally

Staying true to our EPM Live rock theme…. Bob Dylan’s third studio album titled, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” , says it in a nutshell.  With Facebook, Linked In, and the “Google age” providing information at your fingertips, communication in the project management world and the tools to do it are evolving at an alarming rate!  With the constant availability of technology, people want real time information at their fingertips at all times.  As such, Project and Product Managers are facing the challenge of having current data available to their team remotely and the flexibility to work in this dynamic environment.

At times, the rapid rate of change may feel a bit overwhelming for some.  However, I think the new ways for us to connect with our teams represent an opportunity for building our own mini-communities to help find and share information faster and more easily.  So, for this blog series, I thought I’d take some time to share some of my favorite collaborative features within EPM Live that we use internally.  These features help keep everyone in the loop and come up with the best ideas for reaching goals.

First, with our last release we included a new “Comments” feature.  This feature allows users to share comments on any item in the system.  We use this new feature here internally and it has allowed me to keep history and keep my discussions centralized on a particular work item.  For example, for a particular defect item within our backlog that I have questions about – I can simply add a comment/question.  The EPM Live system will email the comment to the user who is assigned to the item, and anyone else on the discussion string.  It’s a very useful feature!!

In addition, I’ll highlight the new My Work web part.  The recently enhanced My Work web part allows team members to update and manage all individual work assignments from a single location. Roll up any work across the enterprise for global visibility and increased efficiency. Team members can update status in one view to reduce cost and improve productivity, so project managers know what the status is on their projects work items.  Yes, we do use it here – and when someone asks me what they should be working on – I ask them to review their “My Work” items.  Yes, change is difficult here too, but we are moving in the right direction!  :)

Lastly, Team Discussions that are included in project workspace templates let you share information and discuss project topics with your team for real-time project collaboration.  The unorganized email threads can drive a person batty (this person in particular)!!  Discussion boards can be connected right within your Outlook so you can quickly reply to messages within a familiar email application.  This allows you to keep track of discussions within your site, so the entire team can review and search the site to find information that is important to them.

To connect your Team Discussion to Outlook:

  1. Navigate to your Project Workspace Team Discussion.
  2. Within the List Ribbon, click on “Connect to Outlook”
  3. When you are prompted to confirm that you want to connect the discussion board to Outlook, click Yes.
    1. In Outlook, the discussion board is added to the folder list in a new folder called SharePoint Lists. After the discussion topics appear, you can read and respond to them.

* TIP   After you connect a discussion board to Outlook, you can send a sharing message to other team members that invites them to connect to the discussion board. Right-click the discussion board name in Outlook, and then click Share discussion board name on the shortcut menu. This creates an e-mail message that contains a link and a command to connect to the discussion board.

Over the last 10 years, the face of project and portfolio management tools has changed immensely enabling teams to work more quickly and efficiently than ever before.  Take it from Bob Dylan.…  “For the times they are a-changin’”