I've discussed this one before and I've even written about it before, but I remain a bit skeptical on the topic and I welcome the opportunity for someone to sway me towards social media as a significant online project management software tool. Let's look at this a little further.
Awhile back I wrote and article about my experiment using Facebook as a communication tool on a small project. I wanted to see if it would meet my needs and my team's needs for collaboration on a project. After all, we weren't using another other web-based project management software tool at the time and a few others in the industry were touting social media as the next great tool in the project management world.
My finding on that experiment was that while it Facebook did successfully provide our team with a tool to communicate our task status on a regular basis it wasn't yet up to par with what I truly would want from a collaborative social media tool for a project undertaking.
In my experiment, each team member created an alternative Facebook account - we decided not to use our main Facebook accounts for obvious reasons .... mainly so we wouldn't bore our friends and family to death ... but also for information privacy reasons. I also requested that each team member remain logged into - and regularly check - their Facebook account throughout the day as well as post morning and afternoon ‘status' updates of what they were working on. This kept me updated and it kept them accountable. From this perspective, it was successful. Communication on status issues was swift and frequent - which is a great luxury in the PM world. Where it failed was in the online document collaboration category. There is no recourse for sharing and storing versions of document deliverables - at least not at this time. There are third-party means, I believe, by which to make this happen, but I was looking at the Facebook application itself as the only tool, not third-party apps.
I recently read an article from back in January 2010 discussing 2010 Trends in Project Management. One of the trends - #5 to be exact - said that social media will become the norm. It discusses the assumption that email is not strong enough communication tool for the virtual team in this age. Social media is a necessity in order to communicate and disperse information rapidly to a widely dispersed project team. It goes on to state that social media sites and sharing apps such as Twitter, blogging, instant messaging, Facebook, LinkedIn, Sharepoint will become more of an expectation rather than a novelty for use when managing our projects. More and more project professionals will use this in conjunction with their existing project management software - likely with varying degrees of success, especially as the waters are being tested on larger and more visible projects.
Are we there yet? No. At this point, from a project management perspective, I believe that social media tools such as the ones described in this article are still - and will continue to be for at least the near future - a novelty. We'll test them out as our time and organizations allow us to. But it is going to take considerable time and proven accomplishments before large organizations accept what we consider to be some of the current mainstream social media avenues like Twitter and Facebook as viable online project management software tools for effectively managing our projects. Security concerns, lack of proven success history, professional etiquette, and risk fears will keep large players from allowing their IT departments and project managers to open up this means of communication for their projects and with their customers for at least the near future.
Brad Egeland is an IT/Project Management consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is a married, Christian father of 7 living in Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.