Category Archives: Social Project Management

IBM Connections: The Market Leading Enterprise Social Platform

The news is out. IDC has announced that IBM Connections is yet again the #1 Social Media Platform, and its advantage is growing. We here at Trilog Group congratulate our partners at IBM for this excellent achievement, and we are proud to be a leading social business application provider for the IBM Connections platform.

Read the IDC report here.

Read Luis Benitez’ blog about this here.

ProjExec is the social project management solution for the IBM Connections platform. It provides full, rigorous project management capabilities, while also providing the social collaboration features that today’s teams require. Check it out below.

Advertisements

The Problem of Engagement in Social Business

Constellation Research blogged earlier this month about the issues that folks are seeing with social media adoption. Of course, as constellation research says, “People” are at the heart of any technology adoption process. Let’s summarize the info that Constellation provides.

First, Constellation argues that there are five leading barriers to adoption, 1) Poorly defined incentives, 2) Increase in actual effort, 3) Lack of choice in user experience, 4) Indifference to change, and 5) Failure to communicate the urgency.  There is really nothing new here, as these barriers are not unique to social business applications, but are applicable to any software adoption cycle.

Next, Constellation argues that there are five ways to counter these barriers, 1) Adopt gamification strategies, 2) Apply design thinking to transform, 3) Deliver options based on use case, 4) Align to self –interest, and 5) Define the business model shift. There is a little more meat here, so let’s try to pull it off the bone.

First, #1 – adopting gamification strategies. This is certainly all the rage these days. However, is a gamification strategy always a good way to incentivize participation? Definitely not. If a gamification-based incentive strategy is not linked to the need to perform actual work, participation will be perceived by employees as an ‘increase in actual effort’ – one of the barriers that was mentioned above. So, gamification might have a place, but it will not stand alone.

Next, #2 – Applying design thinking to transform. This one is so full of jargon it’s hard to draw out what is meant. However, if the real argument is to recognize that the desired outcome cannot be identified without trial, error, and adjustment (the hallmark of a scenario when design thinking is necessary), then this is clearly true. But it’s also not unique to a social business application implementation.

#3 – Deliver options based on use case. This is theoretically an excellent idea. However, in practice, most software development efforts barely have the budget to create a single, well-performing, interface, let alone multiple well performing ones. However, it is a truism in the mobile age that applications can no longer be PC-centric in their delivery mode.

#4 – Align to self-interest. Now we’re getting somewhere. The best way to maximize adoption of anything, is to appeal to the “what’s in it for me” aspect of the person involved. Really, the five barriers that are mentioned above really all come out of the person’s inability to see what’s in it for them. We’ll come back to this.

Finally, #5 – define the business model shift. This is really just another way to say #4.

So, in reality, barriers to adoption ALL arise from the lack of communicating “what’s in it for me” to the users. And this is the key disconnect between adoption of social media outside the enterprise, and the adoption of social media inside the enterprise. When a person *chooses* to adopt a social media technology outside the context of work, it is just that, a choice, and it is voluntary. The person herself defines what is in it for them, and then chooses to adopt or not. She cannot be compelled, she cannot be forced. She is incentivized to participate by the value that participation brings to her.

In the business social context, the market dynamic is distorted by the fact that participation in enterprise apps can be made mandatory – without the value of the participation being real to the user. This is the source of the barriers identified above, and the force that is attempted to be mitigated by the actions that Constellation recommends. However, the five actions that constellation recommends will simply not work, if actual value is not provided for participation. For instance, gamification strategies do not provide real value for the person involved unless, as Constellation argues, you create tangible and intangible benefits for participating. But is the goal of a social business implementation simple participation? Or is the goal participation with the intention of getting business done more effectively and efficiently? Should I implement software for which I must create new incentives for participation, or should I implement software that is inherently congruent with existing incentives? Should I incentivize people for playing the “game”, or for getting things “done”?

