Category Archives: Social Project Management

The 5 Questions You Should Ask Any Social Project Management Vendor – Part 2

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

In the first post in this series, we argued that in order for a project management software provider to claim that it is providing “social” project management, it first must show that its product, in fact, a social business application. In this post, we will argue that the second thing that a project management software provider must illustrate is whether their product is, in fact, a project management software application.

Project management software is everywhere, and it seems like every day a new project management product appears. Lately, this trend has become evident with social project management software as well. As these products (with very different capabilities) multiply, it is important to understand the key capabilities of social project management software, so as to cut through the noise.

In order to cut right to the chase, the second question that you should ask your social project management software vendor is: “Do you support what my project managers need?” or, in other words, “Does your software support real project management?” There is a very tangible difference between collaboration systems that allow simple task list management, and a project management system that allows for hierarchical project work breakdown structures that include thousands of tasks, with constraints, split task assignments, critical path and over-allocation analysis, and financial planning and tracking. True enough, many very small teams do not require all of these features, but a project management system must have the capability to support all of these things.

In addition to the ability to track large numbers of tasks with very detailed information, a project management system must support the discipline of project control management. Rather than a free-for-all, in which anyone on the project can add and change the commitments of the project team, a project manager must have the ability to track tasks, control the addition of new tasks, track the reasons why those tasks were added (or changed), and provide the ability to report against baselines. Therefore, a project management system must provide true issue management, change management, and traceability of all tasks to associated changes and issues. In short, the project manager is still central to the management of the project, and her project management system must allow her to enforce the discipline of the project.

NOTE: This argument may seem to fly in the face of the “democratization” argument and the “self-managed” team wave, but it does not. While we completely agree about the democratization of project management DATA (which will be addressed in our next post), we couldn’t disagree more with the notion that any but the smallest teams, working on limited scope projects, can truly “self-manage”. Realistically, even these teams are being managed – it is simply the customer that is performing the “project management” for them.

Finally, a social project management system should augment the features described above by integrating them into the social fabric of the organization. Issues should be “crowdsourceable”, conversations from the activity stream should be able to be tracked as issues, estimates of change impacts should be able to be voted on by the team, people and tasks on the project plan should be able to be tagged in posts, and so on and so on.

We are unaware of any product that has, at the time of this post, truly leveraged the social paradigm in a fully integrated way as described in the previous paragraph. But a social project management system should at least have the capability to track all of the items discussed, and a vendor should have the vision to deliver to the promise described above.

To be clear…your social project management system must be able to support…drum roll please…project management. Team collaboration + task management is not enough.

In summary, we believe that the first two questions you should ask your social project management software vendors establish the bona fides of the product – is it a social business application, and is it a project management application…if one of those two is missing, the rest of the questions might not matter. Stay tuned, and comment below.

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The 5 Questions You Should Ask Any Social Project Management Vendor – Part 1

(This post is the first in a series of five.)

Social Project Management is increasingly being recognized as a dominant future trend in the evolution of Project Management, and “social project management” software vendors are multiplying rapidly. But are they all selling Social Project Management? There is already a distinction emerging between “Social Project Management” and “Social Task Management”, but even these categories, along with many vendors’ pitches, are doing little but muddying the waters. We think that there are five questions that you should ask any social project management vendor to identify what their offering really is.

First and foremost, ask your vendors “How does your tool allow me to leverage the expertise of my entire organization?” As we’ve noted here, here, and here, social project management isn’t really about collaboration per se (although that is a key part of it). Collaboration tools have been available for decades. Slapping the label “Social” on a product, or adding an activity stream to a product doesn’t make it a “social” business application at all.

Social business applications, and social project management specifically, need to be integrated into the enterprise social network of the organization. Project Management 2.0 vendors complained  that most project tools were only for the project manager. But vendors such as AtTask and Vantage simply widen the scope to include the defined (and LICENSED) project team members. This is why these and other project team-centric applications are not enterprise class solutions.

For a project management tool to be a social project management tool, it must allow the team to identify the expertise of the organization intentionally, and unintentionally. By this, we mean that the tool must be able to poll the organization for the expertise that the team understands that it needs, and the tool must help the team solve problems for which it doesn’t know what expertise is needed to solve it.

To do this, a social project management tool needs information that has been stored about the experiences and expertise of everyone in the organization. This is not possible in a point solution, but is definitely possible when the application is integrated into the social enterprise application (e.g. IBM Connections, Jive SBS). This is an example of how social business applications both leverage and multiply the value of a social platform investment.

Additionally, a social project management tool needs to enable the team to ask for help – even when the project team isn’t sure who to ask. As such, a social application must be able to crowdsource problems to the entire organization. Again, this is possible only when the tool is integrated into, and accessible by, the entire organization’s social structure.

