Social media meets project management – can they co-exist?

21 September 2010
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Project management practitioners understand that their ultimate objective is to get projects finished on time and on budget.  However, their biggest challenge is managing the unexpected that inevitably emerges during the life cycle of their projects.  Making order out of chaos is what truly defines the quality of a project management professional.   In light of this reality, great project managers understand that the project management tools developed to assist them in their work must be carefully selected so that they facilitate their success.  The truth is, sound project management best practices need to drive project success and not the technology and tool sets offered up in the marketplace.  When implemented in the right context, we have seen the recent success of web-based and on-demand PPM tools contributing to the project management world.  Can this same success be attributed to social media tools?

Although recently social media has made inroads into corporate America by employees bringing in their favorite tools or the boardroom mandating an enterprise social computing policy, before diving into the social networking waters head first project management leaders must consider the impact these tools can have on their recipe for project success.   The nature of social media is to encourage democracy – everyone has a voice – everyone has a choice.   In theory, the aggressive ideals of collaboration pontificated by social networking are a good thing.   Social media allows project teams to provide and receive critical feedback on projects and their bottlenecks and accomplishments.  However too much of a good thing can be dangerous.  It is important to recognize that the nature of project management demands structure and the controlled sharing of information for its success.  In my opinion, if misused social media tools can have a devastating impact on a projects trajectory by potentially opening a Pandora’s Box that can facilitate the sharing of damaging or unproductive information that can distract project team members and stakeholders from the main objective of a project and in some cases completely derail a project altogether.

So does Social Media have its place in the project management world?  In my personal opinion, it does, but not as a strategic player.  That is not to say it has no place at all.  If anything, social media tools can offer an excellent value add by “broadcasting” controlled streams of information, such as sharing regular project and/or status reports via twitter or RSS feeds keeping project stakeholders in loop on a need to know basis.  Like any available technology, social media tools need to be used in the right context.

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