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PM Essence

Social Media and Project Management

By - Sunand Sharma, PMP
Introduction
 
Social media has gained an immense popularity among the Project Management personnel with its emergence in public domain.
 
In the sphere of Project Management it has been used in varied ways and has played a vital role in establishing a clear understanding of its purpose and intent in a given project scenario.

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Utility of the Social Media
In different scenarios, the social media has provided benefits over traditional communication channels. For Project Management, the following features have been identified in particular:
 
 • Discursive: These kinds of platforms provide functionality for initiating the discussion forum with question and answer format – they have several main uses in a project context, the following uses have been counted.
 
First and foremost utility of social media has been for sharing the best practices. The best practices which emerge from learning or identified in one project gets replicated in other projects.
 
Secondly, sharing of lessons learned from the lessons which come out from the experience of managing a project are provisioned for discussion among the community of project managers. Which is very similar to the aforementioned sharing of best practices.
 
Thirdly, use of social media has been found in stakeholder management. In this scenario, the variety of purposes have emerged which are dependent on the size of the projects and the number of stakeholders.
 
• Networking: This is the most common functionality of the social media, wherein the Project Managers use to communicate with each other and the wider project community. The use has grown increasingly to source the information as well as for sharing the resources, expertise and skills from different projects and/or businesses
 
• Events calendar / task scheduling: The utility of event calendars, shared collaborative conference websites which serve to provide a meeting platform has been viewed as another functionality of social media wherein the project team organize meetings and get connected to teams of different work streams.
• Collaboration Tools: The various social platforms which serve the purpose for managing the project artifacts and for controlling the versions of project documents, have made the communication between different work streams simpler and the management more effective. 
 
Various challenges related with social media in project management
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• Embedding: Promoting use of social media among the colleagues has always remained as a challenge. It has to be brought in as a change in the work culture.
 
The organization faces challenges for motivating the project stakeholders for using the social media for communication.
 
• Time: The time has always been the constraint for the project personnel and the team members for utilizing the social media for communication, as it requires a minimum level of competency to harness the potential and appreciate the utility of social media. The effectiveness of the communication through social media requires a certain level of commitment by the entire community.
 
• Privacy: The various project managers used to confine the project information within the closed group. The perception of risk associated with the sharing of sensitive information on social platform has always been the inhibitor for the use of social media. There have been various methods through which many organizations have tackled the challenges associated with the social media.
 
Solutions
These methods largely involve the best practices implementation more than targeting the problems associated with risk to privacy.
 
• Demonstrate value: The demonstration of the values associated with social media like questions getting answered frequently, quick updates on the important issues and the online brain-storming on the common issues are few of the benefits of the social media.
 
• Appoint platform advocates: Advocates of social media play a vital role in communicating and popularizing the usage of social media among the colleagues and teams. These advocates of social media use to prompt the others through frequent emails, useful updates, and interesting discussions. They are helpful in creating an ecosystem conducive for usage of social media.
 
• Competitions: The employees can be actively motivated for utilizing the social media by rewarding them. There can be multiple activities designed to encourage the professionals to use the social media in their daily activities.
 
• Add social media to project planning: Any program which has to be proliferated within the organization needs to be supported by the organization strategy. Social media utilization should be the part of the project planning. The project managers should inculcate the usage of social media in their plans, should define the usage and clarify the communication plan to the stakeholders about the intended use of the social media. The project framework should rest on the assumption that social media will be the appropriate channel for communication, which will encourage the participation of the users.
 
Conclusion
To promote the use of social media, the challenges and the inhibitors need to be addressed and the plan for including the social media in the Project Management should be part of the organization strategy. The idea should be communicated with the help of the advocates of the social media that project goals can be easily and effectively matched by the usage of social media. Various methods can be utilized for mitigating the risks associated and issues of privacy can be handled judgmentally. To begin with, the discussion amongst the organization leaders and the Project Managers should happen for the usage of social media, to understand its importance and should develop a strategy to promote its usage for achieving project goals.