Social Project Management: Another Point of View

Hundreds of people are already looking forward to this year’s Enterprise 2.0 conference. One of the most interesting sessions during this conference last year was one by Leisa Reichelt. Leisa is interested in the changes going on in project management and she calls these changes Social Project Management or Project Management 2.0. At Enterprise 2.0 Conference 2007, she gave a presentation on Social Project Management, where she pointed out several distinctive features of the new wave in the project management discipline.  According to Leisa, they are: small teams, motivated people, limited planning, minimal scope, small projects, rapid release, responsiveness, and iterations. Leisa noted that the essential point of her presentation was that “there are other ways to manage projects than ye olde fashioned waterfall methodology.” According to her, these ways emerge in project management due to the penetration of social software into in the enterprise. Any work turns into a project I think that the transformation in project management is even deeper and is indicated in the change of the people’s attitude towards their work. People now tend to regard any work undertaken to achieve a business objective as a project, although this work might be neither organized according to the rules of traditional project management nor controlled by a professional project manager. For example, writing a blog can be considered a project, however there’s probably only one person in the team - the blog author. Today, teams tend to become smaller, and project management tends to become iterative. These and other features of Social Project Management identified by Leisa Reichelt, can be observed in agile project management. Agile project management is a different way of managing projects in the software industry that helps to deliver projects faster and at a lower cost. The change in project management has a social nature However, speaking of social project management, Leisa seems to overlook the core element of the new-generation project management – collaboration. “Social” is the main word here. Projects now tend to be managed with the help of the wisdom of the many. As I stated in my post on definition of Project Management 2.0, collaboration brought in the form of collective intelligence is one of the two major principles driving the change in project management. Collective intelligence is the capacity of human communities to evolve to higher order complexity and harmony, through differentiation, integration, competition and collaboration. In other words, it is a form of intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals. In project management, collective intelligence may be a collection of valuable knowledge and ideas from different fields that each project team member is an expert in. Project management 2.0 software makes it possible to successfully collect and share this knowledge in a flexible, collaborative environment. This environment lets team members’ ideas penetrate into project planning and influence managers’ and executives’ view on the project. The project manager conducts the work and chooses the right direction for the project development, based on the information received from the individual employees. Collective intelligence brought by Project management 2.0 technologies can also have an outside effect, as companies gain more advantage from their communication with clients. Social project management or Project management 2.0 is building new customer interactions and thus improving customer satisfaction. The project operations become more transparent to customers. Customers can easily follow the progress of a project on the Web. They can send their feedback, leaving comments in a project blog or accessing a project collaborative space and contributing to common tasks. Getting direct clients’ feedback makes it possible to quickly evolve project strategy and tactics and change project development plans when necessary. This way collective intelligence brought by the social project management software can help improve the quality of the products and services and make them fully satisfy the consumers’ needs. Collaboration with customers helps to encourage the strongest community goodwill, and this goodwill, in turn, promotes significant marketing and sales gains. Thousands of companies are already reaping the rewards of their investment in external project collaboration. For example, companies like Microsoft, IBM, Google, Sun Microsystems, and SAP write project blogs on a regular basis. The number of non-technology organizations that use the new-generation project management tools is rapidly growing, too. Thus, social project management also means involving society into collaboration. But collective intelligence is not the only factor causing the changes in project management.  In my opinion, the term social project management does not reflect the second key element of the project management evolution - emergent structures. Collective intelligence is not the only factor influencing project management Emergence is the way complex systems and patterns arise out of a multiplicity of relatively simple interactions. In plain terms it is a form of collective behavior, when parts of a system do together what they would not do by themselves. Therefore, emergent structures are the structures that appear as a result of multiple, relatively simple interactions of a number of individuals. The interactions are uncontrolled, but are purposeful. This means that individual team members’ interactions are merged by the software into the strategic plan for the whole organization. With the help of the second-generation project management software managers and executives see through the organization and lead it in the right direction. Together these two powerful principles - collective intelligence and emergent structures - make the social evolution of project management possible. Empowered by these two principles, the new-generation project management software makes businesses more adaptive to changes. Companies that leverage this software, become more competitive, as they can react to changes faster and deliver successful projects in shorter periods of time. Leisa Reichelt made a big step in attracting the audience’s attention to the change processes going on in contemporary project management. However, her concept of the new trend in project management does not seem to be fully developed. I’ve tried to elaborate of this point, coming to a conclusion that “Project Management 2.0” might be a better word to describe the evolution in project management. This term reflects where collective intelligence and emergent structures come from – Web 2.0 technologies. I also invite you to join my speculations and to offer your point of view on the change going on in project management.

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