soc_nw1_525x421There’s a big wave of influence rolling over business, and it looks set to continue for some time to come. It’s the innovation of the consumer market. Instead of Joe and Jane Public getting the technology crumbs and castoffs of the professional sector, the tide really has turned. Now it’s smartphones and tablets that fire domestic fervor and that force firms to scramble to implement their BYOD (bring your own device) policies.

It’s the same with social networking. Facebook, Twitter and a number of their companions are huge in the consumer space, and the tsunami has now arrived on shores of organizations, agencies and enterprises. One of the areas deeply affected is project management. But in truth, the sea change from command and control to collaborative working started some time before.

Some project management applications like Wrike and Clarizen have been designed from the start for social synergy as part of effective project management. Likewise, EPM Live offers its ‘viral project management’ and Projectplace captures threaded project conversations.

Distributed Virtual Teams. Now You See Us, Now You Don’t.

Compare these two snapshots of project team life inside the average business.

  • Yesterday. Project team workers were mostly in the same physical space, where they could use project management applications on PCs (and exchange files on floppies – remember those?) Team meetings were once a week and senior management got updates once a month. Stuff was done “top-down.” Shame about those bright ideas from project underlings…
  • Today. Project team workers could be anywhere (including at home or on a client site.) Nine-to-five doesn’t exist anymore and weekly meetings are so-o-o Stone Age. Senior management expects to be able to dip into and drill down in project information at any time. Bright ideas from team members, stakeholders or any other interested parties aren’t just encouraged – they are the root source of continued competitive advantage.

Business Inspiration from Social Media

In fact, although employees often like social media enough for their networking activities to spill over into their time at work (if not their work time), there’s another reason for social networking to make its entrance into enterprise life. Quite simply, it’s better for business. If you want to be agile in your product development and manufacturing, responsive to your customers and competitive in your use of available resources, then take a look at what the social media leaders do:

  • Get vital snippets of information out to audiences FAST (Twitter)
  • Naturally build groups with common interests and synergies (Facebook, Google+)
  • Spontaneously create space to exchange ideas and opinions (Meatballwiki)
  • Make information easy to assimilate (YouTube, Vimeo)
  • Attract interest and support for suggested projects (Kickstarter, Indiegogo)

You can see how project management apps are building these concepts into their designs by browsing products available in the GetApp project management software pages.

All Hail to the Project Social Networker

There’s a reason why social networking is now so important in successful project team working. It’s because it corresponds point by point to today’s project management needs. Email and file sharing still have their place. But trying to rely on these tools alone would now be like handing someone a car chassis, four wheels and an engine, and saying “now drive me to where I need to go.” Social networking adds the seats, coachwork and windshields – and the in-car sound system. Project management benefits from:

  • Project visibility and engagement with management and stakeholders
  • Shared knowledge and ideas
  • Improved organization and deployment of project teams, with more flexibility and productivity
  • Faster, more effective collaboration yielding better decisions and higher quality output

Inside PM Apps

Take a look under the hood to see some of the possibilities for leaving yesterday’s project management model behind, and stepping into the twenty-first century!

  • Wrike is based on an integration with email, one of the mainstays of intra-company communications. It also has a built-in microblogging tool and social networking features such as comments and newsfeed.
  • Clarizen uses its Work Funnel, which connects social context, tasks and projects to leverage the positive power of collaboration. Internal and external social interaction is possible, to get employees, contractors and customers to link up in conversations and real-time discussions.
  • EPM Live offers tools such as comment streams and user customizable dashboards. Users can also create their own communities with specific project homepage content and customized navigation.
  • Projectplace integrates Facebook and Twitter-like tools to facilitate conversations between project members, making discussion and file sharing easier and more intuitive.

See how different project management apps compare: for example, Wrike vs Clarizen.

Social Networking Extensions and Add-Ons

Remember that besides project management applications, collaboration tools can also be a big help – for example to complement project management applications that your organization is already using. Indeed, some project management apps like Jira, Zoho Projects and Sciforma take a similar approach by providing add-on modules to boost social interaction and networking in company projects.

  • Jira uses the Jitter module, which comes from the same software vendor for Jira – Atlassian
  • Zoho Projects can be combined with Zoho Connect, another of the modules in the overall Zoho office range.
  • Sciforma now integrates with Yammer, the internal social network that targets professionals, companies and other organizations.

What do Project Managers Do with Social Networking Today?

According to a survey by project management authority Elizabeth Harrin, the most popular applications of social networking in PM were:

  • Network online (90%)
  • Participate in online project management communities (71%)
  • Share documents and files (48%)
  • Communicate with project stakeholders (36%)
  • Collaborate on tasks (34%)
  • Host online meetings (32%)
  • Give project status updates (27%)
  • Manage their teams (25%)
  • Track tasks (19%)

Time to Get Social with Your PM?

Maybe you’re already a socially aware project manager (more power to you!) Or perhaps you’re looking for good software applications to let you add structure and body to social interactions in projects in your enterprise. If so, check out the different apps mentioned above and browse the GetApp project management listings to find the PM application that helps you best.