The sky is falling! The sky is falling! It’s PM2.0!

So there seems to be much controversy over this PM2.0 thing. I’m going to state my opinion here for the record.

When I first heard the concept of PM2.0, I didn’t really pay much attention. My view of it was, people are adopting some of the emerging online tools for use in a project capacity. So what? Tools come, tools go. Some get sticky. If you really want to split hairs, the Agile Manifesto itself is a tool. It’s a way of thinking that’s used to achieve a specific outcome (which is ironic since it begins with “people over processes / tools”).

We are working through times of globally expanding projects, and ever-diminishing budgets. If there are tools that can help make that sad fact easier for us, where’s the problem? Let’s just adopt them. But if we do adopt them, remember that tools are only good when they have a functional application. If there’s no application, then they serve no purpose. Also, if a tool is new to an organization, you can’t just put it in place without teaching people how to use it, or establishing policies and procedures around how it should be used. That’s just plain foolhardy, and asking for a disaster. But sloppy implementation of a new tool doesn’t take away the tool’s intrinsic value…it just means whoever put the tool in place did a crappy job.

If I went back in time and threw two sticks and a flint at a caveman, I shouldn’t blame him if he’s not serving his three wives mammoth flambe by sundown. The implementation of a new tool is just as important as the application of the tool itself.

Here are my thoughts on some of the tools that are available to project managers now. I’ve tried to think of applications and implementation issues.
PM2.0 has it's place.
Wikis: I’ve had first hand experience setting up wikis for projects, and there are more benefits than drawbacks. Wikis enforce transparency. Some project environments can be hostile; project members do end runs around others to try and meet their personal agendas. A wiki eliminates that completely. If all revisions of a document are on a wiki, there’s no “sneaking in a requirement” (which I’ve seen more times than I’d like). Everything’s public and above board. Wikis require careful change management policies in terms of when a version of a document is unlocked for review, and locked again during rework. Meeting minutes can go on the wiki too, and a record of all document approvals. I wouldn’t run a project without a wiki now, because it just eliminates so many problems that I really don’t have time for (sneaky people, “forgetting” what was said in a meeting, revisionism, etc.)

Instant Messaging: What’s not to love? You need an update on something but don’t want the hassle of a phone call and small talk, ping a colleague. Need to run something past someone? Ping a colleague. Bored? Ping a colleague. It’s efficient, to the point, and as long as you can type quickly, it’s fast. It can also be a time-waster.

SMS: In the context of sending status updates for real time issues (production problems, for example), SMS gateways are great. But the texts better be accurate, because they can be broadcast to a large audience. Policies need to be set. SMS messages can be archived and made available through a project portal so history can be stored.

Blogs: Blogs are surprisingly versatile. They can be used in a narrative sense (like this one) to write articles and keep team members up to date with news. They can also be used as archives for problem resolutions. Give everyone on your team author access, and when there’s a problem, they can do a proper write-up of the problem, and how it was resolved. Because blogs allow keyword tagging, they can be readily extracted when the problem rears its ugly head six months down the road and everyone’s forgotten how to fix it. This is nicer than expensive issue management systems because platforms like WordPress are totally free. Blog platforms are intended for authoring too, which is really what’s needed for good resolution. The downside of this is, someone needs to monitor the entries to make sure they’re readable and meaningful to another human being and not just a copy / paste of code that was fixed.

Twitter / Facebook: I’m not sure I see an effective use for these platforms yet, but I could see value from a status reporting perspective. My only issue with Twitter is that it’s public, and my issue with Facebook is their privacy policies. When I lived in Singapore I ran projects in New York. What I wanted when I woke up in the morning was a blow-by-blow of my night’s events while I was sleeping. Something that showed me short, 140 character messages of the day’s running status would quickly get me up to speed so when I called New York in my morning I already had the gist. I used to ask for something like that in Excel format; another tool designed specifically for that purpose would serve even better.

Other Tools: For many other social media tools out there, I might not be able to see an effective application yet. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
But let's not get bent out of shape about it.
The thing to remember with all of the above is, there needs to be a suitable application for whatever tool you choose. There’s no point in jamming a web 2.0 tool in place just to say you did it. If you want to scrape the salt off a cracker, you’ll use a butter knife: not a sandblaster.

