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The 5 Questions You Should Ask Any Social Project Management Vendor – Part 2
By John Tripp

In the first article in this series, we argued that in order for a project management software provider to claim that it is providing “social” project management, it first must show that its product, in fact, a social business application. In this article, we will argue that the second thing that a project management software provider must illustrate is whether their product is, in fact, a project management software application.

Project management software is everywhere, and it seems like every day a new project management product appears. Lately, this trend has become evident with social project management software as well. As these products (with very different capabilities) multiply, it is important to understand the key capabilities of social project management software, so as to cut through the noise.

In order to cut right to the chase, the second question that you should ask your social project management software vendor is: “Do you support what my project managers need?” or, in other words, “Does your software support real project management?” There is a very tangible difference between collaboration systems that allow simple task list management, and a project management system that allows for hierarchical project work breakdown structures that include thousands of tasks, with constraints, split task assignments, critical path and over-allocation analysis, and financial planning and tracking. True enough, many very small teams do not require all of these features, but a project management system must have the capability to support all of these things.

In addition to the ability to track large numbers of tasks with very detailed information, a project management system must support the discipline of project control management. Rather than a free-for-all, in which anyone on the project can add and change the commitments of the project team, a project manager must have the ability to track tasks, control the addition of new tasks, track the reasons why those tasks were added (or changed), and provide the ability to report against baselines. Therefore, a project management system must provide true issue management, change management, and traceability of all tasks to associated changes and issues. In short, the project manager is still central to the management of the project, and her project management system must allow her to enforce the discipline of the project.

Note: This argument may seem to fly in the face of the “democratization” argument and the “self-managed” team wave, but it does not. While we completely agree about the democratization of project management DATA (which will be addressed in our next article), we couldn’t disagree more with the notion that any but the smallest teams, working on limited scope projects, can truly “self-manage”. Realistically, even these teams are being managed – it is simply the customer that is performing the “project management” for them.

Finally, a social project management system should augment the features described above by integrating them into the social fabric of the organization. Issues should be “crowdsourceable”, conversations from the activity stream should be able to be tracked as issues, estimates of change impacts should be able to be voted on by the team, people and tasks on the project plan should be able to be tagged in posts, and so on and so on.

We are unaware of any product that has, at the time of this article, truly leveraged the social paradigm in a fully integrated way as described in the previous paragraph. But a social project management system should at least have the capability to track all of the items discussed, and a vendor should have the vision to deliver to the promise described above.

To be clear…your social project management system must be able to support…drum roll please…project management. Team collaboration + task management is not enough.

In summary, we believe that the first two questions you should ask your social project management software vendors establish the bona fides of the product – is it a social business application, and is it a project management application…if one of those two is missing, the rest of the questions might not matter. Stay tuned, and comment below.

Original series can be found here.

John Tripp is Chief IT Evangelist at Trilog Group, one of the foremost providers of Social Project Management software

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