The reality is that social business platform and application adoption strategies like those argued for by Constellation put the cart before the horse. If a technology helps people complete their actual jobs better, and is easy to understand and use, almost every person will see the value to participation and will choose to participate, rather than having to be forced to participate, or cajoled into participation with weak incentives like gift cards, etc.

Social business platforms and applications will no longer have an adoption problem if 1) they integrate real business processes into the platform, so that the platform is the way the process is done, and 2) the new “social” way to do the process is better than the old way of doing things.

How do companies work toward making this the case? First, they create a social platform, and integrate apps into it, so that islands of “social” software do not create impediments to easy enterprise collaboration. Second, they integrate social business applications into the platform to multiply the value of the platform. Finally, they apply social when necessary, and don’t just hit everything with the “social” hammer. Not all processes are best managed using social business applications.

When an organization provides a social business platform and ecosystem that provides value to their employees, participation will not be something that has to be enforced, but will be something that is natural and organic. The kinds of prescriptions in the blog listed above are indicative of organizations that still must “convince” their users that there is value for them in participation – which probably means that there is not.

The Collapsing Universe of Social Business

Dion Hinchcliffe over at the Enterprise 2.0 blog asks “Will Social Software Startups ‘Collapse into the orbit’ of the big vendors?“. He shows just a small subset of the mergers and acquisitions in the space in the past few years, and the picture painted is one of significant consolidation in the social media playing field.

This is a predictable shift, based upon our view of social business software, and the symbiotic relationships between social business platforms and social business applications. Because siloed social business applications make little sense (see here), it is a natural progression for social business application vendors to become closely bound to particular vendors’ platforms. Once the integration between the systems becomes close enough, and enough customers exist for the social business application, it is rather likely that many of the social business applications will be consolidated into platform vendors like IBM, Jive, Salesforce.com, and, Microsoft. Because the number of integrated business processes multiplies the value of the platform itself, it is a natural progression to see these platform vendors expanding the natural value of the platforms through acquisition.

Social Project Management – Narrating the project as it happens.

A new term is emerging to describe the paradigm of social business interaction – narration. I really like this term, as it gives a little bit better mental picture of what goes on when using an enterprise social platform, or a social business application like ProjExec.

What happens in a consumer social environment like Facebook is that people “narrate” their lives. So,  in a social business environment, workers can learn to “narrate” their work. In a previous post, we argued that social business applications help to make work “observable”, and more recently we’ve argued that a key benefit of social project management (and other social applications) is to “make the invisible, visible”.

For a moment, think about going through life with one of your senses missing. In these cases, humans’ other senses are heightened, either naturally via adaptation and increased development, or via utilizing additional, external tools (cane, hearing aid, etc.) to provide additional environmental feedback that is not provided due to the loss or reduction of a sense. More specifically, a person who is blind can be assisted by a “narrator” who can give them information about a new or modified environment. This is not to say that the blind person could not find information about the environment herself, but this information is greatly enriched by the presence of the narration.

In the same way, business processes, particularly knowledge workers’ processes are black boxes. From a certain point of view, businesses are “blind” to the current state of many of their processes. Knowledge processes are notoriously difficult to observe – so much so that identifying the current state of a knowledge process is almost impossible. In addition, distribute teams lose significant observability that comes from being collocated. However, social business changes both of these issues – IF the people executing the process “narrate” it as it happens.

In a project execution process, narration typically happens during status reporting meetings, by project managers chasing down people for updates, in daily stand up meetings, etc. In a social project management environment, this can happen via narration by individuals (and by the software itself) on the project activity stream. Instead of the team only having visibility at the point of a status meeting, instead of the business not being able to see the actual work that is happening “right now”, a narrated project provides the business with awareness of the project, in real time, as it happens.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to see several friends and acquaintances that I haven’t seen “in person” for a very long time (think more than 10 years).  Some of these friends were also “Facebook friends” and some were not. While I was very excited to see each one of them, our “reunions” exhibited very different dynamics.  For the friends who were NOT my Facebook friends, we shared stories about what had happened since the last time we’d seen each other, what our current jobs and lives were like, our pets, our kids’ achievements, etc. – basically what has been discussed at class or family reunions since the dawn of reunions. However, when speaking with the friends who are connected to me via Facebook, these conversations and discussions were interrupted repeatedly by “Yeah, I saw that on Facebook.” or “Yeah, I know.” Instead of recapping our lives, we talked about our future plans, and did so in a great deal more depth than in those encounters when we spent a lot of time discussing the past.