Therefore, integration into an enterprise-wide social platform is necessary, but not sufficient, for any application to be called a social business application. In the next four posts, we will discuss the key features that a project management system requires in order to be called a “social” project management system.

“Crowdsourcing” to your Enterprise social network

Much has been written about crowdsourcing, the practice of outsourcing tasks to a network of people. Specifically, crowdsourcing is valuable when a problem exists for which the person with the problem may not have the time, knowledge or expertise needed to solve the problem. In the book Wikinomics, Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams describe the story of GoldCorp, a struggling Canadian Gold Mining company. In 1999, GoldCorp was a $100 million dollar company, unable to tap into its own reserves. By 2002, GoldCorp was a $9 billion dollar company due to its successful crowdsourcing efforts.

The GoldCorp story is just one example of the power and wisdom of crowds. When we think of crowds, we think about a mass of people, almost all of whom we don’t know, gathered together for a purpose. Although the crowd might share a goal, there is little sense as to the experience of the people in the crowd, the knowledge that they have in their heads, or the manner in which one could identify that information.

In fact, as a company increases in size, the more “crowd-like” it becomes. Because of this, the concept of inside the firewall social business applications has flourished in the past few years. Vendors such as Jive, Microsoft and IBM have become leaders in the enterprise social space. Their tools provide the ability to socially collaborate with anyone in the organization. However, these tools out of the box provide little more than the ability to “assemble” the crowd. Without a dedicated effort to ensure that employees fully complete their profile information, the ability to identify experts is not realized. Without real business processes embedded into the platform, the ability to socially collaborate for business purposes is reduced.

This is where social business applications, such as Social CRM and Social Project Management come into the picture. “Social” application vendors are everywhere these days, and more seem to start popping up every week.  However, without access to the full social network of the organization, these tools are merely team collaboration sites with social tools. What makes an application an enterpise social application is the ability to socially interact with the enterprise – internal, as well as external partners. In short, social business applications require the ability to “crowdsource” to the enterprise social network. Because of this, social business application vendors need to intentionally partner with enterprise social platform vendors to integrate their business process support within the social fabric of the enterprise.

Let’s take Social Project Management for example. Project management is exactly the kind of process that gains value from being made social. This is because of the kind of work that it is. As noted above, the value of crowdsourcing comes from its ability to find new knowledge to solve problems. While operational tasks may deliver value to an organization, projects deliver value specifically because they are creating something new. Because of the “newness” of projects, the need to identify expert knowledge is far more important in these contexts than in others.

For example, Trilog Group has tight integration of its ProjExec social project management platform with all of IBM’s collaboration solutions – IBM Lotus Quickr, IBM Connections, and IBM SmartCloud for Social Business. Because of this integration, when the project team has an issue, it can be easily “outsourced” to the enterprise crowd. Without this kind of integration, the project team must rely on its personal connections to identify help. Alternatively, the project team could search the enterprise social network to find an expert, but only if the expert has included the same search terms into his profile. Instead, by actually performing “crowdsourcing” to the enterprise, the team can access the full expertise of the organization.

Previous Post: Why Peer-to-Project Communication beats out Peer-to-Peer

So, social platform vendors help to assemble the crowd. The crowd can expose their expertise. But the real value of an enterprise social platform comes from the power of social tools like crowdsourcing being applied to real business processes, such as project management. Social interaction helps to solve hard problems, not easy ones. Businesses should first focus on creating a “social space” for their teams to find each other and collaborate. Then, businesses should work to socialize their hard problems – to the entire organization.

Social business applications’ real promise will come when the organization culture reinforces that we are all “the team”, and when the organization provides the tools to actually make that the case.

Enterprise Social + Social Business Applications like ProjExec together will help deliver that goal.

What makes collaboration software into social project management software?

There is a fundamental difference between PM 2.0 and Social Project management. PM 2.0 was a blanket term used to describe the use of web 2.0 technologies as diverse as blogs and VoIP to help teams collaborate openly online. However, as we’ve previously argued, PM 2.0 and Social Project Management are fundamentally different. Unfortunately, the software tools industry tends to use the terms interchangeably. In order for collaboration software to function as social project management software, it must have several specific qualities.

1. Integration with the community

Most stand alone project collaboration software fails this initial test. In order for projects to obtain the value promise of social project management, the project cannot be a silo to which only named users have access. While projects must be properly secured, the value of social project management (and any social platform or application) comes from the ability contained within the social platform to coordinate needed expertise from inside and outside the project team. Only when a social project management system is integrated with the full social network of an organization, with access information regarding where to find experts in the network, can the full value of social software be realized. This integration with the full organizational social network is fundamental to the next two points.

