roject managers are always on
the hunt for tools and techniques that can help them
tighten timelines and ratchet
up resources. As the buzz
surrounding social media
has worked its way onto the
project management scene, many
in the profession are wondering just
what’s in it for them. Sure, that wiki is
really cool, but is it truly helping keep
your team on task?
So while posting, tweeting and blogging have gone viral, there remains the
question of how it all plays out in the
real business world. The rather mundane
answer is that it’s starting to look like
just another weapon in the business
arsenal. A report released in September
2009 by consulting giant McKinsey &
Co. revealed that 69 percent of the
1,700 executives surveyed reported having
“gained measurable business benefits”
from social media tools. Median gains
include a 10 percent improvement in
operational costs and a 30 percent
increase in the speed with which
employees connect with outside experts.
Depending on how they’re used,
social networking sites, blogs and wikis
can be powerful tools for intra-team
collaboration. Then again, they can also
become vacuous digital timesinks that
lure projects off track.
“The problem is that [social media] is
so young that there’s really not much
information about practical use out there,”
says independent consultant Bas de Baar,
who writes The Project Shrink, a blog for
IT project managers.
The Zandvoort, Netherlands-based
author says he hasn’t seen much in the
way of case studies. “I think the serious
discussion about social media is just
starting now,” says Mr. de Baar, a member of the PMI New Media Council.
Peter Mello, PMI-SP, PMP, doesn’t
like what he sees so far.
Social media fundamentally alters
project management—for the worse,
says Mr. Mello, director of the São
Paulo, Brazil branch of Spider Project
Team, a Russian company specializing
in project and portfolio management.
“Depending on how you set your
GET USED TO IT
social media package, you stop planning
and you start reporting,” he says. “The
biggest problem with these collaboration
spaces is that you have so many issues
open that you don’t actually do project
management anymore—you do issue
Driving a project with social
media alone is a mistake, warns Mr.
Mello. “Web-based tools are helpful
for very small projects, but when
you’re dealing with the complex
development of projects, you still
have to trust full-size software tools
to conduct your planning,” he says.
Despite the critics and skeptics, social
media isn’t going away.
“In the next three to 10 years, you’re
definitely going to see more and more
project managers using those tools,”
says Ryan Endres, PMP, lead program
manager, Fundus Photograph Reading
Center at the University of Wisconsin,
Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
One prime area for social media?
The much-needed yet often-neglected
project status update.
“Team members could give weekly
updates by simply putting them on a
blog so everybody could see every-
body else’s updates,” Mr. Endres says.
“I could also see projects using a
Twitter-like function, where if there
was, say, a milestone reached, a task or
a timeline completed, they can then
tweet that out.”
For example, on a construction
project, someone onsite could simply
take a picture with a camera phone
and send it to an e-mail address that
blasts it to the entire team. At the
same time, that person could post the
photo onto a shared workspace site,