Enterprise Social Networks and Project Management

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Editor’s note: Today we would like to welcome a new author to our blog. The clarity of his first post has surprised us, and that has made us even more delighted about him joining our group of contributors. Carlos González Jardón (@cgjardon) is consultant and trainer in project management. With more than 18 years’ experience in the IT sector, his activities revolve around IT project management and quality standards such as CMMi. He holds a computer engineering degree from the Universidad de Vigo, an Executive Master’s from ICAI/ICADE and PMP certification from the Project Management Institute. He is currently consultant in Project Management at Tecnocom. Welcome and thanks!

We live in a society where access to information is no longer the privilege of a few and has been democratized. Nowdays, in a single click, we can access a wide range of data from multiple sources: search engines, online newspapers, blogs, social networks… The technology revolution is causing a social and professional evolution, in how we relate to our environment. Information continues to be important, but how we access/acquire that information is gaining relevance.

In this environment, an enterprise social network can become a vital tool that enables us to strengthen some key aspects in our work:

  • Speed. Quick decision-making.
  • Reliability. Quality of the data.
  • Collaboration: Share information.
  • Acccessibility: A single data source, multiple devices to access it.

The subject is rather extensive, but we will look briefly at how an enterprise social network can help us in executing projects.

Projects and Enterprise Social Networks

In project management, communication is a critical factor. But what do we understand communication to be in a project?

According to the PMBok® Guide (project management knowledge base), one of the leading references for any project leader, managing communication involves all processes required to ensure timely and appropriate generation, collection, distribution, storage, retrieval and ultimate disposition of project information.

In other words, the project manager needs to ensure that all project stakeholders have or have access to, at the right moment, the information required using suitable and efficient means. This is extremely relevant as poor management of communication and information in a project could cause the time that the project manager devotes to communicate, distribute, share and access the information to sky-rocket, and even bring the project to the brink of disaster.

In order for the project manager to have the right information at each stage, they need to interact with their team, the customers, suppliers, and the ‘closer’ they are to the task being done, the better the information. Basically, the project manager needs to beSOCIAL with all those stakeholders in the project. It is not enough to have social skills based on ‘face-to-face’ interaction. We need to seek support from the tools that enable us to manage online or virtually multi-disciplinary and multi-site teams.

In this scenario, an enterprise social network can play a differential role. If we share aspects of our daily lives, why shouldn’t members of a project team share, through an enterprise social network, their problems, doubts, concerns regarding the activities being performed in the project? This activity is already being done in the corridors, on the phone, but it is difficult to have a document support with the conclusions reached. Using collaborative tools can help to flourish and document information that would be lost otherwise. In those project-focused organizations, an enterprise social network can provide major value by sharing and accessing data easily and quickly.

Benefits of Enterprise Social Networks in Project Management

Although I’m sure there are many more, these are some of the benefits they can provide:

Quick access to one of the best sources of knowledge: the team’s experience.

The senior profiles are an excellent source of knowledge and that knowledge can be used to resolve different situations that we face daily in a project. Coaching, mentoring, tutoring, training or resolving of doubts can be done dynamically through an enterprise social network.

Repository of project information and documents.

Although this point has already been solved by many other tools, an enterprise social network can be the main point of access to shared resources. It means converting the current static or one-directional intranet (always focused from the company to the employee) into a social and collaborative environment ‘company-employee’ and ‘employee-employee’ (beyond a simple question-response network).

Reduce “meetingitis”.

In many organizations, there are too many inefficient meetings. Often we finish the day with the feeling that we haven’t done anything “productive”. Simple meetings to exchange information and update everyone can be replaced by short virtual meetings (e-meetings): for example, the status of our project, clarification of doubts, etc. These e-meetings will not replace face-to-face meetings, rather they will complement them and reduce them to the essential ones, as the cost, both economically speaking and cost-opportunity (what I don’t get done) is very high.

Simplify management in multi-site environments.

In environments where the team is located at different sites in the company or in the client (or even in teleworking situations), the social network will help us enormously with that task of “sharing”, reducing, or even eliminating problems resulting from not all being in the one place.

Neglected management.

On many occasions, we experience many short interruptions that break our usual work rate. Enterprise Social Networks mean that those short interruptions can be channelled through it to be answered at a later stage; or even they could be resolved by other members of the team collaboratively, leaving evidence of their resolution in the “social environment” itself.

Our value lies not in what we know, rather how quickly we can “update” (learn what we don’t know, acquire knowledge) and how we share it with our co-workers.

In this scenario, an enterprise social network can become a perfect work environment where different stakeholders in our project can interact according to their role, regardless of their physical location and time zone.

The work environment is a clearly social activity in most cases, so why not use enterprise social networks? This way sharing knowledge among the project team can be more agile, although to achieve it, a cultural change is required in organizations.