CQU Project Management education

How social tools work for project management

Liz Pearce
May 9, 2013

There’s no question that project management is a social job. Good project managers communicate, build consensus, persuade, and influence others to achieve goals. With the rise of social software platforms, many of them are coming to believe that transparent collaboration and planning make for faster work flow, better results and happier teams.

A social, people-central project management environment centralises communication, gives team members visibility into every phase of their projects, grants individuals responsibility and autonomy for their interconnected tasks, and removes teams from the silos of email. As a result, everyone’s time is used more effectively and efficiently and no one is wasting time chasing down updates or being left in the dark guessing about the status of your project.

Teams using a non-collaborative scheduling tool, those that are centralised or managed by one person, suffer a number of frustrations: unclear priorities, people working on tasks that aren’t the best use of their time, and missed deadlines because one person is picking end-dates without a clear picture of how long tasks take: the list goes on.

As a result, businesses are now implementing project management software that is more social for several reasons. Collaborative project tools provide one location for all interactions—reviewing documents, making comments, assigning tasks—and eliminate the patchwork of planning tools that often includes email, spreadsheets, and sticky notes. When it comes to project administration, many hands make better and more manageable work, and a more accurate schedule. If updating the schedule is solely the project manager’s responsibility, it falls quickly out of date due to daily firefighting, coordination, meetings, and vacations.

Social project management provides transparency into the production cycle and project needs to meet a deadline. This open plan structure creates a clear understanding of how all players are contributing to the team, which encourages the commitment and participation from team members required for success.

Teams prefer technology for internal collaboration that aligns with the use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and instant messaging software. This means incorporating commenting features that support team members communicating throughout the lifecycle of a project or task; showing conversation threads as a bird’s eye overview of what all team members are saying about their projects (think Facebook wall); having one location to store documents and all their revisions, and receiving notification alerts when work is ready.

Eliminating email overload

Less email clutter is another benefit of collaborative project management.  Email overload is a common affliction that comes with the following costly side effects: huge amounts of wasted time, difficulty locating information, and ‘lost’ business intelligence. When projects are overseen by a single manager, they’re often dependent upon email to move things along. I don’t have to remind you what a drag it can be to get an inbox filled with 20 email threads on a single project or task.

Ask me about the future of project management, and I’ll tell you that social planning tools will be the new normal for high performing teams. Instead of referencing outdated Gantt charts, people will be crossing off checklists and referencing real-time schedules. The scatter of emails, spreadsheets and manual updates will be replaced by projects managed in one space that holds every comment, conversation, document draft and team member who’s involved.

The benefits are already striking at the core of our clients’ businesses. Tangent Engineering saw a 30-40% increase in the amount of projects they could handle after using our social project management scheduler. Beneport, an enrolment solutions business, went from capturing 20% of a project’s tasks in individual spreadsheets to 100% of their task details using a social and collaborative tool. In a third example, a team leader at Rotork, the world’s leading manufacturer of industrial valve actuators, reported that managers and directors had more confidence that projects would meet estimated deadlines after his team started managing projects in one central planning location.

If you’re looking to help your team to heighten performance and to maintain its competitive edge, take a good look at the tools and processes you use to get work done. You might find that a shift to social project management is just what you need to move the needle.

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Liz Pearce
Liz Pearce is the chief executive officer of LiquidPlanner, a collaboration and project management tool development company. She has worked for Sony Computer Entertainment America, Google, and Amazon.com in marketing, product and project management roles. Pearce holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Communications and a Masters of Arts in Telecommunications from The George Washington University.
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