In a real sense, reunions are our opportunity to give status reports on our lives to those people who cannot observe it themselves. These status reports become much less necessary when we are providing a regular narration of our lives to our social network.

The same dynamic applies when our project teams narrate the work of a project. We need far fewer status reporting sessions, because everyone is being made aware of things as they happen. We develop a sense of “knowing” amongst the project team, and we can focus more of our time on getting the work done, and less time performing work about work.

So, give Social Project Management a try. Narrate your business processes. Become social every day, so that you can focus on the future, rather than the past.

As always, let us know what you think in the comments.

(This post was written by John Tripp, Social Project Management Evangelist at Trilog Group. Trilog Group is the maker of ProjExec, the social project management solution for the IBM Collaboration Platform environments. ProjExec is available for IBM Connections, IBM SmartCloud, IBM Lotus Quickr, and IBM Websphere Portal.)

The 5 Questions You Should Ask Any Social Project Management Vendor – Part 5

This is the fifth in a series of five posts

Let’s summarize what we’ve asked so far. In our first post, we asked, “How does your tool allow me to leverage the expertise of my entire organization?” , and noted that the first question begins to illuminate whether what is being sold is “social software” at all. Next we asked “Does your software support real project management?”, and discussed the lack of support for the project management role and practice within many online and social task management systems. We then turned to needs of the team, and asked “Do you provide what my team needs to collaborate fully on the project while minimizing the impact of project management tasks on project completion.” In that post we argued that social project management systems need all of the online collaboration tools that the web can provide, but also need the ability to structure that collaboration around project task completion and status reporting – in order to minimize work about work. In the fourth post, we asked “Does your software support what management – outside the team – needs?”, and emphasized the need for the social network of the project – management included – to be given access to the project data in real time, and to participate in the project fully.

In this post we ask a question that is related to many of the previous posts, namely “Does your software support our enterprise social strategy?”. If you haven’t yet developed an enterprise social strategy, you most likely will in the next year or two. An enterprise social strategy is a key step in ensuring that investments in are leveraged and exploited as fully as possible. Remember that (as we’ve stated before) Metcalfe’s law posits that the value of a network increases non-linearly to the increase of the nodes (think people in our case) connected to the network. This holds for a “single-purpose” network. However, for a multi-purpose network, of which a social network is an instance, the potential value of the network is also multiplied by the number of “uses” for which the network is employed. In the context of the business value of enterprise social, these “uses” equate to business processes that are integrated with the social network.

For this reason every company who makes a material investment in social software needs to be sure that those investments are compatible. So, in a fashion,  Question 5 closes the loop with Question 1. In the first post we asked if the software was capable of leveraging connections to a greater social network. This post gets to the core idea of whether the software leverages connections with the “right” enterprise social network. As of this posting, we are aware of three project management systems that integrate with larger social networking systems. Goshido and Wrike integrate with the Jive SBS system, and ProjExec integrates with IBM Connections, IBM Lotus Quickr, and IBM SmartCloud. (We will not use this post to compare and contrast those systems directly. Also, if you know of more systems that integrate with enterprise social platforms, comment below, and we’ll add them to the list.) So, if you are an IBM Social Collaboration software shop, ProjExec gives you unique opportunities to leverage your enterprise social investment, and if you’re a Jive SBS customer, Goshido and Wrike do the same for you.

Hopefully, this series has given you something to think about when conceptualizing social project management, and social software in general. We hope that it is valuable to you. As always, we’d love your comments below.

