Change Management with Microsoft Access

In Managing Risks with Microsoft Project, I mentioned that many projects utilize multiple separate data repositories to store various work products and how doing so can be a challenge. I had considered this for a while as the potential problem area on past projects, but it wasn’t until I watched a webinar called 5 Project Management Practices You Can’t Live Without that I began actively seeking ways to become more efficient and productive.

Of the 41 slides in the webinar, two points stood out:

  1. Work to keep tasks, risks, issues, changes, actions, documents, updates, hours, and assignees always associated to the project or operations tracking unit
  2. Work to keep all work centralized and easy to access from one access point of reference

I started thinking about those two points and eventually morphed them into a single goal. I realized that the project I was working on had six things that were being tracked or updated regularly. They were:

  1. Risks
  2. Requirements
  3. Issues
  4. Changes
  5. Action Items
  6. Decisions

Risks were being tracked and updated in an online repository.

Requirements were being tracked in separate spreadsheets, independent of one another based on each functional team on the project.

Issues, changes, and decisions were not being tracked in any specific location. Instead, they were parsed out in various briefs, white papers, meeting minutes, etc.

Lastly, action items were being recorded in meeting minutes and stored away in the configuration management database, but were never formally assigned or followed up on during the next meeting.

So, the goal became to develop a single, centralized database to manage the project RICA structures. In this case, RICA was extended to RRICAD (Risks, Requirements, Issues, Changes, Action items, Decisions).

mindomo RRICAD

Like I mentioned before, there are many software solutions available that are great for managing different types of project data. However, it’s rare to find one that will meet every requirement, so the best bet, in my opinion, is to develop a tool tailored specifically to a project that meets all requirements and excludes any additional features that may not be necessary.

For this, I used Microsoft Access and created a relational database to house the data. I started with the issue tracking template that was already available and with some minor customization met the desired goal.

Microsoft Access

If you have never used Access before, at first glance it can be quite intimidating, especially if starting with a blank database. I prefer to start with an available template to avoid having to create the tables and relationships between the data. Either way, it is still important to understand how Access uses relationships before getting too deep into it.

Issue Tracking Template

To track the project RRICAD items, the issue tracking template was the best place to start. The template is located under Lists when creating a new Access file, with the option of a desktop database or an app, which can be launched on a SharePoint.

Setting up RRICAD database

The first task was to replace all report/form/table titles from “Issue” to “RRICAD”.

nav pane

Next, I changed all titles containing “Issue” in the forms and reports by changing the caption within the Property Sheet.

property sheet

Then, I edited the category selection criteria to include risks, requirements, issues, changes, action items, and decisions.

category

That is essentially all of the major settings that needed to be made in order to start using the database to store and track RRICAD items.

Some other settings that were changed later included:

  • Added contact lists
  • Change date format to short date
  • Added conditional color formatting to due dates (Ex. Red: due within 5 days, Orange: due within 15 days, Yellow: Due within 30 days)
  • Created a report for RRICAD items with status of “Resolved”
  • Added organizational logos/headers to reports

Summary

Modifying the issue tracking template in Access is a small task (1-2 days, at most) that can have a tremendous impact on a project.

Having the ability to track multiple aspects of a project in one centralized location and create consolidated reports can:

  • Reduce time spent in project status meetings
  • Increase productivity of the project team performing the work, and
  • Provide more visibility to project stakeholders

I hope this was useful and thank you for reading. Please leave a comment, question, or feedback!

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