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Case Management and Project Management using Microsoft 365

The last nine months have seen an enormous change in the way we now work and collaborate. Platforms such as Microsoft 365, particularly Microsoft Teams, have stood out as enablers to allow business to carry on as “usual”.

It seems clear that companies will continue with some form of remote working in the future, so does it make sense to extend your business process to facilitate case management and/or project management on the Microsoft 365 platform?

This article considers why you might be facing this decision, what risks and rewards exist and a few tips along the way on how to do it well.

 

Why might your case and project management be due an overhaul?

Businesses that had already implemented case and project management systems on Microsoft 365 had a much easier time moving to a remote/home working environment. Many also see future benefits of retaining a balance of this type of working once we return to normal.

Additionally, they will have seen how much easier it is to collaborate on projects and cases with external parties, which is nearly always required.

So, if your business is considering more distributed ways of working in the future, and you use Microsoft 365 elsewhere, bringing case and project management into the same platform can make a lot of sense.  Benefits arise not only for remote workers but also team cohesion.  Access to the latest project status, real-time sharing and editing of documents, and identification of owners are among the incorporated features.

Another reason to consider reviewing your case and project management approach is due to the simple erosion of effectiveness and best practice that such systems suffer over time. Experience shows that technology, market and client expectations are constantly evolving and may suggest changes to how cases or projects are managed.

A review is also a great way of checking that management processes are optimised, from your users’ experience and efficiency points of view.

 

Why Microsoft 365?

Primarily, if you’re already using Microsoft elsewhere in your company, the expectation is that it will be easier, cheaper and offer more automatic integrations with related processes and functions. And that’s broadly true.

You can create case and project management solutions by setting up Microsoft 365 and using all of its component parts to provide templated functionality and workflows that make sense for your business, with the added value of automatically facilitating remote working.

It’s long been true that products such as SharePoint, have had bad press for running out of control and creating large repositories of unmanaged documents and information. In turn, this can make it hard to find what you are looking for, but this really should not be the case if implemented correctly.

It’s important to define good information architecture and then set rules to govern and monitor the environment. For example, if you are letting users create Microsoft Teams at will, you will end up with many Teams with very little in them, which will ultimately need cleaning up in the future.

 

Creating structure and control in Microsoft 365

While Microsoft 365 is excellent at creating access at the other end of the scale, creating structure and control was a common pitfall that businesses experienced. Regaining that control was too often tricky and costly due to bespoke development or time needed. But the good news is that companies out there have built off the shelf solutions for specific sectors or applications such as case and project management.

At Triad, we have partnered with WorkPoint who provide a set of products that help enhance the Microsoft 365 platform by controlling how Microsoft 365 is rolled out to an organisation in a templated manner.

Other solutions carry out similar functions such as Avepoint, Orchestry and ProvisionPoint365, that you might want to investigate, all provide clearly defined benefits.

One of WorkPoint‘s key strengths is that it also supplements the Microsoft 365 navigation, making it easy to find what you want. WorkPoint even provides the ability for you never to have to leave Outlook, if you require, providing the same functionality as products such as MacroView and harmon.ie, but with case and project management built into its core.

A centralised template and security centre allows you to create and deploy Microsoft 365 assets to build business solutions that include collaboration and information storage solutions, perfectly suited for project and case management on a platform that you are probably already subscribed to.

My ten plus years of experience certainly means that I’d research existing vendor solutions and Microsoft partners before you embark on the bespoke development route, as invariably maintenance and future functionality will be much more expensive.

 

Controlling your processes to make collaboration easy

The key here is to optimise the process BEFORE it’s moved into Microsoft 365 or any other management system. Working with WorkPoint, we define business processes and the information required against them, centrally and then deploy these to Microsoft 365.

As you move through the various stages of a project/case, additional resources can then be provided depending on the project/case’s current state. For example, if you are moving into the bid phase of a project, then a bid document will be provided in-place automatically, saving time and preventing multiple instances of the document being email around.

 

From the beginning to the end

Projects and cases always go through a set of steps through their lifecycle. During these stages, information and documentation are constructed to support an end goal.

At Triad, we see real benefits in the WorkPoint approach that introduces a stage model into Microsoft 356. As you move between stages in a project or case template, documents are automatically injected into a project/case from a centrally maintained location introducing standards and cutting down on the time users take to construct these manually.

Ultimately, there is an outcome to a project or case and, at this point, you still want to retain the information for future reference. Still, you don’t want it cluttering your workspace, so you can archive it, retaining the knowledge for future reference. In some cases, you may be legally bound to retain the information for a set period, so you would apply a Microsoft retention and disposition policy to handle this for you automatically.

 

So, especially while this global pandemic continues, how we structure and manage our data with a view to remote working and distributed teams remains vitally important. Alongside this, Microsoft 365 and Teams bring some readily available and suitable functionality for improving case and project management.

However, it pays to spend time on the processes before any migration occurs. At Triad, we certainly believe that working with proven Microsoft partners like WorkPoint, who have optimised certain kinds of structured data management, will significantly decrease time cost while increasing the benefits.

 

David Eagle is a senior consultant specialising in the implementation of Microsoft 365, WorkPoint integrations and unlocking value from content management processes and architectures.

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