Social Media: A Growing Factor in Project Success

Social media tools are fast becoming a ubiquitous part of the project management toolkit. According to the survey Social Media in a Project Environment, conducted in early 2011 by Elizabeth Harrin, an author and Project Management Institute (PMI) member and volunteer, more than two thirds of 181 project managers surveyed in 32 countries believe that social media is a key issue for their industry.

Most respondents see collaboration, communication and networking opportunities as social media’s biggest potential benefits. But they also expect financial benefits, principally from lowering the cost of meetings, although these savings are not yet as important as the efficiency advantages.

Other research supports this trend as well. LinkedIn currently features more than 3,000 groups related to project management, serving more than 3 million people who list project management in their professional profiles. There are more than 123,000 members in LinkedIn’s Project Manager Networking Group — an increase of 45 percent in the past year — in addition to nearly 7,000 YouTube videos about project management and a rapidly growing member base in other social media outlets such as the Project Management Institute’s online Communities of Practice, Yahoo’s PMP® Best group and Google’s PMHUB group.

And, according to PMI’s 2010 Pulse of the Profession Survey, 76 percent of organizations polled already use online networking/collaboration tools for managing projects. The survey polled 1,157 non-trainer/non-consultant PMI members/credential holders in North America, Europe, Middle East/Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin American and the Caribbean.

Among the collaboration tools in use by survey respondents are:

  • SharePoint
  • IM (multiple platforms)
  • NetMeeting
  • Microsoft Project Server
  • LinkedIn
  • GoToMeeting

According to the Harrin survey, 36 percent of respondents said that they use social media tools to communicate with their project teams, with 24 percent reporting that they communicate with the project stakeholders in this way. In addition, 25 percent of respondents said they actively use these tools for managing their teams, and 27 percent reported using them for project status updates. Nearly half of all respondents (48 percent) reported using social media tools for document sharing.

Aside from communication, the Harrin survey reveals that social media tools are used for the day-to-day work of project management. Respondents reported using them for collaborating on tasks (34 percent), task tracking (19 percent) and hosting online meetings (32 percent). This research showed that nearly all PMI members have networked online in the past 12 months (90 percent) and most belong to an online project management community (71 percent). Additionally, most indicated that they are active in chatting and blogging (67 percent) and that they have contributed to social media or other online communities (62 percent).

So, the use of social media by project managers is evident and unchallenged. But two key questions remain for some organizations:

  1. What are the true benefits of social media for project managers?
  2. How can organizations leverage these benefits without falling victim to the risks that social media introduces to a company?

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