This series of articles was written by John Tripp, Social Project Management Evangelist at Trilog Group (www.triloggroup.com)

The 5 Questions You Should Ask Any Social Project Management Vendor – Part 4

(This post is the fourth in a series of five)

In this post we discuss something that many collaborative software vendors don’t talk a lot about…how does the software support the needs of upper management and stakeholders?

Back in post one, we argued that for a social project management software product to be considered “social”, it should be integrated into the enterprise social platform, the “social fabric” of the organization. This is because so many of the operations of the project team, including issue resolution, expertise identification, status reporting, etc., are impacted by the social processes that are  possible only when integrated into the wider social network of the organization.

This post focuses on another by-product of the software being socially embedded into the organization by asking the question: “Does your software support what management – outside the team – needs?”.

The core premise of social business applications and, of course, social project management is that they leverage the social network of the organization. For this reason social business applications must consider the needs of all of the types of users for whom social ties exist. Realistically, project teams’ have three key classes of social ties – team members (of many types), project management, and stakeholders.

Unfortunately, while many web collaboration systems provide a number of the features required by a project team, few think about the greater needs of the program and portfolio management team, to say nothing of director-level or executive-level management. In some cases, this is due to the ideological stance of the vendor – those seeking to “democratize” projects, or to make teams more “egalitarian” see little value in recognizing the reality of the large, hierarchical enterprise and the requirements that these organizations place on the project manager and team. In these cases, project managers are often left with the tedious task of converting the information stored in the web project management system into reporting and other templates necessary for communication with upper management.

Just as a social project management system must provide visibility and engagement for the project team, it must provide the same ability for visibility and engagement for stakeholders. It can do this in many ways, but most importantly it should:

  1. Promote engagement by allowing stakeholders to not only view, but participate in the social activity stream of the project.
  2. Promote visibility by providing project and portfolio-level reporting for stakeholders – in real-time – without requiring additional project team or project management overhead to provide it.

Unless the system expects stakeholders to directly interact in the social process of the project, and unless the system provides the functionality for the stakeholders to transparently see the progress of the project, it will fall down on this point. Why should project stakeholders not be part of the same “democratization” of project information that is properly recognized as being a key requirement for social business?

Project stakeholders often complain that their project teams are a “black box”, that they cannot see into. Interestingly, many project team members often are unaware of the power that they possess to keep information hidden from stakeholders (of course, others are far too aware of that power). Because of this, the ability for stakeholders to have constant, real-time, and transparent information regarding project progress is often an unrecognized need, or an intentionally neglected need, when evaluating project management systems.

So, a social project management system engages the social ties with stakeholders in the same fashion as it engages project team members. By providing the information that each person needs, when they need it, while minimizing the work necessary to provide that information.

The 5 Questions You Should Ask Any Social Project Management Vendor – Part 3

(This post is the third in a series of five)

In the first two posts of this series (here and here), we discussed that the first order of business when dealing with a social project management software vendor is to determine first, if they are selling social software at all, and second,  if they are selling project management software. In this post we discuss something that most vendors claim to provide – support for social enabled teamwork and collaboration.

The third question that you should ask any social project management software vendor is: “Do you provide what my team needs to collaborate fully on the project while minimizing the impact of project management tasks on project completion.” In order to deliver on this question, a project management software system must (1) help the team to connect together to collaborate, (2) allow as much project information as possible to be shared widely and openly, and (3) provide capabilities for project team members to perform their “project management” tasks easily, and preferably, transparently.

Team Transparency and Interconnectedness

Too often, projects are plagued by a lack of transparency and connectedness, both between the project team members, and between the team and the project manager. This is even more true when teams are geographically distributed. Transparency and connectedness is typically highest in teams that are collocated in the same room. This is due to the ambient awareness that emerges within a group of people who have few barriers to their ability to “catch” portions of conversations, body language, and other non-verbal communication cues. As barriers to the development of ambient awareness, via walls, miles, or organizational barriers, transparency and connectedness become more difficult to maintain. This is one place where social software has a potential transformative application.

