There is more to ensuring the success of a project than collecting actuals and checking for resource overallocations. Putting faces on the people assigned to the tasks in your project is often forgotten in the maze of software functionality. The research is clear. Social networking tools have become a pervasive and powerful way to put a face on team members as a critical method to help them not only feel invested in the outcome of projects, but to increase their productivity in the process. Project managers who don't know how to make their team feel invested in a project risk losing their team's motivation.
OK, tweeting, facebooking, blogging, and the rest may seem like unbillable downtime, even if the subject matter is work related. But workers and their executives are beginning to appreciate the extent to which non-work related social bantering improves morale, and thus productivity, just as much as feeling invested in a project does. Some might even see a dependency of the two on each other.
Social networking tools also help uncover hidden knowledge that has difficulty surfacing through normal conversations and e-mail. And when the hidden knowledge is surfaced, it tends to stay surfaced and not disappear when team members move on.
This article takes a look at some of the social networking tools available to your workforce, and how you can use them as part of your project management methodology.
Tip Make sure your team is in agreement with which social networking tools are to be used. You might want to document how the team should use the tools, when to use the tools, and what type of content should be contained, and not contained, in posts. There is a much stronger chance of the tools being used when everyone understand some fundamentals about them.
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Twitter isn’t just about people fritting away their time expressing life’s banalities (OK, it’s often this). You can also use Twitter as a project management tool. Here are a few ways you can use Twitter to help you manage your project:
Hashtags are those funny #keywords people use to help index the subject matter of their tweet. For example, if someone wants to write a tweet about the Bahamas, they might write “The #Bahamas are great this time of year!” Now, when other tweeters click on the hashtag, they immediately see a page full of the recent tweets that have used the same tag. This is a simple way that users can quickly filter for only tweets about specific subjects.
The advantage of hashtags is that the tweet that contains one appears in the list of hashtag subjects when the hashtag is clicked. This becomes a quick, community-driven way to promoter a Twitter account. The hashtag subjects appear in chronological order, but with the speed of tweeting, a popular subject is likely with your Twitter account is likely to appear at the top of the list.
Tip You can also search for tweets by typing the hashtag in the Twitter search box, or use social media management and search applications like TweekDeck.
So, how can you use hashtags in project management? Here are a few ways:
- Search on known hashtags There are a number of hashtags known to Twitter users that refer to project management. For example, the hashtag #pmot is used for tweets about “project management on Twitter.” Other useful hashtags for project managers are, #projectmanager, #pmp, #project, #msproject, #project2010, and #pm.
Tip Since project management professionals will likely be using these same hashtags, adding the same hashtags becomes a good way to create relationships with them, or to get involved in project management organizations that you might not have been aware of.
- Create team hashtags Your team can decide on its own hashtags for the projects they’re working on. For example, If your team is working on a project involving a local park, such as a public trail system, your team could decide on a hashtag to use across Twitter, such as #TrailCentralPark. Obviously, hashtags used in this way would work for projects where security is less of a concern. For a more secured use of Twitter, look at the next section about Twitter lists.
The Twitter timeline, which is displayed when you click Home after logging into Twitter) can get very cluttered very quickly, making it difficult to find tweets related to projects. Welcome to Twitter lists. Lists allow you to group Twitter users.
For example, if you want to group users of Twitter who work on public works projects, you could create a list and name it “Public Works”. You can then specify that the list be either a private or public list. Or, say you want to follow users who are tweeting primarily about project management topics, and you don’t want to pick them out of the thousands of other tweets you have on your timeline. In this case, you could create a list called “Project management.”
Do the following to create a list.
- On the Twitter timeline, click New List on the right side of the page.
- Give the list a name, and then select whether the list is public or private.
- Click Create list.
- On the next page, search for people by their Twitter name to add them to the new list.
Tip You can also add people to the list by clicking the List button which appears when you click a user’s profile.
Be sure to let your team know about the list you created. Send them the URL of the list so they can see who you’ve added. The URL will resemble http://Twitter.com/YourTwitterPage/ListName.
