Posted in Tools

Seven ways Project Managers can use OneNote

OneNote can be an invaluable tool for project managers when it comes to planning, collaboration, and tracking a project.  Here are seven ways OneNote can be applied when it comes to project management:
  1. Collaborative Requirements Gathering – By using a section in an OneNote notebook, project requirements can be captured and reviewed by the team. When finished the section can be saved to streamline the production of a final requirements document.
  2. Task Assignment and Tracking – OneNote can be used for simple task assignment through checklists. Notes and completion statuses are captured on the same page to provide the PM a real time view of work status and issues.
  3. Meeting Minutes – Creating a template to capture meeting minutes in OneNote makes them searchable, updatable for accuracy, and easily summarized for later reference.
  4. Team Member Reference – Team member reference information can be stored in OneNote including contact information, reference information, and relevant links such as LinkedIn profiles as needed.
  5. Templatized Project Process Steps – If your working on recurring or repeating projects a template in OneNote makes avoiding missed items and maintaining consistency of execution easier for the project manager and team members.
  6. Status Reporting – Status reports are the lifeblood of many projects and OneNote makes the process of gathering, composing, and distributing the status reports more efficient.
  7. Project Information Archiving – Consolidating the project information into a OneNote notebook makes the process of archiving the project information after completion as simple as storing a single file (the OneNote notebook file, not an export, to be clear.). The notebook sections can also be exported as PDF files for permanent project records.
This is just a small sample of the ways OneNote can assist when it comes to project management.  If you have ideas or suggestions, please share them in the comments below.
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Seven ways Project Managers can use OneNote

OneNote can be an invaluable tool for project managers when it comes to planning, collaboration, and tracking a project.  Here are seven ways OneNote can be applied when it comes to project management:
  1. Collaborative Requirements Gathering – By using a section in an OneNote notebook, project requirements can be captured and reviewed by the team. When finished the section can be saved to streamline the production of a final requirements document.
  2. Task Assignment and Tracking – OneNote can be used for simple task assignment through checklists. Notes and completion statuses are captured on the same page to provide the PM a real time view of work status and issues.
  3. Meeting Minutes – Creating a template to capture meeting minutes in OneNote makes them searchable, updatable for accuracy, and easily summarized for later reference.
  4. Team Member Reference – Team member reference information can be stored in OneNote including contact information, reference information, and relevant links such as LinkedIn profiles as needed.
  5. Templatized Project Process Steps – If your working on recurring or repeating projects a template in OneNote makes avoiding missed items and maintaining consistency of execution easier for the project manager and team members.
  6. Status Reporting – Status reports are the lifeblood of many projects and OneNote makes the process of gathering, composing, and distributing the status reports more efficient.
  7. Project Information Archiving – Consolidating the project information into a OneNote notebook makes the process of archiving the project information after completion as simple as storing a single file (the OneNote notebook file, not an export, to be clear.). The notebook sections can also be exported as PDF files for permanent project records.
This is just a small sample of the ways OneNote can assist when it comes to project management.  If you have ideas or suggestions, please share them in the comments below.
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Dealing with Resistance to Sharing Information

Whether you are a consultant, business analyst, project manager, or just a professional tasked with gathering information from other people, you will at some point run into people who are resistant to sharing what they know. In this article we will take a closer look at some of the causes of this behavior and ways you can get around the roadblocks to the information you need.
The business analyst often runs into a difficult situation caused by the unwillingness or inability of the stakeholders to share information about their requirements in the process of capturing business requirements for many projects. This can also be seen in instances when business team members need to share information about how or why business processes function the ways they do. There are a variety of reasons why team members can be resistant to sharing information, especially with an outside consultant, so I’m going to focus on five of the most common areas: 
  • Maintaining Value 
  • The Oral History 
  • Revisionist History 
  • The Outsider
  • Mysteries of the Universe 


