Social Project Management – Hype vs. Truth

Being developers of project management software, we often get asked if Celoxis offers “Social Project Management”. Here is how a typical conversation goes:

Prospect: Does your tool offer Social Project Management?

We: Of course! (…and we go on to demonstrate how our software helps teams stay informed and on the same page)

Prospect: That’s good, but what I meant is whether the UI can look and behave like Facebook. Is there a “Like” somewhere?

We: Facebook? Can you tell us how this will help complete your projects on time and within budget?

Prospect: [silence]

Social Project Management - Hype vs. Truth

The Hype 

Today teams have to deliver more with less. Time is precious. Resources have difficulty finishing assigned tasks on time and delivering to expected quality levels. Where is the time to “socially collaborate” with colleagues and managers? Am they really going to read through the “activity streams” of their colleagues? Is this where their time is best spent? Are they really going to be “ambient aware” with more information? How is social really going to help deliver projects in time and within budget?

I don’t really blame our prospects. Project management software companies are trying to do something different and cool to stand out. And who doesn’t like to try out new stuff. Perhaps these companies feel that it may lead to better adoption of the project management software. But it’s too gimmicky to really work and could end up giving “Social Project Management” a bad name; something it does not deserve, because the essence of social project management is quite powerful.

The Truth

The essence of social project management can be understood if we understand the problem it tries to solve. Today, despite a myriad of technologies and methodologies, the failure rate of projects is very high. Why? Many reasons have been offered. Scope was ill-defined. Estimation was off the mark. The resources were not good enough. There is lack of motivation. I have been part of projects where none of the above reasons were applicable. But I could still see something missing: Awareness and Belonging.

My task done, I look outside
Grey skies, heavy rain and traffic still
The office is quietHaiku by Nikhil Daddikar

We are human beings. We do more when we understand how our task is contributing towards the greater good rather than just ticking it off in isolation. We do more when we understand that missing our deadline means delaying our colleagues’ tasks and risking on-time project delivery. We do more when we realize how the quality of our work is affecting overall project quality. We do more when we realize that our actions have much bigger implications down the line and the fact that it is visible to people across the organization. We push boundaries and innovate better when we see our colleagues do the same.

Social project management is about to creating this awareness and building a healthy culture. A project is like one big jigsaw puzzle with each of us getting a few pieces to fit in. We become more committed, driven and innovative as the puzzle starts coming together and we realize where our piece fits in.

Project Management - puzzle

Contrary to the hype, Social Project Management is not about technology at all. It is really about:

  1. Encouraging co-creation.  If you have designed something, written something cool or found something useful, share it with your team before you show it to others. You will be amazed at how much long-term value that can generate.
  2. Taking your team into confidence about important decisions: We have often heard in team meetings, in conference rooms, on the floor – “The Boss wants it done this way”. Why? “Don’t know. His decision”.  We understand that all decision making cannot be democratic. But wouldn’t we all at least want to be heard before decisions are made? If all decisions are always taken at the top, there is no value created down the order, where execution happens. A culture of transparency and openness needs to cascade down from the top and that is crucial for creating a sense of “belonging” across the organization.
  3. Continuous communication of philosophy: Derek Sivers, in his impressive book “Anything You Want”, demonstrates this exceptionally well. His employees would often ask him how to respond in certain situations. He would gather everyone in the same room and explain the company philosophy. He would do this every time they had a question. And in a few weeks everybody knew what to do. They were all aligned with the company values. There were no more questions.

These aspects are even more relevant today as teams span continents, are culturally diverse and have not met face-to-face. Bombarding them activity streams, status updates, discussion thread and likes will only distract them. We need to start treating our “resources” as human beings and “do the right thing” when it comes to building an ideal project management culture. Sometimes a simple email is all it takes.

Would love to get your views. Please leave a comment.

Blog written by:  Nikhil Daddikar, Co-Founder, Celoxis Technologies
Nikhil  Daddikar - Co-Founder, Celoxis Technologies

About Celoxis

Celoxis is a comprehensive project management tool that helps companies streamline management of projects, time sheets, expenses and business processes, specific to their organization. Over the last decade, Celoxis has specialized in delivering improved collaboration and increased efficiency for teams of all sizes, both in SMB and Enterprise segments. To know more visit www.celoxis.com 

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