Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Posts Tagged ‘Social Networking’

Social Media Here, Social Media There, Social Media Everywhere

Posted by iammarchhare on 4 September 2009

Not long ago, I posted “Mixing Social Networking & Business”.  In that article, I drive into the ground (or, did I beat a dead horse?) the point that social networking without a strategy will probably mean another failed IT initiative for that company.  Maybe it wasn’t IT that truly failed even, but IT will get the blame anyhow.

I also made a smaller point that much of it would apply if you are doing social networking as an individual but for business reasons.  Perhaps you are building your network, establishing your expertise or some other objective.

The experts all seem to agree.  “You need to network.”  “You should be running a blog.”  “You need to get on Twitter.”

Pawel Brodzinski at ICPM asks a rather interesting question in “Social Media versus Project Management and Software Development”:

Let me ask one question: while exercising all these activities how do you find time to actually manage projects or to develop some code from time to time? “I don’t have private life” counts for the answer if you ask me, but I wouldn’t advise you to go that way.

I understand a trend to incorporate every new cool service which is out there to our professional lives but sometimes it starts to be counterproductive. People focus on “socializing” instead of getting things done. Mixing software development or project management with social media doesn’t have to be win-win because some guru said so.

I have to admit that the same thought has occurred to me from time to time.  On the one hand, is hanging out at the virtual water cooler really any different than what goes on in many companies anyhow?  And, yet his point that it really doesn’t normally help out his project is well taken.  His point that a person needs time away from work is well taken also.  And, it doesn’t really make his day go any better, at least on a regular basis.

So, again, are you focused?  Are you truly using social networking to work towards your stated objective or are you off-track?

I want to leave you with this thought because my life has certainly had some unexpected turns.  I’ve enjoyed this immensely, and I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve honestly been surprised at the number of hits I started getting just a couple of months into this blog.

However, I too need to strategize and concentrate on what’s important.  I’ve come to the decision to end this blog.  I am starting a new one up for more general tech interest that is more in line with a new business strategy.

So, if you want to drop by and say, “Hi” at the blog for John D’s Computer & Network Services, I’d appreciate the favor.  I promise to blog about projects from time to time. 🙂

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Posted in Admin, Business Strategy, Social Networking | Tagged: , , , , | Comments Off on Social Media Here, Social Media There, Social Media Everywhere

Mixing Social Networking & Business

Posted by iammarchhare on 28 August 2009

I’ve noticed that some organizations are on the bleeding edge of the social media realm.  There are some really cool things going on in various sectors.  However, is there really a strategy or are many of them just jumping on the social networking bandwagon?

Well, truth be told, I would suppose there’s a little of both of these going on.  Some probably have a strategy, but there are a lot of “ifs”, “ands” and “buts” in it.  Some are just out there so they can say they are doing it, but they have no clear idea of how to leverage it or even why.

It is this last group that concerns me.  It will be these guys that will say IT failed.  It will be these guys who will trivialize the successes in social networking.

When it comes to strategy, you know you are in for a ride when whenever the topic of strategy comes up, they get out the top hat and cane.  It is remarkable how some even stay in business.

Your business may be considering social networking.  Perhaps you are as a means of networking yourself.  If it is business related, there are similar concerns you will have as will a company venturing into ti.  Things to consider:

Does the company have a strategy?  A strategy is a business statement.  Keep the IT and tech talk out of it unless you are a technical company (even then, be very, very careful, as these are usually the worst at strategy).  A company with a strategy will be able to articulate its mission, its vision and its goals.  Even if they are all jumbled up together, they need to have a direction and know they have a direction.

  1. Does the IT solution support the strategy and goals of the company?  If so, how?
  2. How do you identify the inevitable distractions that will occur?  Remember, if it is supporting the strategy and goals of the company, it is not a distraction, even though on the surface it might appear that way.  Conversely, it is way too easy for what begins as a legitimate use to begin to trail off into various rabbit holes.
  3. What can be done to diminish the inevitable distractions that occur with social networking?
  4. Will your efforts to reduce distractions or enhance security also reduce the flow of innovation in the company?  Will it impede users from getting work done, or will it make it so difficult that they go out of their way to find another way to do it?
  5. Are the solutions dictated by the strategy, or are the solutions provided as a grassroots effort to support the strategy?  While decisions often have to be made, efforts have to be streamlined and approvals set, the sets of options for solutions should be done at the lowest possible level.  They will be the ones to carry out the solutions.