When man discovered fire, that was kind of a big deal. The invention of the wheel fell on the mostly nifty side too. PM2.0? Meh…it has its place. I think the controversy over PM2.0 tools is making more noise than the tools themselves. PM2.0 is not going to cause world economic collapse because of a sudden swath of failed global projects. Neither does PM2.0 mark the Return of the Messiah.

As far as I see it, PM2.0 is just an introduction of new ways of organizing our data that may, or may not benefit us, depending on the context to we wish to apply them. So let’s all keep it in perspective.

I’m a professor of project management at the college where I work. My students continually amaze me with their insights, passion and all-around awesomeness. I figure they deserve access to more answers than I can give them by myself. This site is for them.
  • I agree, although I would not that some “1.0” folks have been using sandblasters to scrape salt off of crackers for a long time – sometimes the “2.0” tool is better. By the say, I'd say – in the Enterprise context – For “Twitter” think Yammer or a Status.net application, and for Facebook think Elgg or BuddyPress

  • I was hoping that someone else might put it a comment and save me the heartache. I wrote some time ago a post titled “a fool with a tool is still a fool” (http://quantmleap.com/blog/?p=119). Not much to add to it really – reckon it speaks for itself. PM 2.0 is not even a term that makes sense as it could equally be called “communication 2.0” or “organization 2.0” or any other nonsensical 2.0 term. The real, established term, properly encapsulating the message attempted to be conveyed here is “Web 2.0”. Why take it any further?

    Might be a good start for along argument but there isn't really much to argue about – or is there?

    Cheers, Shim
    http://www.quantmleap.com

  • Heya Shim, I don't think it should be bad news at all that you linked that article. I thought it was very thought-provoking and well-written, so thank you!

    I don't disagree with many of the things you said. But from my point of view, your primary objection seems to be the fact that this whole “craze” has been labelled “PM2.0” than anything else.

    “A fool with a tool is still a fool”. There's nothing to debate about that. It's a true statement. I meant as much in my post above when I said “sloppy implementation of a new tool doesn’t take away the tool’s intrinsic value…it just means whoever put the tool in place did a crappy job.” But the tool still has intrinsic value whether we engage that value or not.

    Every profession needs tools. They are devices, methodologies, pieces of software and even ways of thinking that are used to achieve a specific objective. The key here is “objective”. That objective has to be defined before a tool can have purpose in the context of achieving it. That's what hopefully stops us from using a hammer to screw (smash) in a light bulb.

    That new tools are surfacing with the advancement of the web to me is pretty irrelevant. If some of these tools aid project managers in achieving a pre-defined outcome, so much the better.

    For any tool that is selected, someone needs to define the objective, purpose and rules of use. Someone needs to monitor the space to ensure there's no scope creep. Whether those things happen face-to-face or they happen in a virtual space doesn't change that need. In that regard both wikis and in-person meetings need to be managed, or they fall into disarray.

    What I see is improved, more focused collaboration TEMPERED with control. But control doesn't go away.

    Based on your article, if I took the label “PM2.0” away, I don't see that you would particularly disagree with that statement.

    What did jump out at me from your writing, and the link to Chris Lynch's 2007 post was the notion that “using collaboration tools teams can achieve business objectives without the need to employ a traditional PMP”.

    THAT is a different matter. THAT says, “the tool is the manager”. And I would fully agree with you, Shim, that is absolutely foolish. When I read a statement like that, I envision Oil Can Harry selling snake oil to the desperate.

    “But we can't afford a project manager,” screams the rabble…”here, try this latest invention and pay me your money…oops, gotta go.”

    A tool does not manage. A tool sits there until it's potential is achieved by realizing an objective. Someone must define that objective. Someone must define how the tool is to be used. Someone must set boundaries.

    It won't be the vendor: he's off in his covered wagon counting his money. So who's left?

  • You touch on a number of point here Geoff so, in the need of simplicity I will attempt to reply in a generic manner. My problem with your post was not JUST the way you've used the term “PM 2.0” but the very fact that you have used a term that has, todate, been introduced as the next big thing in Project Management.

    Writing a blog carries certain level of responsibility (not that I think you're irresponsible) as evident from the fact that the whole notion of PM 2.0 was generated as a result of one person coining this term in 2007, unaware of the mythological aspects arising from it in future years. Every time someone makes use of this term, it provides certain level of added credibility to a term that should not have existed in the first place. Glen Alleman has written extensively about the invalidity of the 2.0 implication of this term (as if it is a bigger and better variation on version 1.0).

