Monday, March 01, 2010

How to use social media to help manage a project?

This post is an elaboration of my interview conducted by PMI which will be featured in the upcoming March 2010 issue of PM Network magazine (PMPs on FB OMG!).

I see social media as a new communication/team building tool that all Project Managers, at some point in the future, will have in their PM toolbox.  This concept has been named Project Management 2.0 (or Enterprise 2.0) which means project managers will use Web 2.0 concepts to manage parts of their projects.

I think the 4 main areas where this will be most effective are:

  1. Project status updates
  2. Discussions
  3. Team building
  4.  Process management

Project Status updates

How about a blog which is open to all team members who weekly post their project updates.  This would be useful for international teams.

A Twitter like function that can send out a short update or link to a photo of your project progress (maybe it is a construction project) to your team and it would also keep your updates in one location for all of your team members to view later if needed.

A Wiki that is open to all team members to insert lessons learned throughout the project.  Currently, VistaPrint is using a Wiki to capture their programming issues and government agencies, like the CIA (tied-in with others), are using Wiki’s to track “persons of interest”.

Or how about team members giving their updates via a video? I honestly don't think this one would work ... yet.


After that face to face discussion to gather requirements, put it in a discussion forum and send a link to the team to continue the discussion.  This will allow team members to enter items on their time (you just never know when you will have that ah-ha moment).  You can also use it to discuss potential risks, develop budgets, propose questions to the team or even brainstorm about solving project issues.

Team building

If each team member has a profile photo and a short bio it may help your team members learn about their team.  This is especially important with international teams.  Or have a link to team members that have a linkedin page, Facebook page (oh look! My team member Bobbie went to Vegas this last weekend! We will have to chat about that at our next project meeting) or blogs. Currently Serena Software is using Facebook and is seeing many positive results with their international teams.  Also, NewsGator offers a Facebook like plug-in for SharePoint.

Process Management

How about we use a little web 2.0 technology to management scope change requests?  The old way was to formally present (or complete a change request form) to the executive staff the change and the impact on the project.  If we use an application like SharePoint we can quickly create a workflow that includes the change, impact and then each Executive can review, comment and then check yes or no and signoff (digital signature).  When a comment is entered the PM will be notified by email.  Now you have a full discussion and documentation on the decision instead of meeting minutes that would of said, “the additional requirement was approved” (how boring).

Some of the naysayers of PM 2.0 think these tools would never work with projects like a “$200M ERP rollout, or a manned space flight avionics program, or maybe an interstate highway project”.  Companies like Pfizer are already using these concepts for managing the development of new drug products and medical devices (from a concept to a product typically takes ~1 billion dollars which includes clinical trials at hundreds of clinical sites in multiple countries).  Oh yeah, I almost forgot … NASA is currently investigating social media too (checkout the slides).

The key to making this work in the future will be one stand-alone system that will have all of these features in one place.  This will allow a one stop shop for PM’s to turn items on and off and for team members to get project information from one place and updates from their projects on one page (just like Facebook).  SharePoint has many of these features (or if they are not there you can buy plug-ins from vendors).  I would prefer to run my projects within SharePoint then having all the project information within the head of the PM.

Slide show:

What the F**K is Social Media: One Year Later

Notable Quote:

PM 2.0 is nothing more then a new communication tool. Will 2.0 help with the 4 area's above? Maybe or maybe not, but it may open up communications to help discuss about them. –Ryan Endres


  1. Hi Ryan,

    We've created a purpose built Project 2.0 environment, called Psoda, for project collaboration in a slightly more structured way. This allows the data to be re-used and rolled-up for example into programmes or portfolios of work. Rather than splitting your project data across a number of different Web 2.0 tools you can have it all in one place.

    Kind regards,

  2. As I've commented before on your blog, I'm a big fan of "PM 2.0" or "Web 2.0 tools applied to PM" or whatever we want to call this. The problem is: I am largely alone. Many of my ex-colleagues are still very uncomfortable with Facebook, don't use Twitter and certainly don't blog. Wiki? Unheard of. Most of the companies I know do not even allow access to such tools through their firewalls. I have already written about Sharepoint (love it): it was not the software that was the problem, but getting the team members to use it.
    The problem is: e-mail is still too easy to use, still too accessible. And, as such, still remains the principle method of communicating on a project, as inefficient as it is.
    I fear that, until most people are comfortable with web 2.0 in their personal lives, it'll be a long while before we can use such tools easily on our projects.

  3. The problem of adoption of social media is indeed a big problem - there is no way it will help you unless you use it. On the other hand i do understand why a lot of companies block social media - ineffective use of it is legendary.
    One of the possible solutions (and from my experience the most effective one) is use of project management software, which will include benefits of social media, without provoking of time wastage.
    Elizabeth mentioned email, and that is the reason why we adopted software we use now (Wrike). Apart from necessary pm features, it integrates with your email! Now we have activity stream, notifications, comments and descriptions within one application. And it does not have unnecessary stuff one might waste time on.

  4. Thanks !

  5. I am a software developer and our comapny has developed a software which incorporate all above features from team management to discussions or comments.But i don't think this is something related to social discussion which are more open.

  6. Thank you for this post,
    I want to tell you that we widely use social media for some of our projects (mostly for PR with our customers and community), but the most of all we use collaborative software like VIP Task Manager to allocate, plan and track our tasks (it is how we socialize in our team daily) - it works for all things that you mentioned in this article (project status updates, discussion, team building and process management). I think this kind of IT-based support is also very essential and effective for modern business efforts. You can check this system as a typical example and research how this kind of systems influences work of modern project managers. Thanks and looking forward to more posts from you!


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