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.

17 thoughts on “The 5 Questions You Should Ask Any Social Project Management Vendor – Part 1

  1. Ben Ferris

    Social project management is just a buzzword in my humble opinion. How about social accounting or social building maintenance?

    As a project management software vendor, I fully agree with your statement “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.”

    Enterprise social networking should exist with project management as just one of the entire organization’s various disciplines. As you indicated, it makes more sense for project management software to integrate with these enterprise social networks.

    Implementing “social networking-like” features in a project management tool does not constitute social project management, but rather an isolated silo of collaboration within a project team. An example of enterprise social networking is Yammer or even Salesforce.com’s Chatter. It sounds like this topic is going in the direction of integrating project management software with the enterprise social network? I am eager to read the next few posts.

    I wrote my thoughts on this topic last week: http://cobalt.pm/what-is-socialpm

    Reply
    1. theprojectwall

      Thanks for the comment Ben. While we do agree with you that social PM is at risk of becoming a buzzword – it is due to the very things that we will be bringing up in this series. Because vendors are being undisciplined with the term, we risk the same fate as “Project Management 2.0″. However, I don’t want to go any further now…or I’ll steal my own thunder for the rest of the series.

      Reply
  2. Kelly Kazimer

    You make some great points. Those familiar with social mediums are readily able to see the advantages of leveraging diverse skill sets and “group think”, i.e. the crowdsourcing of knowledge. I do think, however, that you’ve pre-supposed a conclusion, in stating that organizations “need” to extend a project management tool across the entire enterprise in order for it to be considered a “social project management” tool. Similarly, you’ve noted that an application cannot be called a social business application, unless it’s integrated into an enterprise-wide social platform. It’s an interesting opinion, to define social by the boundaries of the community. Would the same logic apply to consumer spaces? Anyone can participate on Twitter, but only if they agree to Twitter’s terms of service (i.e. LICENSED, though free), and have a Twitter login/credentials. So then Twitter is not social because it only serves the Twitter community, rather than the internet community? It’s a curious way to define social.

    I would argue that social is defined by the mediums and methods of communication used by whatever community it serves. In other words, if the community is defined to be a project, then “social project management” is the practice of democratized communication within and across the project community (i.e. project participants and project stakeholders). Realistically, this often does not necessarily extend across an organization. Assuming that social project management needs to be extended beyond the project community to the business (world?) at large tends to turn a blind eye to an important part of the discipline, that being the project itself.

    Reply
    1. theprojectwall

      Kelly, thanks for the comment. I don’t agree with your Twitter analogy, and in fact, the false analogy helps to prove our point. Twitter is a microblogging platform that “spawns” dynamic social communities around content and topics. The siloed social business application would claim “socialness” by adding microblogging to an application that has only one community – for the purposes of our discussion – a project. There is a great deal more to the social media paradigm than the interaction mechanisms. The value of twitter or any other social network follows Metcalfe’s law – in that the value of the network is proportional to the square of the number of nodes connected to it. So, in fact, this view of the social community as being more useful or valuable the larger it becomes is not new. However, we think that there is an added component to the social paradigm, which we (jokingly) refer to as “Homsi’s Law” – which states that the value of an enterprise social network is proportional to the square of the number of people connected to it TIMES the number of business processes integrated into it. This is why we call social business applications the “value multiplier” of social business platforms.

      As far as your point regarding the discipline of the project, we agree completely as to its importance, we do not believe that crowdsourcing or enterprise social integration in any way undermines it, and will be covering that later in the series.

      Reply
    1. theprojectwall

      Stan, thanks for your comment. I agree with you. There are few companies that really have understood the value of enterprise social. Many are putting in social platforms like Jive or IBM Connections, but are missing the value multiplier of social business applications. These social platforms are only as useful as the work processes that have been integrated into them.

      Reply
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