Maintaining Value 
Many of us have either experienced this situation directly or have heard the story about the person who wouldn’t share. These are often the team member or members who ascribe to the adage that knowledge is power and retention of that knowledge is control. The intensity of this can vary from organization to organization, department to department, even individual to individual. In cases where it is an individual resistant to sharing information to maintain their own value to the organization, you have the option to involve others in the conversations to get the flow of information moving. In situations where the restriction of information is at a departmental level, such as I.T. not sharing information about reason and rationale with business units or vice versa, executive involvement may be necessary to remove roadblocks.  
The most important thing to keep in mind and to share with the parties involved is the importance of the information to the overall engagement. If the person feels the information they place such high value on will be trivialized then they will be far more reluctant to put it on the table. Take opportunities to separate hesitant people from the main group and interview / interact with them directly. While this is more labor intensive, it can be reassuring to those who feel their information and role in the engagement are not being given the perceived level of importance. 
Juxtaposed to this is the person who feels their control of information gives them power over a situation, often at a station beyond the norm for their role. While less common, this roadblock can be more difficult to overcome because the person withholding the information has determined, wrongfully so in the majority of cases, that hoarding the information is in their best interest. Sometimes this happens infrequently as a form of personal rebellion rather than a conscious effort to maintain informational isolation. 
The Oral History 
In many organizations, no matter how much stress is placed on documenting functionality and processes, there are a number of things that are kept to those “in the know”. This information is shared not through procedures but through informal conversations; you can recognize these often by their preface with “You should remember this…” or “By the way…” 
It’s this informal oral history that accompanies existing processes, especially long term legacy processes, that can challenge the gathering of details which can have a substantial impact on the success of the engagement as a whole. How do you gather the undocumented steps on a process? 
Often we rely on users to supply us with written documentation for review and building business requirements but there is no replacement for the visual demonstration of processes in action. Being able to observe and discuss how a process is executed, identifying edge cases and stray steps not captured in formal documentation, is an excellent tool for a business analyst to use in cases where they sense there may be more to the story than what is being shared. 
Revisionist History 
Just as treacherous as a lack of information for requirements is misinformation. It is unfortunately not uncommon to have business requirements shared that are not an accurate representation of the system as it exists but rather are how the business users think the system should work. For example, when reviewing requirements for a form design the conversation consistently turns to “It would be much better if…” or “It really should do…”. If you are in the stage of capturing what is desired this information is valuable, but if you are trying to identify current state, it can be a waste of time. 
Watch for key phrases and inconsistencies in how people describe the functioning of system vs how they have been documented. Often those inconsistencies come from the same people over and over again, possibly revealing a personal agenda overshadowing the fact finding you are performing. 
The Outsider 
Often a consultant runs into a situation where information is not shared due to the very nature of the client / consultant relationship. Clients can be resistant when they feel, unduly, their work and knowledge is going to be usurped by the consultant. This can also happen in environments where the operational stability is in flux for the individual or team.  
In these circumstances it is critical to focus on relationship building with members of the team until such time as both sides feel comfortable information can be shared to a mutual benefit. Getting clients to recognize the consultant is more than just a “hired gun” can be the difference between open discourse and a strained situation. 
Mysteries of the Universe 
There are cases where hindrances to sharing information come from not a willing resistance but from a lack of information itself. It is not uncommon to find business users executing processes as they were trained, doing the job well, but with no real idea as to why the process needs to be done. Pressing a business user on the why can sometimes shut down the communications channel about the how if they become uncomfortable with their awareness of their lack of knowledge around a process or procedure. In these situations, you need to identify if the information is necessary for the effective execution of their role (apparently not) and where else could that information come from without placing undue stress or unwanted attention on the business user. If you are able to locate the “why” from another source, find out if there is any issue with sharing the “why” with the business users who did not know the answers. In many situations, if there are no managerial restrictions, the sharing of information can open doors with business users to either provide additional details or at a minimum build bridges between the users and the consultant. 
Keep the Information Flowing 
These five areas only scratch the surface of roadblocks you can encounter when gathering information from business users. As you complete each engagement, make part of the post-mortem a review of how the process of information gathering went, what could be improved, and what were the warning signs for future engagements. Business analysis lives and dies based on information and keeping that information flowing is a key to success for many parts of an engagement, not just the requirements stage. 
—– 
Sway presentation – https://sway.com/EaaqnI4TND9A43Kp 
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Seven ways project managers can use OneNote

OneNote can be an invaluable tool for project managers when it comes to planning, collaboration, and tracking a project.  Here are seven ways OneNote can be applied when it comes to project management:

  1. Collaborative Requirements Gathering – By using a section in an OneNote notebook, project requirements can be captured and reviewed by the team. When finished the section can be saved to streamline the production of a final requirements document.
  2. Task Assignment and Tracking – OneNote can be used for simple task assignment through checklists. Notes and completion statuses are captured on the same page to provide the PM a real time view of work status and issues.
  3. Meeting Minutes – Creating a template to capture meeting minutes in OneNote makes them searchable, updatable for accuracy, and easily summarized for later reference.
  4. Team Member Reference – Team member reference information can be stored in OneNote including contact information, reference information, and relevant links such as LinkedIn profiles as needed.
  5. Templatized Project Process Steps – If your working on recurring or repeating projects a template in OneNote makes avoiding missed items and maintaining consistency of execution easier for the project manager and team members.
  6. Status Reporting – Status reports are the lifeblood of many projects and OneNote makes the process of gathering, composing, and distributing the status reports more efficient.
  7. Project Information Archiving – Consolidating the project information into a OneNote notebook makes the process of archiving the project information after completion as simple as storing a single file (the OneNote notebook file, not an export, to be clear.). The notebook sections can also be exported as PDF files for permanent project records.