Are there any you want to add?

Posted in Business Strategy, Social Networking | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Perot Systems Launches Knowledge Management Portal; CMS Hosts Social Networking Webinar

Posted by iammarchhare on 12 August 2009

I’ve noticed that the few knowledge management (KM) articles received quite a few hits, so I thought you might also be interested in knowing that Express Computer recently interviewed Bhanu Potta from Perot Systems about their newly launched K-Edge portal.  The article “K-Edge leverages content management and Web 2.0 to support complex knowledge requirements” is written by Nivedan Prakash.

As a disclaimer, I have worked with (but not for) Perot in the past, and in particular with Bhanu.  I have a high regard for him and his knowledge management associates at Perot.

Speaking of Web 2.0, CMS is putting on a webinar on “Enterprise Social Software: Ready for Prime Time?” tomorrow, 13 August, at 2:00 pm EDT.  I’ve seen an increase in interest in this area for companies and nonprofits, so I expect it to be a pretty informative webinar.

Posted in Knowledge Management, Social Networking | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on Perot Systems Launches Knowledge Management Portal; CMS Hosts Social Networking Webinar

Knowledge Management: Fad or the Future?

Posted by iammarchhare on 27 July 2009

Is Knowledge Management dead or does it need to be revived and updated?

I have worked on Knowledge Management (KM), and I have to tell you it is amazing that anyone gets anything done in medium to large companies.  Everything is “tribal knowledge”, passed down orally or on scraps of electronic paper (such as emails) within each group from employee to employee.  No central person or group understands what information is needed, where it is stored or how to get to it.

The excellent PM Tips blog gave a pointer to an article on Social Computing Journal, a site which I had not come across previously.  I don’t know about the rest of the site,but the article by Dave Pollard titled “What’s Next After Knowledge Management? A Scenario” hits the nail right on the head, IMO.

Organizations are basically still organized the same way they were in 1975.  Senior Management sits back and makes decisions based upon a limited set of key information.  No one tells the boss bad news, so the boss is oblivious to front-line problems.  By the same token, employees are not privy to most of the information needed to make the top-level decisions or about what other parts of the company are doing.  Therefore, little is done to prepare employees to move up in the organization.  Worse, Gen Y is much more likely to work for numerous companies than ever before, not giving them any time to truly learn how the business operates.

The tragedy is that often neither they nor their senior managers think they need to know what the business is all about, unless and until they become senior managers themselves. So most employees spend their entire careers feeling under-appreciated, disconnected, unconsulted, and annoyed at stupid instructions and useless information requests from management. An they have a ton of very useful information about customers, operational ineffectiveness, and what’s going on in the world and the marketplace, that is never solicited, and never proffered.

KM is supposed to be about being able to find the right information when you need it.  Yet, most attempts have been fragmented and half-hearted.  Those are my words, BTW, based upon my experience, which seems to correlate well with Pollard’s stance.  There tends to be a “library management” view, a “technology project” view and a “training people” view of how KM should work.  To make it worse, though, senior management at best might view it cynically as a way to reduce costs but nothing that will add real value to their jobs.

In short:

In other words, in adding to the volume and complexity of information systems, we have added relatively little value, and in some cases actually reduced value. The reason for this is simple:

  1. We have not done anything to substantively improve the ability of senior management to manage the business (i.e. to manage cash flow, share price, risks or opportunities).
  2. We have not done anything to substantively improve the effectiveness of any of the information flows (arrows in the above diagram) that matter in organizations, or the quality of the information.

We have, in short, implemented a solution that addressed no problem. We introduced new KM tools because we could.

Ouch!  That hurts!

To make matters worse, paranoid companies actually make it harder, not easier, to find the information needed.  The needed information is usually “out there” in the wild, wild west of the worldwide web.  It may be in webmail, which I’ve seen many places restrict access to (forcing you to do stupid things like forward mail back and forth).  It may be on YouTube in an instructional video.  Pollard lists other activities that in some cases I’ve seen get restricted in the name of “security”.

