On the face of it, one might expect that project management – with its defined constraints of time, costs and effort - would be among the leaders in adopting a platform (such as social media) that supports faster and timely communication.
Yet we do not hear a lot about the practices and effectiveness of Social Media for project management. Possibly it has not taken-off as one might have expected.
This raises many questions, such as:
Is Social Media in some way unsuitable for use in project management?
Is it perhaps regarded as an informal mode of communication, limiting its practical use in project management?
Is it regarded as an ‘outsider’ technology, not in tune with the requirements of formal project management?
Potential benefits of the use of Social Media for project management
Social Media can play a significant role in the planning, execution, and delivery of projects at least in the following five areas.
Communication Communication is critical to the success of project delivery. It is widely cited that a project manager spends up to 90% of his/her project time, communicating.
Social media apps can facilitate video, audio and text-based secure messaging. They can be purposefully used by project staff to share information on project activities and other pertinent information in a timely and succinct manner (e.g, through hashtag updates, project graffiti).
To help ensure that communication remains within official confines and secure, project social media groups can be moderated by one project staff member who monitors all the messages and information that is shared.
It would seem natural that project social media groups can also be linked to project management software to maintain transparency and accuracy of information. Such integration should ensure that nothing falls between the cracks.
Project updates management Social media with its wide-scale reach and agility of information sharing can play a defining role in the management of project updates. Particularly for large projects, updating the right people, at the right time and in the right format is not an easy task. Social media can empower project teams to do their updates management in an effective manner.
These updates can be about project progress, exceptions, meeting schedules, team building activities, decision making meetings, innovation meetings and so on so forth.
Project staff designated with the task of sending updates can work with the project social media group moderator to ensure the right people receive updates; rather than causing panic by sending the updates to inappropriate people in error.
Lessons learned management Lessons learned information that can be captured as part of project work often gets buried in unstructured text folders which offer little interest from anyone to access these bundles of useful information.
Social media could not only empower project organizations to progressively collect these lessons learned information through active involvement of all project team members, but also can be used to send out lessons learned to the relevant stakeholders in a timely manner.
As people are becoming addicted to using their social media loaded portable devices, so the lessons learned information will then be more accessible and used by the people for their next projects and hence could help in reducing risks and enhancing the quality of project work.
Issues management Issues management often involves a number of people and quick-fire actions. Hence quickly involving the right people in a timely manner become critical to minimize the negative effects of emerging issues within the project.
Social media is a perfect tool to help in the dissemination of information to a contained group of project staff that needs to be involved in a particular issue(s) management. This information dissemination could be for various purposes depending on the level of involvement, such as:
Just to keep informed and involved as a matter of seniority and managerial position
People who need to be involved in troubleshooting the issue;
Experts whose advice needs to be sought on how to manage the emerging issue(s);
For capturing the lessons learned as a consequence of emerging issues;
Knowledge management Effective knowledge management involving sharing, processing and giving meaning to knowledge in the context of the project, all of which can help in enhancing the knowledge bandwidth of project teams.
The fact that social media apps are actively present and used provides a perfect avenue to enhance knowledge management activities of project teams.
Social media will allow the involvement of everyone in knowledge creation, processing and capture, thus enhancing the use of knowledge for project work.
The project social media groups mentioned earlier can also help in knowledge management. As before, a dedicated staff member could be appointed to ensure that knowledge management is done in a somewhat focused manner. This is especially relevant on large projects where pieces of knowledge falling through the cracks is always a risk.
The above list of potential benefits and the areas in which social media can be used and benefit management of projects is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg of the benefits that social media could offer to project management.
By now, social media technologies have become mature enough to be used in a secure and contained manner. Surely the time is ripe to evolve them from everyday usage by the common people into mainstream professional usage.
This article is an edited version of the paper written by Jiwat-ram who currently serves on the Editorial Board of International Journal of Project Management. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of a Working Paper Series and directs the publication of a monthly newsletter, ‘Project Management Voice.’
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