Social task management is getting a lot of press lately, and a number of vendors are adding the capability to their products. Unfortunately, there is some confusion about the difference between social task management and social project management. Hopefully this short post can help to clarify the differences.
In short, social task management provides users to define a “to do list on steroids”, share/assign the list with others, and some provide the ability to define an ad hoc “workflow” to the tasks. Jive SBS (Tasks) and IBM Connections (Activities) have permutations of this feature, and each have attempted to argue that the future of “project management” is in social task management. In contrast, social project management is the leveraging of the social network of an organization to deliver rigorous project more effectively and efficiently. (See here, and this series)
Here’s the first “problem”. Social task management is just that. Task management. Project management has never been about task management. Tasks are usually far more granular than the items that would appear as activities and deliverables on a work breakdown structure. Tasks are usually self-defined, and often responsive to very small changes in the environment. Tasks, due to their “ad-hoc” nature do not lend themselves to planning and reporting.
The second “problem” with the embedding of “social” task management into every silo software solution is that the social component becomes restricted to those who have access to the software, and who participate in the work process into which it is embedded (see this post as to the importance of embedding social business processes into a larger social platform).
So, in reality social task management is usually just “process-related” task management, and has little (if any) resemblance to “social” business, and no resemblance to project management.
However, social project management and social task management serve complementary purposes, and can be used together when task management is enabled at the social platform level (rather than in siloed applications). Let’s look at how this might work. In a social project management application, the work is broken down into the smallest pieces that make sense when looking at the project. However, there are a myriad of “tasks” that are related to most of these project work breakdown items. Who hasn’t had a project manager assign a task, and then gone and created a “to do” list of tasks that are needed to complete the “project task”. Of course that “to do” list is almost never truly accomplished by your solitary work. Others are asked to assist, find information, look over what you’ve done, etc. In a sense, your “to do” list becomes a “micro-project” that you manage, embedded into a larger, enterprise project.
In this sense, the “activity” feature of IBM Connections is most like the idea of a “micro” project. It allows multiple people to collaborate on a task list, allows for information to be shared, and, let’s you collaborate ad hoc to get small sets of work done. The ProjExec social project management software from Trilog Group (http://www.triloggroup.com) allows users to directly create IBM Connections activities from their project-level tasks – enabling this concept of micro projects linked to enterprise-level projects. Together the two systems are very powerful. The project can be managed at the correct level, without requiring the smallest (and immaterial) tasks to be tracked in the plan, and each project user can create their own micro projects in Activities, collaborate on that work, and track the minutia there.
Social Project Management and Social Task Management are very different things. Use them in the right place for the right “tasks”.
This post was written by John Tripp, Social Project Management Evangelist at Trilog Group.