Facilities and Development Division Program and Project SharePoint Sites
The Facilities and Operations Directorate of UT-Battelle and primarily the Facilities Development Division (FDD) desired a better way to enhance team collaboration and improve communication within their specific projects. In the past there was no comprehensive collection of information, real consistency of processes, or easily attained project related data for individual projects. Processes and procedures were evident in the previous solution, though their organization, execution, and collaboration environments were not optimized. Essentially, the execution of the previous processes and collaboration efforts relied heavily on the user’s knowledge gained through experience. Additionally, the processes included many manual steps that required physical documentation, processing, and storage. The environment in which teams worked was somewhat disconnected as there was no central area for collaboration.
Several challenges existed in developing a solution to enhance team collaboration and improve their processes. Information collection and understanding of previous processes was an immediate challenge. Not all projects shared the same process design and going forward that would not be required either, thus increasing the amount of information necessary to be realized. The new solution required development of a collaboration environment where users could easily discern what the appropriate information was relative to their project role and how to easily locate that information. There were also requirements to incorporate and organize the different processes within a project. Integration of currently utilized systems such as Primavera Software would be required as well. Access for all users, both internal and external would need to be available. It was also desired that the new solution adhere to the imposed system securities while not excluding any users.
After careful evaluation, MSLLC proposed the implementation of a Microsoft SharePoint environment for FDD projects. It was determined that sites would be created at the project level. In order to develop and implement the SharePoint solution, much focus was put on information gathering. MSLLC met on-site with key personnel to learn about the previous collaboration environment and the processes that were unique to each program. Through information collection meetings, MSLLC was able to determine, document, and improve the business processes for different projects. During the meetings, MSLLC listened to the key personnel about collaboration desires and developed an optimal environment in which to interact.
The MSLLC designed SharePoint solution provided users with an internet accessible interface. MSLLC and the Facilities Development Division had already been developing another SharePoint project, referred to as the Green Square conversion project, which was related to information about the division’s Organization, Services, Staff, and Performance. Furthermore, it was decided to integrate the newly designed collection of project sites into that same development. Links to all the developed sites for projects were located within the SharePoint solution for the Green Square Conversion under a section called “projects”. Users now had the ability to see a larger business scope and work within a single source for their projects, programs, and other activities related to their job. Through a feature in SharePoint called “Audiencing”, MSLLC designed a solution that filtered what each user saw by the type of audience they were assigned. For example, if a particular user worked exclusively on the Modernization of Laboratory Facilities, then SharePoint filtered the projects by returning only the Modernization of Laboratory Facilities. This feature allowed users to focus on their projects and removed unnecessary information to filter through, thus reducing search time.
The MSLLC designed site provided the user with new web-based features organized by the project and all in one place. The designed SharePoint site consolidated and formalized processes for their respective projects. Such processes included Field Change Orders, Punch Lists, Procurement Processing, Progress Tracking, and many more. Through the use of custom lists, project status and other project validations could be viewed by users with appropriate privileges. Users could also generate work flow as the project evolved and SharePoint could manage that work flow. Manual processing of forms were eliminated through new electronic processing of the site. Physical paper resources and storage was removed by storing the process information electronically.
The MSLLC designed solution also provided the user with an enhanced systemic and team collaboration experience. The SharePoint site was designed to communicate directly with existing applications. For example, the Project Controls organization was using Primavera scheduling software to track and manage the different projects. The SharePoint site was designed such that it would extract project information directly from Primavera when a specific criterion was met. For example, some of the information extracted was pertinent to generate electronic work flow in SharePoint to start the procurement process for that project. Manual processing steps in between Project Controls and the Procurement Process were now fully automated. The MSLLC designed solution also enhanced team collaboration. UT Battelle and its Directorates and Divisions worked with many contractors and external entities. The MSLLC designed site adhered to security procedures while also giving necessary access to external users through wiki sites, external facing sites still using SharePoint and designed to provide only the necessary information to the external user.
Because of the success in implementing this solution initially on a few key FDD projects, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) now decided that all FDD projects and any other lab wide Line Item projects would be included in this system. Also, when the economic stimulus-funded Recovery Act money was distributed to the Department of Defense, ORNL proactively made the decision to use this environment for all stimulus related projects to assure complete and visible project integration, tracking, and reporting.