This is just a small sample of the ways OneNote can assist when it comes to project management.  If you have ideas or suggestions, please share them in the comments below.

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Can a PMO benefit from OneNote?

Project Management Offices are responsible for not only ensuring projects complete within their organization’s defined success parameters but are also responsible for sharing project management best practices to improve consistency and quality in the delivery of projects.  Locating tools to assist the operation and management of PMOs and CoEs (Centers of Excellence) can be time consuming and expensive, and in many cases, unnecessary.

Standardization of Templates

OneNote’s file based structure makes it easy for a PMO/CoE to create standardized templates for projects, engagements, and other repeatable processes.  All a user needs do is to copy the template notebook for their own use and sections, pages, and files are all duplicated and ready to use.

Organization of content around PMO processes

Unlike shared drives and SharePoint sites, a OneNote notebook can be easily organized, reorganized, and shared among a team reflecting the process recommendations from the PMO office. A PMO or CoE can define recommended processes and then not only document those processes but also organize the notebook around echoing the workflow of the process for easier execution.

Common notes and procedures

A PMO can leverage OneNote to create common collections of processes and procedures updatable by the team in real time to make sure faulty processes and procedures are not followed due to not being updated. By seeing not only when procedures were updated but also who updated them and easy version history monitoring, OneNote provides a powerful tool for PMOs and CoEs to keep team members using the right procedures.

Distributed packages of content

As a PMO or CoE grows collections of content around specific topic areas, those content collections can be gathered as OneNote notebooks and distributed as resources to be used online or off.  Starter kits for projects, audit libraries, metrics documentation and dashboards can all be packaged for easy sharing and distribution.

Planning for PMO / CoE success

Having a tool like OneNote as part of the core execution plan for your PMO/CoE from the beginning and bringing your users to the understanding of the benefits and uses of the tool can allow you to focus on the actual purpose of the group rather than the tools needed.  Take time to not only understand what your PMO/CoE needs to accomplish but also how that information will be shared, maintained, and collaborated on for the long term.

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Using OneNote to Package Information for Others

Being able to organize and share information easily and effectively is one of the core tenants of collaboration.  I’ve been applying OneNote as the main tool in facilitating a collaboration project for the end of this year. I’m going through the exercise of cleaning up a year’s worth of engagement notes and turning them into something viable that can be used by other team members to support work done and work yet to be done.  Normally this would be a fairly convoluted exercise but by leveraging the capabilities of OneNote I’m finding some efficiencies I had not anticipated.

Gathering everything in one place

OneNote’s easy drag and drop interface on the desk top coupled with the ability to duplicate pages is making the gathering of relevant information into one spot easier and cleaner. By creating a section in a notebook for all the transfer notes I am able to pick and chose what needs to be shared and what doesn’t, all while retaining the original copies for reference.

Grouping and organizing

By taking content as pages in the section, I can drag and drop the order of the pages far easier than I could cutting and pasting in something such as Word.  Images, notes, diagrams, etc. are all treated equally.  It really is like organizing the chapters of a book more than it is reworking work notes.

Outputting for sharing

Since the notes are all winding up in one section, they can now be output as their own OneNote notebook (something I would use if the recipients were more comfortable with OneNote), as a Word document, or as a PDF file. Whatever works best is now a clean, organized deliverable.

Something to think about

It’s important when using tools such as OneNote for note taking over an extended period of time to take into consideration not how easy it is to capture information but rather how easy it will be to retrieve that information and share it with others.

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Springpad and Project Management – Parts 2 and 3

In Part One I talked about the ideas behind using Springpad for project management.  Now here in Part Two we’ll cover one of the ways to set up your Springpad for just such a purpose.  One of the keys to setting up your Springpad environment for project management is to decide how you will handle notebooks.  My recommendation is to use one notebook per project to make things easier to keep track of and to assign to resources.

Step One – Create a Project Notebook

Inside your new notebook you will want to create some basics springs to organize your project information.  Start with what I like to refer to as, ” the governance spring”.  The idea with this spring is to provide the basic project information as well as a place to create all the tags you will need to manage the other springs you will be creating in this notebook.  If you look below you will see an example of a governance spring setup with basic project information as well as the tags needed for the project.

