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.
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.
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.