How Can Microsoft Project Work with SharePoint?

In every project management or SharePoint speaking event I participate in, I ALWAYS get asked: “How can Microsoft Project work with SharePoint?”. Before I answer the question, let me first explain what Microsoft Project and SharePoint is for those that aren’t familiar.
In every project management or SharePoint speaking event I participate in, I ALWAYS get asked: “How can Microsoft Project work with SharePoint?”. Before I answer the question, let me first explain what Microsoft Project and SharePoint is for those that aren’t familiar.

Microsoft Project is a project management tool that supports project planning (schedule development, resource definition and task assigments, budget, etc) AND project tracking (schedule, resource, cost, etc). The current version is Microsoft Project 2007 and the next version is Microsoft Project 2010.

Microsoft Project 2007

Before utilizing Microsoft Project, it is pertinent that you:
– Are familiar with basic project management concepts AND
– Have a project management process that you follow

Without these two, it is less likely that you will appreciate Microsoft Project and more likely blame it for causing frustration and heartache. Keep in mind that Microsoft Project is a tool, it won’t make your projects on time, on budget and on scope. Learn more about project management fundamentals and basic steps in utilizing Microsoft Poject by checking out:

How about SharePoint? It’s a collaboration platform from Microsoft that empowers individuals to efficiently share and centralize information. Learn more about the basics of SharePoint by checking out:

There are two primary reasons why people want to potentially ‘share’ their Microsoft Project file or also known as a ‘Microsoft Project plan’ in SharePoint:

– Empower project resources to update their tasks on the Microsoft Project plan (how much time they spent on a task, how far along they are, etc) without having the project manager doing it and be the bottleneck.
– To display relevant reports (is the project on schedule? what tasks are ahead/behind, resource utilization, etc) to executive stakeholders whenever they want it without having to rely on email.

So now, let me answer the $1M question: “How Can Microsoft Project Work with SharePoint?”. Here are four ways:

1. Store the Microsoft Project (.mpp) plan in a SharePoint document library

The Microsoft Project plan is uploaded to a SharePoint document library just like any other file. This is the simplest way to store a Microsoft Project plan in a central location and control which relevant stakeholders (resources, executives, customers, etc) are able to access it (write or read access). You can control access privileges by defining appropriate SharePoint permissions.
This means that for those that are allowed to update the Microsoft Project plan, they have access to the entire file, individuals are able to manipulate project information other than task updates or reports.

That’s why it is important that they are familiar of what the project management standards are and the process in updating the file (i.e. how are projects tracked? do you track actual time spent or percentage of work completed?). Or else you’ll end up with irrelevant information. As they say “Garbage in, Garbage out”.

2. Export Microsoft Project plan as an Excel spreadsheet and import it to SharePoint as a custom list

If you want your project stakeholders have access to a subset of the information in a Microsoft Project plan, storing it in a document library might not work.

An option is to export the subset of information (i.e. project tasks) from Microsoft Project to a Microsoft Excel file. Once it’s a Microsoft Excel file, you can import the file into SharePoint as a custom list. Once the information is in SharePoint, relevant stakeholders can view/edit the information.

If you do this, here’s the challenge: How can you take the updated information in the custom list back to Microsoft Project automatically?

3. Synchronize Microsoft Project plan with SharePoint

In a lot of project manager’s mind, the holy grail of Microsoft Project and SharePoint integration is the ability for a Microsoft Project plan (the tasks table and gantt chart) to be displayed in a project tasks list in a SharePoint site allowing project resources to update their tasks and in addition, be able to synchronize the updates back to a Microsoft Project plan.

Unfortunately, this capablity is not currently available in Microsoft Project. However, this is one of the most anticipated features in the next version, Microsoft Project 2010.

So am I saying that synchronizing Microsoft Project and SharePoint is impossible? Heck, no! There are two options available. First, you can leverage Microsoft Project Server to achieve this. By publishing your Microsoft Project plan to Microsoft Project Server, your project resources are able to update their tasks in Microsoft Project Server, which utilizes SharePoint heavily, and have it synchronize back to the Microsoft Project plan. Apart from this, there are a myriad of other features and capabilities Microsoft Project Server offers.

