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.

Trilog Group and ProjExec have a YouTube Channel

We’ve had so many requests for ProjExec demos and additional information over the past few weeks that we have added a number of new ProjExec videos on YouTube, and have started a Channel where you can see all of the videos.

We’re really excited about ProjExec Live and ProjExec for Connections. In the next few weeks, you’ll be seeing more videos appear on the channel, including more for the ProjExec for Connections product, and self-training videos.

Here’s the Lotus Live Overview Video. Check out the channel for more, including a feature by feature tour.

Lotusphere 2012 and the Future of Email

Well, ProjExec was quite a hit at Lotusphere 2012.

IBM featured Trilog Group and ProjExec in the Opening General Session, and the product was demoed in numerous sessions. The Trilog Group pedestal was nearly constantly over capacity, and several customers purchased the product while it was being demoed.

But the highlight of the conference was the IBM Open Social throwdown, where the various features of ProjExec were demonstrated as an embedded experience in the IBM iNotes next-gen Open Social compatible client.

We recreated the demo that was done there, and we’ve posted it below. What this demo illustrates is that the concept of “email” will morph in the next few years, and that person-to-person direct messages will become just one of many kinds of communications that a user receives in their activity stream.

This doesn’t mean that “email” is dead, nor does it mean that email systems as they are today will continue.  The “email” client will be replaced by an “activity” client, where activities and communications from multiple contexts can be reviewed and managed. But more important, just as email has been the context in which to take action regarding direct person-to-person communication, the activity client must be the context from which action can be taken, regardless of the source context of the activity. This shifts the concept of what the boundaries of an application actually are, and really forces the issue of open standards adoption for everyone.

Enjoy!

Winners…again!

No sooner had we posted our previous post about ProjExec, than we learned that ProjExec is the winner of the Lotusphere 2012 Award for Innovation in Social Business Application Development Utilizing the Social Business Framework! This adds to the long list of IBM awards that ProjExec has received over the past years.

You can see ProjExec at Lotusphere 2012 at product showcase pedestals 505-506, and you can see a demo below:

Lotusphere 2012 – ProjExec is Project Management for the IBM Collaboration Community

Lotusphere 2012 is a big event for Trilog (our sponsors), and for social project management for the enterprise. ProjExec is being featured at the conference, and will be demoed in several large sessions.

Projexec 5.1 is ready for delivery, and provides a full social project management solution for IBM Lotus Quickr and IBM Connections organizations, as well as ProjExec Live – the social project management solution embedded into the IBM LotusLive cloud platform. But for those new to it, what IS ProjExec?

Projects. Made Social.

ProjExec is a powerful social project management solution that seamlessly extends your chosen IBM Lotus collaboration platform. Social project management merges the power of online and open collaboration tools with the rigorous and robust tools that project managers require. ProjExec helps projects teams and their organizations get work done by getting people engaged, accelerating information sharing and making work observable across the enterprise social network, all while managing and guiding work based upon a real project plan.

Your Team. Engaged. Everywhere.

ProjExec includes the Project Wall – a shared project activity stream that gives a voice to everyone in the project community – from team member to project manager to partner or stakeholder.  Contributions to the project community become a living project history that is visible to all.  With a design purposefully similar to the Facebook user experience, the Project Wall empowers user engagement while ensuring that security and business constraints are managed with equal importance.

Also, ProjExec brings the social project experience to wherever your team works. It enables teams to innovate and execute projects better and faster using familiar tools like email and mobile devices

  • Email integration – sidebars for Notes, iNotes and Outlook simplify task management and reporting
  • Mobile support – work on the go with Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, Nokia, Android
  • Calendar integration – personal work management with project tasks fully integrated with Notes calendar.

Reporting. Socialized.

ProjExec makes even progress reporting a social experience with one click update of task progress from the Project Wall, your email, mobile device or – enterprise portal – to keep project status up to date simply and efficiently.  Just one click will update task status with automatic roll up and instant consolidation of project portfolio views.  Exception-based management and alerts help identify at a glance when anything is veering off plan so prompt corrective action can be taken.

Real Projects. Managed.

Social project management doesn’t mean sacrificing the robustness and rigor of professional project  management.  ProjExec is first and foremost an industrial strength project management solution. With ProjExec there is no rip and replace for project management professionals.

  • Compatibility with existing PM tools – complete bi-directional integration with Microsoft Project and other popular PM tools.
  • Scalable and secure – scales to accommodate large waterfall projects with thousands of tasks and users.
  • Embedded professional PM tools – visual Gantt editor, Resource management and Financial management modules ensure that ProjExec 5.0 is .complete and robust project management.
  • Cross-organization resource management locate qualified and available resources with seamless integration with Lotus Connections.

Business value. Delivered.

ProjExec lets you achieve repeatable success by supporting knowledge reuse and process improvement. Reusable project templates and the highly configurable design enable organizations to execute projects better and smarter using time-tested and rigorous project management methodologies fully integrated with a social collaboration dimension that fosters innovation, promotes participation, knowledge sharing and smarter collaboration.

In a recent study to determine Web 2.0 ROI, McKinsey found that Web 2.0 promotes significantly more flexible processes at internally networked organizations: respondents say that information is shared more readily and less hierarchically, collaboration across organizational silos is more common, and tasks are more often tackled in a project-based fashion. This highlights the strategic value of social project management as a key accelerator for social business adoption and value creation.

Platform availability

ProjExec is available for use with:

  • IBM Lotus Quickr 8.5
  • IBM Lotus Connections 3.0
  • IBM WebSphere Portal 6.1.5 and 7.0
  • Lotus Live

Social project management is the next wave in project management and delivery. If you are an IBM Collaboration customer, ProjExec is your path to Social Project Management for the enterprise.