Written by Michael Klynstra
Most Project Managers understand that project success is directly related to a team's ability to communicate easily, frequently and meaningfully.
While there are plenty of project communication tools out there, they can be costly, require installation, training or seat licensing. The good news is that these tools may not even be necessary. In fact, teams need look no farther than the social media tools they're already using and enjoying.
Let's see how you can use four of the most popular social media platforms to solve communication challenges or to serve as the actual communications platforms you use on your teams.
Use Twitter to Deliver Need-to-Know-Now News
Broken builds and impromptu client demonstrations are great examples of need-to-know-now situations. While email may be an option, many people don't have alerts that fire every time a message comes in. Or, message overload causes important ones to get lost.
For many of the same reasons teams are so productive when they're together in the same room, Twitter-like communications can serve the need for quick, relevant information sharing.
Take the plunge:
Consider Twitter (or a Twitter-like technology) for quick messages that supplement your project status reports.
- Have individual team members set up Twitter accounts specifically for your project
- Set all Tweets to "protected"
- Make hashtags meaningful. For example, an account name for a BA on portal development project could be "@prtl22_ba_jdoe."
Use Facebook or Yammer to Build a Community
After the excitement of a project kick-off fades, many Project Managers hole-up in their small functional areas, venturing out only when a team meeting requires it.
To be successful, project team members must learn about each other, how you work, your strengths and weaknesses. So there's something to be said about the unified space of the Facebook timeline where friends (or colleagues) can get insight into each other's human side. The sense of community this platform creates is invaluable when the project hits the inevitable bumps in the road and tensions run high.
Yammer, a social collaboration tool and Facebook's sibling in the corporate world, provides a similar space to Facebook's multimedia visualization of the progress of time -- but limits its users to the company.
Take the plunge:
Use Yammer to share announcements and special interests, upload documents and create a calendar of project milestones.
- Head to Yammer and sign up for a free account
- Invite the rest of your team members during the sign-up process.
- Create functional groups or feature groups to offer some initial structure for people joining the network.
- Desktop and mobile apps are available.
Use a Wiki to Create a Shared Team Notebook
At around 17 years-old, the wiki is likely the oldest platform discussed here. Its original intent was to be "the simplest online database that could possibly work."
A wiki is a space where people can add, modify and delete content using a simple markup language. One of the more compelling features of a wiki is that its structure and content changes and grows as it is used.
Take the plunge:
A wiki can serve as the free-form, flexible backbone for a small team's shared notebook.
- Host a wiki on your own server or
- Sign up with a company that offers a hosted solution to get started immediately
- Use one of Wikipedia's hosted wiki solutions
- If this list is overwhelming and you just want to give wikis a try, get a 30-day free account from Wikispaces
Use Vimeo, YouTube & Podcasts to Communicate, Educate & Engage
Studies show that more people prefer video to text when getting certain types of information. Video can also create more of a personal connection, which is always beneficial for distributed teams.
Let your team know the videos are intended to get them better, more compelling information -- not to be next summer's blockbuster. So while a video can take a bit more work, you can make things simpler with a smartphone, Apple computer and its iCloud service.
Keep this in mind, and you can introduce something fun and refreshing to your communication mix.
Social Platforms: Yours for the Taking
Most project team problems result from communication issues on some level, and social media is an extraordinary opportunity to improve team collaboration at all levels. Since most of your team is already comfortable with social media, it shouldn't take too much effort to get everyone on board.
Michael Klynstra is the director of marketing at custom software development firm, Geneca.
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