Second, if you don’t have Microsoft Project Server in your environment, you can get third-party add-on tools to Microsoft Project like Project Publisher which can synchronize relevant Microsoft Project plan information with a SharePoint site.

4. Create a dashboard with SharePoint web parts from Microsoft Project information

Do you want to know the secret in getting promoted at work? Tell management you’ll build a ‘dashboard’ for them. Kidding aside (although I’m convinced it’s true), dashboards are visual reporting tools that allow management or customers to efficiently see and analyze key project metrics. If you have Microsoft Project Server, there are a lot of built-in reports and custom reports can be built as well.

In SharePoint, as long as the relevant information from Microsoft Project is available as a custom list, you can create a project management dashboard with KPI web parts that come with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) or even purchase third party dashboard web parts from companies like Bamboo Solutions or Dundas. Here’s a great dashboard example on a SharePoint site from the Virginia Department of Transportation. If you want to learn how to create a project management dashboard in SharePoint, watch this recorded webcast I did for O’Reilly Media.

I hope you’ve found this post beneficial. Don’t be a stranger and let me know if you have a question – send me a tweet.

Have a good one!

15 thoughts on “How Can Microsoft Project Work with SharePoint?

  1. This is an excellent article. I am highly involved in the Project Management blogosphere through PM Hut, and I don’t see a lot of (useful) posts such as this one on SharePoint. I wonder what is the reason, is it because SharePoint is MS Proprietary, or is it because not a lot of Project Manager out there use it.

  2. PM Hut – I appreciate your feedback. I think PMs don’t use SharePoint because they don’t don’t know it’s full potential. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of SharePoint implementations that are nothing but glorified network shares.

  3. Bill is right. While SharePoint works great with Word, Excel, and PPT to transparently check out files and edit them, Project 2007 is not that sophisticated.

    Best Practice: Store the MPP files (with version control) in SharePoint. But the PM (and anyone else who works on the files) should always download into the exact same folder, e.g. c:\data\projects\project1\abc.mpp. Project remembers full path names for linked files, shared resource files, etc. When these file locations change, eventually Project gives up and corrupts the file. This happens when you store and work on MPP files in your “profile” which if you remember holds your userid and everyone’s user id is different.

    Best Practice: use Project Publisher. It gives what Project 2010 promises for year after next, but does it NOW and does more than 2010 promises. Great product.

    Best Practice: PMs to use Colligo as the synchronisation tool. This great tool synchs the files to the local computer (remember to have same file name) and from there use Explorer to launch and edit. Sync with Colligo.

    Avoid: exporting data from Project into Lists. You’ll likely get popular doing this and then forever you are stuck with a manual process!

  4. Ive been asked to research this very problem and I came across your blog and it made my day 🙂 I see you mention Project Publisher but what about IntelliGantt Add-in? For some reason, Project Publisher website is blocked at work so I’m not able to compare. Have you had any experience with IntelliGantt?

  5. Dux, what about the concept of Deliverables? I understand that there is some level of connectivity between Project Pro 2007 and SharePoint. I’m trying to find resources/guides on this topic but can’t find anything helpful.

  6. Is Microsoft Project Work with SharePoint 2010 ? hat is released now,if so How to make it work .. any good guideing link please ….

  7. Hello Dux,
    Thank you for this amazing article. this was really helpful.

    I have a situation: we have 1 sharepoint Project task list with an additional column called “Project ID” this is basically a lookup to a list of all the projects. As you would have guessed this is a consolidated Project task list for all the projects in an organization. DIfferent Project managers work on their project files.
    My question to you is
    can we sync this project task list with multiple project files? how can this be achieved? any direction towards resolving this problem would be great.
    Thanks in advance

  8. Dux, fantastic article, is there a updated version that is related to the new Microsoft Project 2010 product and SharePoint?

    Thanks a mill!

  9. Now that Microsoft Project 2010 has come out and assuming it has the capability, can you put together a follow up article that explains how to integrate it with SharePoint? Such an article would be an excellent resource.

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