When using a full blown project management solution is not feasible, sometimes the next best thing is to leverage Outlook as your primary project management tool. The biggest challenge with doing project management in Outlook is overcoming the information overload and inefficiency traps that the email tool can foster. That challenge can be lessened a bit by taking advantage of the following four tips for doing project management in Outlook.
1. Create a Project Management Alias in Outlook
It's easy for project requests, status updates or any type of project communication to get lost among the overwhelming number of emails that show up in your inbox every day. One missed email can sabotage a project's successful completion or even keep it from ever getting off the ground. A simple way to deal with this is problem is to create an email alias in Outlook specifically for the projects you manage. You then create an Outlook rule that automatically puts emails sent to that alias into a special project management folder. The last step is to inform all your co-workers that all project requests or project communications must be sent to that alias in order to receive the needed attention.
One additional sub-tip is to organize your Outlook project management folder with subfolders. You might have subfolders for each individual project, and maybe even subfolders that represent a stage in the project management lifecycle, such as "Requested Projects", "Project Plans", "Project Progress", "Project Deliverables" and so on.
2. Leverage Shared Calendars for Outlook Project Management
Project visibility is key to project success. When doing project management in Outlook you want all your team members on the same page as to what's going on. Sharing a project calendar in Outlook that can be accessed by all project team members or stakeholder helps with this visibility. It allows everyone working on the project to see in Outlook what others are working on, as well as keep key project events and milestones on their radar. You can share a project management calendar in Outlook via email with a calendar snapshot, using Exchange, or by publishing it online through Outlook.com or a WebDAV server.
3. Share Project Tasks in Outlook
Task sharing is another way to create the needed visibility for the projects you manage in Outlook. If you have Microsoft Exchange in conjunction with Outlook, you can share project tasks with others on your team. In addition to its default Task folder, Outlook lets you create additional Task folders that you can designate to be used for specific projects. That way you can share a project's designated Task folder with everyone on that project team, giving them visibility into the project's tasks and status.
4. Take Advantage of Outlook Project Management Integration
While the above tips can enhance your efficiency when doing project management in Outlook, the best tip or course of action is to actually integrate your Outlook environment with your project management solution of choice. A project management solution with Outlook integration can give you the best of both worlds. It lets you enjoy the ease and familiarity of using Outlook, while giving you the enhanced efficiency and full-blown project management specific features that only a complete project management solution can provide.
So Outlook is not a project management solution. Not by a long shot. Obviously, an actual work management solution is preferable. Bu tin the absence of such a solution, a little ingenuity in Outlook will go a long way in the meantime to keep your projects moving along.
About the Author
Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.Follow on Twitter More Content by Marcus Varner