Social media has not only become an integral part of our personal lives but also embedded itself into various business processes. It is playing a mission critical role in the digital marketing strategy of a business and is also instrumental in improving the customer engagement. That’s not all. It is also used by astute project managers as a part of their management strategy.
There was a time in the not too distant past when choosing business tools, the right team, adhering to the best practices of project management would have been enough to plan, manage, control and monitor a project successfully. But evolution in market dynamics and the needs of target customers means businesses are faced with newer challenges vis-à-vis project management. The use of social media is just one of the many solutions that can help meet these challenges.
Project Management, Meet Social!
There is a comprehensive array of project management software for the enterprise, such as WorkZone, SAP and Virtual Project Office, which have third-party communication features baked into them. But, the essence of great project management is ensuring sustained useful interactions between the team, away from the software silo. Social media ensures communication within the team and between the project stakeholders is taken to a more personal level devoid of the interactive limitations that are often imposed by software.
The idea behind incorporating social media into your project management process is to improve collaboration and create a more conducive environment wherein problems are solved faster. What you are essentially doing is bringing social interaction to project management, trying to get rid of the pressure points that might limit communication and having more fun along the way.
Leveraging Social’s Familiarity to Improve Performance
Most people are connected to their social networks all the time – yes, even at work! Keeping in touch with their friends and followers on social media is as much a part of their daily lives as say, food. Over time, social networks have evolved and this evolution has kept pace with the growing needs of businesses and their needs.
Different social networks have different working models. While Twitter is founded on a micro-messaging model, Facebook is driven by shares where content is distributed by users. LinkedIn is configured for professionals with its features in step with how connections take place in a formal environment. The appropriate network with the right kind of model (one that is aligned with your project management needs) can be integrated within the existing communications architecture of the PM process. This can help tide over some of the communication pitfalls that lead to problems, because people on your team will be familiar with the workability of these models.
Using Social Networks as Project Management Tools
Social networks shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to project management software, but a means of enhancing the channels of interaction that improve coordination between stakeholders of the project. Project communication and collaboration is a critical activity that makes or breaks a project. Do it right, and you set the stage for managing expectations; but get it wrong, and you may end up with a finished project on your hands that doesn’t meet your client’s needs.
To give you an example of how social can be used to improve value-added communication within the project management ecosystem, let me walk you through how you can put the features of Twitter to use for improving communication.
As a project manager, you are well aware of the sensitive nature of the information you’ll be sharing across, so your first step should be to create a private group, assign Twitter accounts to your team, and ensure they protect their tweets,
The next step is to add group management functionality like GroupTweet, which allows contributors to tweet from the same account. Another add-on that I believe is perfect for your intra group communication needs is twitChat. It’s a mobile app that will help you send instant messages within the group while you are on the move.
Once you’re all set up on Twitter, you need to smooth out communication within your group. Learn to use hashtags to separate the nature of your Tweets, categorize them and/or direct them to the right people. Hashtags like #budget, #time, #risk are commonly used by project managers to itemize their Tweets. Group messaging is good, but there will always be a need for sending a direct message to a recipient – this can be done using D (user name) +message. Something else you need to do is use Bitly, to shorten hyperlink addresses. The j.mp account will help you share link to files that are located on your company portal.
Your use of social media in project management is entirely dependent on the objectives you want accomplished and the role you want social to play in managing the information flow of your project. The sanctity of a project can be undermined if the inflow, interpretation and outflow of project information is not properly controlled and managed. This is one of the challenges of merging social with project management. However, there are ways and means to address these challenges, and as a result, social integration can become one of the bedrocks of a results-driven project management process.
Making an Informed Decision
It’s taking the social plunge that is really very difficult. Yes, using social concepts to improve team communication is an exciting prospect, but it’s important to know the pros and cons of implementing social into your project management strategy. If you believe your project information is too sensitive to be shared through the social matrix, avoid using social. Yes, the security of social media networks is improving all the time, but being doubly sure that a social network’s privacy features will ensure data safety is the first step toward social integration in project management.
The idea is to know everything there is to know about how social can prop up the professional interaction dynamics within your project management team, and then implementing it.