Level of buzz on using social media in project management and/or software development keeps on high levels for some time already. Social media this and social media that.
Don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to say that social media is bad in general. Since I’m a blogger I would be a hypocrite, wouldn’t I? I see a value of social media while I’m trying to build community around this blog, meet new people and get engaged in discussions. That’s why I have Twitter account even though I’m not a big fan of the tool. I don’t treat Facebook account as a place to connect with people I know from professional life – it’s rather LinkedIn which works this way for me. I’m regular reader of a series of blogs and I’m pretty active on a couple of mailing lists, which is a kind of pre-social media.
Now, I know all these tools can work. They can when it comes to promote a blog or a book or to meet new people or even to deal with virtual teams when you happen to work in one. Up to this point they are useful.
Social Media in Project Management
But it doesn’t have to do much with project management. Twitter? Come on. Have you seen the way most people use it? Sharing private stories, which are sure interesting as long as they are from your close friends. Dropping links people find interesting, which is fine unless you realize there’s basically unlimited stream of interesting stories on the Web. Discussions which are followed only by a couple of people engaged in the discussion and for the whole rest that’s just noise.
Blogging? It hasn’t really made me a better professional. It works the other way around. My everyday work has made me a better blogger since it brings me new stories every week and a lot of real-life arguments in different discussions happening around.
Cost of Social Media
All these tools take time to use them. Time taken from the real work you used to do. So yes, you can twit about your cat and weather and share all interesting links on your high school and yes, throw in news or two about the project you currently work on. This is basically a waste of time. You can read all these fascinating stuff which appears in the incoming stream, which also steals much of your time. You can update your status on every social media site you use and start your day with Facebook etc.
The question is: how can you find any time to produce some code or manage some projects? And another one: how exactly does it help you in your work? I mean how many issues you have solved through Twitter or Yammer or something you couldn’t solve faster without using them? You know using the pretty old tool called “conversation” or the no-so-more-modern one called “phone call” or with at least with this Google thing.
Reason (Not) to Use Social Media
I know social media tools you can run a remote presentation or share some information within distributed team but be honest – how often do you really need them?
How often they solve virtual problem which would be non-existent a few years ago when there was no social project management at all?
How often social media tools are used just because they’re cool and trendy and it’s such a fun to use them at work and tell all people around how cool they are and how they help us in our work?
Social Media Bullshit
This is just social media bullshit. It’s trendy so people jump on the bandwagon not thinking much whether it’s useful and productive or quite the opposite. The same happened with agile by the way. When you see agile-by-the-name-only which looks like crap and works like crap and brings handful of arguments for agile-haters it’s most likely implemented by people who thought it was so jazzy to be agile they just couldn’t stand and had to start it.
This is exactly the same pattern you see among a specific type of developers who will dive deep into every new technology they read about just to try it, no matter if it does make any sense or not. When you recall people who wanted to do virtually everything with Ruby on Rails a couple of years ago you get my point.
If you evangelize to use Yammer in your collocated team of 7 you just do basically the same. If the only reason for changing your toolbox is that you want to use trendy social media tools it is plain stupid.
Of course there are situations where you need focus more on improving communication, e.g. virtual or distributed teams, but you also need to measure general impact not only on the team but on whole surroundings. Does switching from MS Word to Google Docs hurts other people outside of the team who happen not to have Google account? How about sharing documents with your customers? And besides that what’s so social about Google Docs?
Future of Social Media in Project Management
Social media are fun. Social media can be useful. Social media can help tremendously in specific situations for any profession, project management and software development included. However they’re very often misused just because they’re fun in the first place.
John Moore does some experiments with social tools, namely Twitter. I do mine. I believe Twitter is way more like blogs than like email. People start using it and then most of them abandon Twitter soon. There are loads of enthusiasts but it’s nowhere close to treat it like email which is already just another basic service we need, like phone calls. After all, usefulness of email is here because everyone uses it. You can’t say the same thing about any of social media yet. And it’s not coming anytime soon.
This is the main reason why social media will be basically used for, well, social reasons. These are social media after all. While projects are about people it isn’t the only thing you should care while running a project. Old-school methods, verbal communication being the most important one, work still exceptionally well in vast majority of cases. Is it really worth to change it?
Now, since I hoped to cause some stir I hope to see your comments too.