Beginning of a Governance Spring

At the beginning of the governance note put in the basic details about the project including the project title, project manager, another vital information including major deadlines and deliverable information.  The other important section within the governance note is a section listing all of the tags you will be using.  Tags are the most important part of organizing Springs for a project.  Without a master index, you can lose track of what tags you are using and what relevance they have to the project as a whole.  At a minimum you will need three sets of tags:

1. Resources
2. Status
3. Milestones / Phases

Part 2 of a Governance Spring

Tags – Resources

Using tags to identify what resources have been assigned to the various springs in your notebook makes cross referencing who is doing what much easier later on.  We’ll talk about how to put those to use in Part 3, but for now, just make a list of all the team members you will have on your project.

Tip:  If you have a team that is working on multiple projects, create a notebook for their contact records separate from the project notebook and then just add the contact record to each project notebook they are going to be working in.  This way you have only one contact record to maintain information for

Tags – Status

Aside from Tasks, Springpad doesn’t really have a way to track the status of Springs in a notebook.  By creating Status Tags, you can change the status of a Spring just by changing the tags that are assigned to it.  This also gives you the option to filter all the Springs of a particular status for easy reference and modification.

Tip:  If you want to have an easy time organizing your statuses, I recommend the following format:

“Status-1-status

Put the statuses in numerical order as they sequentially progress through to completion.  By using this format you will be able to filter and sort based on Status and by order of execution.  We’ll cover that in Part 3.

Tags – Milestones / Phases

If you are managing a larger engagement, it is often helpful to break it down into various phases so you can focus on the work at hand rather than being overwhelmed by the full project.  By creating Phase Tags you can assign Springs to various Phases easily and move springs between phases just by changing the tag assignments.

Example Tags for the Governance Spring

Now that you have a note with the core structures you need to get your project organized, we can move on to the next part…putting this all to use.

Part Three – Managing the Project

(please note that not all these tips transfer cleanly to mobile so I’m focusing solely on the web for this post.)

Assigning Resources

First, let’s get your team members connected to the project.  Since you’ve already created tags for them you’re ahead of the curve. Now we just need to make the resource contact information accessible from within the project notebook.  If you created a resource notebook as recommended earlier, you can just go into that notebook and use the Bulk Edit feature to select your team and assign them to your new project.  If you are not using a master resource notebook you will need to create a contact record for each resource in your project notebook.

Note:  Make sure you assign the tag with the resource’s name to the resource note.  Without that when you filter for everything connected to a resource later you won’t have an easy way to get to the complete resource record.

Tracking Tasks and Checklists

There’s a big functional difference between tasks and checklists in the Springpad world, so I suggest you decide carefully as to which is appropriate for the work at hand.  Tasks can have due dates and each task is it’s own Spring.  To me, this is good for significant items on a project, especially deliverables.  You can track when they are completed, their status (by changing the status tag you created earlier) and assigning them directly to resources.

Checklists are best used in cases when procedures or processes need to be followed but not to a line item level.  Something like a review checklist, production process, or communications plan fit well into this structure.  Since checklists are Springs you can assign a checklist to a resource and track the status of the whole list through the same process as you do for the other lists.

Filtering and Sorting – Pulling it all together

Being able to see what you need, when you need it is really the key to the entire implementation.  Here are my favorite tricks to making this happen:

Springs Assigned to Resources

  1. Switch to List View Grouped by Type
  2. Click in the Search box and select the tag for the resource want to filter
You now have a list of all the Springs for this project that you have assigned to this resource

Updating Statuses on Springs

  1. From the View Selection drop down, change to List View and then select Bulk Edit
  2. Select the items you want to assign a status to and then click on Tag As and select the Status tag you want to assign to the selected items
Example:

Changing Status on a Spring

  1. Repeat the steps listed for Updating Statuses but this time remove the Status Tag that doesn’t apply and then add the new tag you want for the updated Status

Organizing your Springs by Status Tag

  1. Switch to List View Grouped by Type
  2. In the Filter box enter tag:”Status*”
When you press enter you will get back only those Springs that contain any tag beginning with “Status”.  Since we also added the number after the dash, they will show up in the sequence you assigned to the Status Tags to make them easier to review.

Tip:  If you switch to List View Grouped by Tag rather than by type you will wind up with nice sections of each of your statuses to review.  They’re mixed in with groups of the other tags, but they’re not hard to find.

Moving Forward

There are many more tips and techniques I’ll be sharing on how to get the most out of Springpad to manage your projects.  If you have questions or wonder if and how something can be done, just drop a note in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer you.