Social Project Management: A Whole New Level of Web-based Collaboration

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Cloud computing makes planning a social process

Project management is an ever-evolving discipline that has recently undergone dramatic changes thanks to the introduction of social media and cloud computing. These technical advances spell connectivity at a higher level than we have previously enjoyed. Having everyone connected negates the need for the top-down hierarchy of the past as project management evolves into a more organic process. This new approach is called social project management and it means that from conception to execution, everyone is involved.

What’s wrong with traditional project management?

To date, our approach to project management has been thoroughly, well, un-human. We have assumed that the key to success is planning with precision and then executing in an organized and rational way. The overarching focus was control of every aspect and planning for every contingency. This assumes that the employees who will execute the plan, the clients and Mother Nature will all act in a rational, logical and predictable manner. But as many an unwary project manager has learned, people act emotionally, the environment acts unpredictably and clients have their own ideas and contributions to make.

Social project management sees the project as a temporary social structure. Employees involved in the planning and execution of a project form a temporary social group replete with social structures, cultures and belief systems. Tapping into people’s natural propensity to want to belong to a group and interact with others in a meaningful way presents a whole new approach to managing a project. This may have been a nightmare in the past when getting everyone together for a meeting took time, planning and money. But with cloud computing and social media, everyone involved in a project can access relevant information through the online database and can communicate with each other at the touch of a button or the click of a mouse.

A people-centric model

When we focus on the people involved, and not only on the project, web-based collaboration allows projects to be a social affair. Moving project planning to the cloud enables teams to be more responsive and adapt to the changing circumstances of the project.

The top-down management processes of yore are too stagnant to keep up with the fast-paced business practices of the web-based world. In today’s ever-changing industrial landscape, employees can’t wait around for orders from above the way they could in a factory setting. Businesses are internationally dispersed and, when projects run into inevitable problems, solutions need to be quick and decisive.

With social project planning, everyone is involved in the project all the time. Employees have more ownership than they do in the top-down system. There’s accountability and transparency and they feel more connected with the outcome. Because employees are involved with the process, they are more invested than a top-down factory system where they are responsible for one small step in a production line and have no connection with the finished product. When everyone is informed and involved, they can help to adapt project plans when new knowledge and new circumstances arise.

Involvement leads to innovation

When those who will execute the project have a role in its planning, they are able to contribute their previous experience and specialized knowledge so that the best possible course of action can be taken. Inclusive planning results in a greater understanding of what the project is about, greater investment in the outcome, increased employee satisfaction and improved involvement.

Traditional project management was a static system where the project manager would have to shoulder the burden of all the planning while the team passively waited for instruction. Social project management is a dynamic system that grows with the project.

The key here is transparency. This means that everyone has access to all the information in the online database. They know all the team members and who has the authority to make final decisions. If this sounds a little frightening, then think again; transparency leads to collaboration and builds trust. Being open to collaboration shows that you are secure in your authority and relegates big egos to the back seat. It also encourages participation and creativity which leads to innovative ideas and problem solving.

Rules of engagement

If this all sounds good in theory, but you’re wondering how this works practically, there are some definite guidelines that need to be implemented in order to ensure that too many cooks don’t spoil the broth.

Authority must be clearly assigned which means that while everyone can contribute to discussions, a few key members make the final decisions. Those in positions of authority must be accountable for decisions and flexible so that changing circumstances are taken into account.

Mutual respect is a must as team members need to communicate in an effective way. Regular web-based collaboration through teleconferencing and connection through social media is essential to the success of the social project management process.

Training and online webinars ensure that all team members are able to utilize technology effectively. Team members who are not familiar with cloud computing or do not know how to use social media and online databases effectively will be operating at a huge disadvantage. All team members must be adequately trained to ensure the efficacy of communication and collaboration.

Additional Benefits of Social Project Management

Real time information: all team members have access to the most up-to-date information through the cloud database and can make informed decisions.

Distributed virtual teams: teams can be made up of members from all around the globe. Social networking and web-based collaboration enables team members to stay in touch with each other.

Saves time and money: social media interactions save time and money as team members no longer have to travel to meetings. Having a dynamic system that reacts to changing circumstances quickly means less down-time while you wait for management to make decisions. Project managers can quickly adapt plans to suit changing circumstances.

Utilizes skills and experience: collaboration allows employees to contribute lessons they have garnered from previous experience as well as their own special skills. This creates more favourable circumstances for successful project completion and planning innovation.

Collaboration breads innovation: everyone has some good ideas and social project planning gives each team member a voice. This breads creativity and fosters innovation.

Improved employee satisfaction: transparency cultivates trust and encourages involvement. Employees who feel trusted and involved are more likely to take responsibility and ownership of their projects. Collaboration increases understanding and employee satisfaction.

Social media access is changing the way the world interacts. Savvy business owners will utilize this changing social landscape to improve their project management by adopting social project management models. This will create dynamic, organic project management models that involve all team members in every aspect of planning and take advantage of their unique talents.

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