Social Media in the Project Management Arena

One area of project management that is essential in delivering successful projects is good communication but defining good communication is sometimes hard. Social media is certainly an inherent part of communication in many people’s business and personal lives but is there a place for it in project management? Can it enhance communications or is it simply an unnecessary intrusion on the day-to-day running of a complex project?

Many projects make use of online project management tools and online repositories for project documentation to enable easy access to both the latest versions of essential documents and all previous versions whilst also being eco-friendly in limiting the number of paper copies produced.

But using the freely available social media tools is an altogether different matter and are there any real benefits over using regular email or actually speaking to someone in person. We’ve all heard of the managers who email their team with regular updates and requests when they sit at adjacent desks and this attitude does nothing to enhance communication – in fact, the opposite. Of course, you might want a written record of a request but why not talk to the team first and send the written document to confirm the details of a conversation in writing. After all good project management is not all about covering your back.

But in large corporations members of project teams are not necessarily located in the same building, country or even time zone so direct person-to-person communication is not always possible and this is where social media tools, with properly defined and controlled guidelines, can enhance communication across a disparate team.

Social media does not simply consist of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like – it also includes blogs, document repositories such as DropBox, video and podcasts – all ways of enhancing communication on projects with respect to project status, risks and concerns.

Social media in its broadest sense covers a whole range of easy-to-use and freely accessible online tools that encourage and simplify communication between a group of people with similar interests by enabling interactive conversations and the exchange of information irrespective of physical location. But the fact that these tools are freely and readily available means that they are not the ideal place for confidential information about an organisation’s projects. Their use should require clear guidelines on exactly what type of information could be shared even within an invited community of users because security issues should be paramount. However useful these sites might be they do not have the same level of security that an internal system would have – some do not have proper version control or user access controls so should not be used for communications relating to important or confidential project information.

However, a secure blog can be used to share project information, air concerns and encourage discussion and resolution of problems by everyone involved on the project in an interactive way that cannot be achieved if a team is spread across the globe. A secure blog can be set up on an internal domain with controlled access to provide all the advantages of a blog without the security issues.

A blog can also be used to display images and videos in a more secure environment than for example Flickr or YouTube whilst still benefitting from this means of communication. It can gather together links to useful external sites and documents and automatically generates an archive of posts and comments.

Where information is less sensitive or is simply for a one-time presentation, webinar or online meeting then there are other useful tools such as Scribd, MeetUp and SharePoint that are worth checking out.

So there are some social media tools that can enhance communication in a project management environment, particularly for teams that are not based in the same location but this improved communication must always be considered in the light of the security measures available and the sensitivity of the information being communicated. Ease of communication should never outweigh the security of the information being communicated.

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