Advanced Twitter search
You can search for tweets using different criteria, such as hashtags, keywords, date, a question, retweets, or attitude. The last criterion takes a bit of explaining. You can search whether the tweet contains a positive or negative attitude towards the keyword you are searching with.t
To try this search, do the following.
- Go to Advanced Twitter search Web site.
- Click Advanced Search.
- Specify the conditions of the search.
Here are some particularly useful criteria you can use as a project manager.
- Word Type the word of phrase you want to search on, such as a product name that your company (or your competition) manufactures.
- Hashtags Type a hashtag that references your company, product, or your competition.
- Attitude Specify whether you want to search for phrases within tweets that have a negative or positive attitude. (And, no, I don’t know how they do this.)
- Language Use this criterion to search for tweets in different languages that contain your search phrase (such as your product name that you are marketing across different languages or countries).
- Question Use this criterion to search for tweets that contain a question. This is useful for, say, searching on a negative attitude toward you company or product that asks an exploratory question, like “I don’t understand what’s wrong with the Parks new trail design.”
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There are a couple reasons why Facebook can become an important part of your team’s project management style.
- Learn from experts about project management methodology The advantage of Facebook over forums for learning methodology is its global impact. These days, most if not all project manager experts have a Facebook page. This means that you can create professional contacts quickly to get questions answered or to jump to a suggested site. You might call this a one-stop investigation of your possibilities.
Here are a few of Facebook pages where you can learn about methodology:
- Connect with other project managers One of the lessons of any kind of social networking is the feeling that you’re not alone. Imagine! People are not only listening to you, they have the same problems as you. Now, that doesn’t necessarily make the problems go away, but at least you can find a few more people (OK, a few thousand more) to help you figure out what is wrong with your project.
- Get questions answered about Microsoft Project If you ask questions about Microsoft Project by visiting its Facebook page. Project MVPs as well as writers on Project are among the faces that can you help use Microsoft Project.
Blogging about your project isn’t just about a project manager’s personal viewpoints and pictures of project-related activities (and maybe a few pics of a recent vacation and pet cat). There a number of ways blogs can be used to enhance the success of a project.
- Major milestone announcements Blogs are a great way to keep your team informed of not only the major phases that are coming up. They are also a good time to recognize the good work your team has accomplished as milestones are passed.
- Keep it interesting . OK, a few pictures isn’t going to hurt anyone. From a project management perspective, one way to keep blogs interesting is pictures of a product in various stages, or of people who are making a product that aren’t usually in the company newsletter.
- Everyone needs to blog . If only one person is writing blogs, then a sense of team is lost, as well as a sense of team investment is also lost. After all, it isn’t the project manager who is making a product. Highlighting those who are making the product adds a face and voice that keeps people on track and motivated.
- Use all the features of a blog Make sure you are using comments fields, as well as tags and ratings features of blogs. These features allow a project manager to understand the different perspectives that individual team members bring to a project. And often it is the fresh perspective that can send a stuck project on a new track to success.
- Public or private blog Decide early whether you want to use external blogging sites or internal blogs. Many products are available internally. SharePoint Workspace 2010 contains a blogging feature that your organization can use to create a blog that is private to your team.
Other ways to use social networking in project management
Social media for project managers doesn’t stop with the big three: Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. There are a host of other approaches to social media that can help build a project, and add a sense of purpose and team involvement to a project. Here are just a few more.
- SlideShare.net Slideshare is a social network site that contains PowerPoint presentations and other documents that users create and upload. Searching on “project management” will find thousands of presentations about project management methodology. Click here, for example, to find information on how to get started using Microsoft Project.
- YouTube For the project manager, YouTube offers hundreds of videos on project management methodology. Videos on Microsoft Project can also be viewed there.
- LinkedIn As a social networking site for professionals, LinkedIn will help you find experts in project management and Microsoft Project. For example, the Project Users Group on LinkedIn has hundreds of project management professionals you can contact with questions and advice.
Oh, and we can all use a few thousand more friends, can’t we?