Project management software is social software

June 14, 2007

This article Still failing, still learning , by Reg Braith, made me take a look at my experiences with Yoxel project from a different angle. It makes a lot of sense now that I think about it more and more. Things are different in today’s highly competitive and changing market environment. Software companies are trying to become more adaptive and the key enabler is better communication, coordination, and collaboration. Project management, especially within agile methodologies, highly depends on people’s ability to communicate freely and clearly, to deliver new information instantly, to keep the project status up to date. With focus on human factor and better communication the process becomes very social.

Project management in general is an interesting beast because it imposes a structured element of the project steps and goals on the social one. Your project and the participants do have to follow certain workflow to get things done and report their status according to but then also along the way (or within defined boundaries) you have unstructured collaboration going on which is more similar to an Internet chat, a forum, or a conference call. It seems like project management software these days has to address both of the elements to have any significant value for a team. Define structure and allow collaboration. That is why solutions like Wiki’s, Jotspot, Socialtext are quite popular these days, they provide the social aspect to structured or relatively structured processes.

Just a few examples, based on our project, where the social element has become a significant differentiator:

  1. Collaborative release/iteration plan creation. A few release members, massage content of the plan, vote on priorities, try different resource allocation schemes, estimate, and communicate by posting comments to the project log. This is a social activity that allows distributed teams to quickly arrive at a reasonable plan while capturing the reasoning behind important desicions.
  2. Project monitoring. Here the real-time status information on individual requests is essential. This is how the overall project status is figured out. And an accurate, up to date progress status keeps your team properly focused by pinpointing problem areas and bottlenecks of the development process. Of cause capturing of the collaboration in the project log is very useful at this stage too.
  3. Individual request monitoring. Collaboration is enabled at the level of individual project tasks too. Any participant can subscribe to a particular request updates and post his own comments. Request owner moves the request along the workflow as he makes progress, and other involved participants monitor the process and follow up when required.
  4. How about product/support knowledge base? User ratings and expert identification. Also we have been experimenting with community guided search.

Great observation by Reg. I should emphasize the social aspect of YOXEL SW in our marketing collateral, huh :)?

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