Most software applications that claim to be “social” apps utilize the concept of an activity stream, or a “wall” that shows a continual stream of updates. This concept is, of course, most famously implemented in the Facebook wall (now News Feed), and is becoming nearly ubiquitous in the “social” software implementation. What makes this activity stream so important is that, when well used, it is nearest approximation that we have yet devised to the stream of “ambient” information available in the environment when we are near other people. In fact, there is emerging research that illustrates that people are better able to “make sense” of a number of small chunks of information than of a large, detailed document.

Further, as the nature of the information within the activity stream becomes more diverse (as when multiple apps are integrated into an enterprise social system), the activity stream becomes even more like a real project team environment, where multiple tasks and execution contexts are simultaneously occurring .

Finally, to be clear, an activity stream is NOT a discussion forum. Although it exhibits characteristics of a forum, an activity stream’s value and power come from the fact that the information in the stream can be posted by people intentionally, people unintentionally, and by the system itself. Intentional posts are the “status updates”, questions, and other pieces of information that people add to the stream. On Facebook, this might be the cute photo of your kid, or your post about the fact that you were stuck in traffic for an hour.  Unintentional posts are the “by-products” of action within a system. On Facebook, this might be a notice that you’ve “leveled-up” on Mafia Wars, or that you’re listening to Billy Joel on Spotify. In a social project management system, an unintentional post might tell the team that you’ve just finished a task, that you’ve added a document to the document library, or that you’ve just opened an issue that affects the team. Finally, system posts are those posts that humans are not directly involved with. On Facebook, it might be a “friend suggestion”. In a social project management system, it might be a notification to the team that the project has crossed an action threshold, or has missed a deadline.

In short, the integrated and diverse nature of the information on an activity stream helps increased transparency and interconnectedness on your project team.

Access to Project Information

However, far more information is generated and consumed on a project team than what is represented on the activity stream. Project schedules, documents, issues, changes, reports – the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, in most projects these documents are restricted in their distribution and are, in some cases, limited in the access that project team members have to them.

Here is one area where social project management is most closely related to Project Management 2.0. Social project management systems embrace the PM 2.0 concept of the democratization of data access, even while at the same time ensuring proper control over data modification. By this, we argue that Project Management 2.0 had it right when it argued that all of the project information should be available to and accessible by the project team, no matter where they are. However, we also hold strongly to the perspective that most projects still need to be managed, and that certain documents such as the project schedule, still need to be controlled by the project manager. The project plan (and, depending on your project other documents as well) should be always available online to the entire team, but must be able to be controlled.

So, a social project management system is differentiated from a Project Management 2.0 system in the capability to control project information granularly, while ensuring the constant and broad access to the same information.

Project Management Task Execution

Finally, a social project management system isn’t very useful without assisting in the maintenance and completion of project tasks. A social project management system differentiates itself from a social task management system in that the tasks represented in a social project management system are tied back to the real project plan that is the heart of the project (the differences between these systems will be expanded upon in a later post). Rather than a simple to do list, in a social project management system the project tasks assigned to each team member in the project plan are surfaced to each team member. More importantly, when a project team member updates their task list, by marking a task partially complete, or fully complete, or by adding a comment to the task, or attaching a document to the task, this information is reflected in the system wherever it is relevant. Task status updates appear on the wall, the Gantt chart is automatically updated, project and portfolio reports reflect the change, and other people assigned to the task can see the document and comments.

In short, a social project management system should strive to minimize the “work about work”, and let reporting and (appropriate) communication be a by-product of action. Gone should be the days when a project manager chases down the team for task status updates. A team member should never have to wonder if a team member finished a blocking task. This information, and much more, should be represented in the system with as few manual steps as possible.

In summary, a social project management system should (1) help a team to be integrated and connected by simulating as closely as possible the interactions that are only really possible when collocated, should (2) democratize the data of a project, without eliminating necessary controls, and should (3) streamline and eliminate as much “work about work” as possible.

Stay tuned for question #4. Please comment below.