Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The future of project communication…

History has shown us that communication in project management has changed over the years and it will continue to change. 

If we look back 25 plus years, project management was mainly done by face to face meetings and telephone calls.  Project information was kept in a “Project Room” that held items like the WBS, Gantt chart and other paper project documents.

Approximately 20 years ago we saw internal company emails start up and then email escaped from the walls of our offices to the outside world in 1993.  This was a new form of communication which led us to share our thoughts, project updates and share project documents with our team members.  Here we saw the naysayers who thought email was counterproductive, impersonal and would lead to a higher rate of failed projects.

About 10 years ago we started to see the beginning of social media growing in blogs, discussion boards and social connections ( comes to mind).  In 2001 I lead a project to develop a web based project dashboard which had project sites that PM’s could post updates, issues log, risk log, action log and a document library.  We also had discussion boards within our Lotus email system and we created a section for employees to add a headshot, their background and their hobbies.  This allowed us to run our projects more efficiently since our company employees were located in 4 countries.

And here we are today.

Again, just like 20 years ago there are the naysayers of using new technologies to manage our projects (Glen Alleman who blogs at Herding Cats is a firm believer that the Project Management 2.0 is “IT centric, and marketing hype” and “Project communication is NOT done through the narrow pipe of a 128 character half duplex ASCII character set messaging system”).  It seems like this email thing has caught on?  But will project members really prefer to have a common location to get status updates, project discussions, information on team members and project documents?  Or will they prefer to continue to have project documents in a shared drive on a network you may not have access to and critical project information which is only in the head of the PM who is on vacation?

My prediction is the “New Generation of Project Mangers” (Gen-Y and part of Gen-X) will expect Web 2.0 type of communication in their projects because they have grown up with the internet and can see the power of collaboration applications like Facebook, wiki’s, blogs and discussion forums.

Notable Quote:

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."  -  Alvin Toffler


  1. Ryan, YES, new communication mediums (tools) are changing the way we communicate with others.

    However, let's put the focus on how to be EFFECTIVE in our COMMUNICATIONS using tools (technology).

    The challenge for a person, including project managers, is being an effective communicator. Using the right tool(s) at the right time to communicate the right message(s) to the right audience(s) may be the best approach to achieve success.

    Beware of putting the focus on the tool (technology)and missing the target on EFFECTIVELY communicating to your audience(s) to achieve the objective of the task/ project/program/purposeful activity.

    Looking at the younger generation to determine what will be the norm in the near future is sound.

    Are the younger generation communication habits effective, productive, self satisfying? An ongoing question I pose to my teenagers who use Facebook, text messaging, Youtube, rely on wikis for facts, etc... They spend a larger portion of their time on this Earth SITTING and COMMUNICATING ONLINE compared to the previous generations that spent more time interacting/communicating in person.

    Are they more effective communicators and in turn more effective in achieving a purposeful activity?

    Good Topic, Good Quote


    A link to more tools to consider:

  2. Andrew,

    I agree with you 100% that you need to make sure you are using the right tools. In many cases good old face to face meetings are still the best way to relay the information.

    Thanks for the link!

  3. Ryan,
    It's no Web 2.0 I object to, it's the notion that PM 2.0 is the source of success on projects.

    That the tools of Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 are replacements for the core processes of good project management.


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