2. Visibility

True social business is based upon trust, sharing, and visibility. In light of this, the integrated and open nature of social project management software is contrasted starkly with the siloed approaches of most project-based PM 2.0 systems. As we mentioned in the previous post, many PM 2.0 initiatives are project specific, with multiple PM 2.0 platforms being used within a single organization.

What is required to drive true social project management is a unified platform that can handle projects from the simple to the complex, but integrated into the social fabric of the organization to allow visibility to whomever requires it.

3. Openness

Social business is about openness, and social project management is no different. However, this is one of the more difficult obstacles to achieve in any business environments. Too often, people desire opacity in their actions – the better to hide problems, “control” information, and manage expectations and image.

However, for businesses to truly leverage the social potential of their organization, people have to know what’s going on – especially what problems are happening. The relationship between the investigation of possible alternatives and actions is directly proportional to the size of the audience to which the issue is broadcast. PM 2.0 software is absolutely fine when it comes to broadcasting issues to the team, but social project management software can broadcast to the organization.

4. Scalability

Clearly, in order for a solution to meet the needs of an entire large organization, it must be scalable. Social project management is not about targeting non project managers. It’s not about doing small projects, it is an Enterprise concept and should be able to accommodate every project manager and every project constituency regardless of how complex the project is. As a matter of fact, the more complex a project is ,and the larger the project organization, the more value social project management can bring to the table. Some PM 2.0 vendors seem to limit applicability of social project management to smaller teams on simpler projects to justify scaling limitations. Scalability is a required component of realizing integration, visibility and openness at the enterprise level.

Truly the social enterprise is one where the organization is leveraged as the team as much as possible. Social project management software is one place where, if implemented properly and with corresponding organizational changes (i.e. – instilling a willingness and compulsion for openness), this broad leveraging of the organizational expertise is made possible.

(This post was written by John Tripp, Social Project Management evangelist at Trilog Group)

Want to try social project management? ProjExec provides the embedded, social project management capability to your IBM-based social collaboration business. Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/user/triloggroup/featured.

ProjExec is available for IBM Lotus Quickr, IBM Connections, IBM Websphere Portal, and in the IBM SmartCloud. Try it for free today! 

Social Project Management is Different from Project Management 2.0

Many people use the terms Social Project Management(SPM) and Project Management 2.0 (PM2.0) interchangeably.  Heck, even wikipedia thinks they’re the same thing, but it’s wrong.  While PM 2.0 focused primarily on enabling online collaboration within the team, and to a lesser extent with providing dashboards for reporting, and other basic project management automation, SPM’s focus is fundamentally different.  SPM is focused on connecting the project to the wider social network of an organization or web of organizations to both manage the project and to manage exceptions.  PM2.0 platforms rarely are connected to a wider social network and generally are closed to non-team members.

Because Deloitte stresses the need for social software to manage exceptions, let’s compare SPM and PM2.0 using Deloitte’s framework:

First, social business software helps identify expertise, either via directly querying the social network or by identifying the creators of valuable content.

  • PM2.0 – Most PM2.0 platforms are hosted externally, not integrated with the enterprise systems of a company, and access is supplied only to team members.
  • SPM – Social project management embeds project management into the social platform of the organization.  It allows for project issues to be “broadcast” to the entire social network of the team, rather than being confined within the project team boundaries.  Because of this, important expertise from outside the team can be brought to bear on the team’s issues and opportunities.

Second, social business software breaks down traditional barriers  within companies and across value chains.  Because communication and conversation more seamlessly and extensively crosses organizational boundaries with the aid of social business software, both the communication and awareness of exceptions are more widely disseminated – in sharp contrast to traditional, team-oriented, direct communication paradigms.

  • PM2.0 – Again, because of the fragmented and siloed nature of most PM2.0 platforms, PM2.0 systems reinforce and create boundaries.
  • SPM – Social project management enables communication via the microblogging and re-posting paradigms common to today’s social software platforms.  By disseminating issues widely, SPM provides a true communication advantage over PM2.0

Third, social business software preserves institutional memory, and because the various institutional memory contexts are now integrated into the social platforms, data is now available that allows organizations to analyze and discover issues and opportunities that were previously hidden..

  • PM2.0 – Because PM2.0 systems are many times adopted for projects one at a time, and because even in the same organization multiple PM2.0 platforms may be adopted, institutional memory is replaced by individual memory.
  • SPM – Social project management is all about integration into the social platform of the company.  SPM stores documents and other project information into the social platform, making it part of the larger institutional memory.

PM 2.0 was a great first step into the realm of web project management systems.  However, it was focused on within-team communication and collaboration, and because of this reinforced the team boundary.  Social business software is all about breaking down boundaries and managing exceptions. If your project management system cannot help you to manage exceptions, it’s not a social project management system.  If you’re not managing exceptions, you’re falling behind on your projects.