Custom Fields are the powerhouse behind EPM if you get the right custom fields your EPM solution will give you lots of valuable information about the projects it contains. Therefore it is vital to spend the planning phase of your EPM Implementation Project ensuring the custom fields deliver what you need.
Deciding which custom fields to use can be daunting for a first time implementer. The key is careful and through fact finding. Finding out what your business needs to know about the projects is not as simple as discovering what reports are written. You need to consider all functional areas of the business and their individual needs. Consider also how you might want to filter the projects into sub sets to match the organisation structure.
Now take all that information you have gathered and consider how those creating project plans will input the information – lookups (drop down boxes can make it quicker and easier to input this information). For performance you need to keep calculated custom fields to a minimum though these can be very useful for reporting. These factors need to be considered and a balance struck between usability of the system and the reporting requirements.
When developing your custom fields, I find it better to try out new fields in a single project plan before creating them on the server. This avoids the create, trial, delete and try again cycle, as well as letting you see how the fields appear to users. After creating the fields, don’t forget to add them to views in both Project and PWA as well as setting up filters and sorts using those fields where required.
Make sure you have defined test requirements. I like to give the people who will be using the system a copy of the reports we are replacing and ask them to compare it to the views in Project and PWA. Don’t just ask for comments, make sure you present a few structured questions on readability and suitability as well as navigation.