Mitigating Social Media Risks

While advocates of project-related social media use believe that it improves the way they manage projects, IT departments are faced with a different side of social media: The risk.

This is an immediate problem for many organizations, particularly since a large number of those who use social media tools for work -- according to Harrin's survey, more than 40 percent -- are not officially sanctioned to do so. Software that is installed outside of the official remits could be a security risk, and proprietary company data could potentially be exposed through channels that are not sufficiently controlled.

In order to leverage the benefits of social media without exposing your organization to unnecessary risk, follow these guidelines:

  1. Be proactive, not reactive. Chances are high that your project managers are already active social media users. Proactively define your social media policy, along with acceptable tools and their use, and share it with your employees. That way, when your project managers turn to social media, they have guidelines to follow that will ensure that the organization's best interests are protected.
  2. Establish rules of engagement. Define how you want social media to be used by project managers within your organization. Will it be used for training, to manage projects, as a means for research, or all of the above? Defining its purpose will enable you to select the right social media tools for your team. Also, protect your intellectual property by ensuring that your team knows and understands what can and cannot be shared via social media channels.
  3. Know your business. Evaluate the business and communication needs within your organization to determine who should have access to social media tools at every level - project, program, portfolio and stakeholder. Grant and restrict access as necessary.
  4. Respect the firewall. As often as possible, implement Web 2.0 and appropriate social media tools behind your firewall to increase security. This may be a challenge for virtual teams, so establish access rules and policies for remote users.
  5. Assign a monitor. This could be one person to monitor your social media sites overall or, more likely, one person -- probably the project manager -- to monitor social media use for each individual project. While over-policing social media use can dilute its benefits, assigning a project-related monitor can help protect proprietary data and prevent potential human resource issues.

Establishing policies, processes, and standards for your team's social media use can help ensure that it brings tangible value to your organization -- not just within the context of evolving business conditions, but also according to the definition of good project management: projects that are completed on time, on budget, within scope, and of the highest possible quality to enable the realization of organizational goals.

About the Authors

Frank Schettini is VP Information Technology for the Project Management Institute. Brian Weiss is VP Product Management for the Project Management Institute.

This article was originally published on 10-03-2011
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