So, you end up with an employee that hasn’t been around long enough to know the company, has information scattered all over, and the best they can do is scour an inefficient intranet that may or may not contain the information they need.

Yep, that pretty much sums up most large companies, I’d bet.

HOWEVER, Pollard goes on to discuss how KM will actually be very much needed in the future.  In fact, even now employees are finding ways around obstacles.  Pollard then updates the 1975 flow of information model to one that might work in the future.

I say “might” as in, companies still have a choice as to whether or not they innovate or die.

Posted in Knowledge Management | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Can Social Networking Replace Email?

Posted by iammarchhare on 14 April 2009

Last year, one of my favorite blogs LifeHacker asked the question “Can Social Tools Really Replace Email?”  That question has been somewhat on my mind lately.  Their question is based upon the New York Times article by IBM Social Computing Evangelist (how do I get that job?) Luis Suarez titled “I Freed Myself From E-Mail’s Grip“.

I reported the other day how “32% of ‘Influential Churches’ in US are on Facebook” on the Church of God Perspective blog.  Adoptions of technology in churches can be slow, perhaps because of the top-down nature of the organizations involved.  However, there are financial and time commitment constraints that have to weigh in as well.  Is it any different in a business, however?  Most businesses these days are very conscious of their cash flow.  If they are not laying people off, then they are freezing new hires.

What can organizations do to make their members more efficient?  Is wading through tons of email really that efficient?  Sure, you can setup filters, but those are usually best guesses that try to predict certain types of messages.  When emails don’t fit the mold, this can backfire.

Suarez talks about an internal tool similar to Facebook where you can look up experts on particular subjects.  There are many other collaboration and ERP systems that have adopted similar types of directories.

With the churn of turnover in many companies these days, you can no longer assume Sally who took over maintenance of that Access database will be there tomorrow.  Who do you call now for your Access advice?  As far as you know, all the others on the database team are SQL Server experts.  You can either call each one, or you can try to chase down their boss to see who else might know Access.

Churches sometimes are small enough where you don’t have that problem.  However, even then there is what is known as the “tribal knowledge” effect.  What if an outsider needs counseling on alcoholism?  As in right now?  That person can try to find the email for the pastor or ask around (if they aren’t too embarrassed).  Perhaps they will give up trying.

These situations can be vital problems that need a solution.  The larger the organization, the more the need for an answer.  Email just won’t cut it.

Wikis, IMO, are far underrated.  Anyone who has used Wikipedia knows that there is a world of information right at your fingertips.  Even if you do not have an expert directory, you can put up articles, cross-link them, do searches and present a complete picture of information on topics in a manner that is difficult otherwise.  The best part is that if you allow participation of an entire group, the organization is organically grown, thus making it easier for people to find the information.

Now, I love email.  It can leave a trail of discussion that is helpful and I can organize it how I want.  However, it is in my private inbox.  No one else can see it.  If everyone keeps all of their “pertinent” emails, then server space can be eaten up quickly.  Yet, how does one know what’s going to be needed in the future?  Usually, one doesn’t, so the user just saves it off “just in case”.  If John deletes an email he later needs, he may ask Sally for a copy or vice-versa.  A discussion forum, though, is centralized.  There aren’t concerns about what to keep and what not to keep.  There is only one copy of the discussion, not 10 or 20.

Can these tools really replace email?  No, not completely.  Suarez seems to argue that email can become extinct, yet even he mentions that he still uses it for more private discussions.  His argument, though, is that in many cases a phone call or an instant message can replace even that.  There is a time for a phone call, and I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of IM.  Email provides a record that I can look up later, where I can jog my memory or copy and paste as appropriate.  I don’t see it completely going away.

However, how many conversations are tucked away in various email files that really are not private?  How many are you just Cc’ed on “just in case”?  How many would benefit a much larger audience?  That is where the beauty of social tools comes in.

Social tools, if used appropriately, can benefit any organization, whether for- or non-profit.

Posted in Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »