A new tool came to our lives and greatly influenced the way we communicate. Twitter turned out to be next big thing of the social media world, and it looks like it’s here to stay. How can we explain Twitter’s immense popularity? Simplicity, convenience, speed? I’d say it’s all three of them that make the tool so sticky. In fact these factors even made many of us seek a similar tool to facilitate our project communications. But communicating with your team members may be quite different from chatting with your friends on the Web. When the first wave of enterprise microblogging tools’ popularity started to fade, it turned out that impressions of “business tweeting” were ranging from “friction-free collaboration” to “waste of time.” These responses maybe confusing, especially when you’re thinking of whether or not to adopt a microblogging solution for your team to use. So, is microblogging for project communications worth a try? Let’s explore the opportunities offered by microblogging and see. Here’s how microblogging may help you in project management and collaboration: Instant collaboration for distributed teams One of my favorite examples is Hal Macomber’s story about using a microblogging solution, Yammer,  with his project team at Lean Project Consulting. It’s a great example of how microblogging can improve and speed up your teamwork when your team is separated by time zones and distances. Hal’s team members use Yammer to ask questions, announce issues, share tips on how to resolve these issues and get help from their peers immediately. Hal and all his team members check this microblog from their phones and can respond to an important request even when they’re on the go. Reporting on project progress Microblogging is an easy way to update people on the project status, especially on assignments that are not mission-critical. Team members can inform their peers about what they are doing at any given moment  in time and let others know how the work is going. Ofcourse, a microblogging tool will not be a replacement for updating statuses in a system where you track your project plans. But it can successfully be used as a complementary solution for sharing thoughts in an unstructured way. Besides, some project management systems show your actions on structured data in the activity stream, bringing the best of two worlds together. See the discussion on standalone vs. integrated solution below. Lightning-speed knowledge-sharing Yes, as of today, microblogging is the fastest way to share an idea, a fact or a conclusion. Short messages are written quickly. They are read quickly as well.  Even though 140 or 200 characters look much too short to distribute knowledge, it is enough for a teaser link or a headline. If you read an interesting book slightly related to your work, you probably wouldn’t spam your immediate colleagues, and you surely wouldn’t bother managers and folks from other groups. If we receive an e-mail, there’s an unsaid rule that we should invest our time in acting on that e-mail. With status updates, there’s no such protocol. One can ignore them at will, and thus all of us can share more freely, with less pressure. Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. For example, if you want to inform your team about a new corporate policy, then microblogging probably is not the right solution for you.  At the end of the day, when you think of adopting a microblogging tool, you should always keep in mind the problem you’re trying to solve with it. Stand-alone or built-in? Now, how do you choose a microblogging solution if you decide to try one? There are many options available on the market today. For example, you can use Twitter while protecting your updates from the public, so that only your followers can see them. But that is fairly inflexible and might force you to have several Twitter accounts.  There also are many microblogging tools designed for private use. Yammer, used by Hal’s team, is only one example; there’s also Present.ly, CubeTree, Communote, etc. However, despite the popularity of standalone microblogging solutions, they hardly justify adopting a separate product. Jeffrey Mann, research vice president for Gartner, thinks that “it will be very difficult for microblogging as a standalone function to achieve widespread adoption within the enterprise ... Mainstream enterprises are unlikely to adopt standalone, single-purpose microblogging products.” Nowadays, there’s a tendency of adding microblogging-like features to online project management and collaboration solutions. This makes the logistics a bit easier and brings the benefits of better adoption and cross-pollination of data. Our project management software, Wrike, was one of the first applications to bring microblogging into a project management application. Wrike’s Activity Stream allows everyone on the team to instantly share information and links, as well as post information about their progress. In addition, Activity Stream displays all the team members' recent actions in real time. It was great to see the immediate response from our customers, who told us that they found the built-in microblogging very useful.  Here’s what one of our users, Luther Cale, chief of marketing at HealthStream, said about it: “We used to use Yammer for microblogging on our projects, but it wasn't really worth an extra app for just that functionality. But microblogging built into the online project management system makes more sense and is far more useful.” Have you tried microblogging with your project team? What was your experience? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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