    Suffice to say that some people actually believe in this myth and confuse between the means and the end. The 2.0 ‘think’ is just another means by which projects can be run. It is equally relevant to any other discipline (as I attempted to sarcastically suggest in my earlier comment). My preference would be for us not to use this term at all and simply let it rest in peace where it really belongs.

    Do we have a deal?

  • Right, so I'd be totally lax in my opinionatedness if I let it go. 🙂

    I won't comment on the level of responsibility cuz I do my best to be researched about what I write about. I was unaware of the 2007 article, and the connotations with which “PM2.0” was infused. Since I've now read the 2007 article, I recognize and will totally grant you that the notion of PM2.0 has been permeated with certain connotations that aren't particularly great. However, the term is out there now, and there's no going back. I'd love to be able to efface the silly aspects of PM2.0 from the collective consciousness. But as I am proof of, some people see the term in a purely tool-based context. They are unaware of the history, and therefore have their own viewpoints. That's not going to go away.

    I will, however, give you this: I don't believe the 2007 article was particularly informed, as the author is an engineer (according to the footnote) and not a project manager. Tomorrow I will post my full opinion of Mr. Lynch's article.

    Thanks for this comment, Shim. I appreciate your viewpoints. I will continue to be vocal about this, but I'm grateful for the insight you've brought here. 🙂

  • PS: My article tomorrow will give you another opportunity to slag me so stay tuned! *BIG CHEER*

  • galleman

    Geoff,

    All those “tools” listed above provide communications channels about managing projects, it's not the actual management of the project.

    How does these tools improve the processes that produce the evidence that the show that the probability of success is increasing?

    http://herdingcats.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/0

  • galleman

    How do these “tools” provide measurable value to the immutable processes of project management?

    http://herdingcats.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/0

  • You are correct. A tool does not manage. People manage. Please see my “Garbage In / Garbage Out” post http://bit.ly/cYSq8w for my thoughts on that. As for how a tool improves a process, that depends entirely on how the tool is used. A tool is only useful for a specific purpose as defined by the wielder. If the wielder doesn't know what he's doing, there won't be any improvement. If the wielder does, it's up to the wielder to demonstrate the added value.

    That being said, I stand by my position that a tool has intrinsic value and potential whether the wielder is capable of identifying it or not.

  • Again, it's up to the wielder to define those measurements and show value, regardless of what tool he or she chooses to get work done. The tool itself is irrelevant. Someone said to me since I posted this article, “if I used a hammer to screw in a light bulb, and I used it in a way that got the job done perfectly, do you care?” My answer is, “no, not really”. If it got the job done, who cares if someone uses Facebook or Twitter or Jabber or snail mail as communication vehicles? Tools are tools. If the wielder can make use of them, and meet the project objectives, who cares?

  • galleman

    Then why PM 2.0 and not PM Tools 2.0?

  • Good question. Ask the fellow who coined the term.

  • galleman

    Think agile, as in agile manifesto.

    Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

    That paradigm has been shown to work best from 2 people pairing, to 2,000 designing the Orion manned space flight program we work a piece.

  • steelray

    Social media as a PM tool? How does that work? Instant-messaging with your team instead of having status update meetings, for example? Would that be because your team may be around the world away from you?

  • Well the jury's still out in terms of some of the tools I see out there (i.e., Twitter and Facebook) but as Benjamin commented above there are alternatives. On global projects we have to be creative in terms of how we communicate because we physically don't have the option of walking down the hall and banging on someone's door.

    Instant messaging is certainly a useful tool. I install wikis for all my projects. Bas de Baar advocated using blogs to keep people on global projects informed in a recent post on Project Shrink. Wikis and blogs have the advantage of allowing people to edit and revise documents in a place that everyone can see, without needing physical proximity, and without having to worry about version control.

    I used to ask for a blow-by-blow in Excel or Word of the days' events in cities half a world away from me so I could see on waking what had happened that day. A tool like Twitter would make that a little easier to maintain and review, although there are privacy concerns.

    Ultimately I think it comes down to creativity and innovation how a PM could streamline communications and still keep everyone updated on what's important.

    Cheers, Laura! 🙂

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