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Developing a Model for Social Media in Project Management Communications



The explosion of social media is changing the way we communicate, thus affecting the processes involved with information services supporting project management. In this paper, we document the emerging practice of companies using social media to support project management, review relevant literature, identify several examples of this practice, delineate dimensions along which these systems vary and lay the groundwork for the development of a model and future research into this area. Practitioners and researchers can build on this work to help organizations realize more value by using social media to support project management.
International Journal of Business and Social Science Vol. 3 No. 3; February 2012
Developing a Model for Social Media in Project Management Communications
Herbert Remidez
University of Dallas
1845 East Northgate Drive
Irving, TX 75062
Nory B. Jones
University of Maine Business School
Donald P Corbett Business Building
Orono, ME 04469
The explosion of social media is changing the way we communicate, thus affecting the processes involved with
information services supporting project management. In this paper, we document the emerging practice of
companies using social media to support project management, review relevant literature, identify several
examples of this practice, delineate dimensions along which these systems vary and lay the groundwork for the
development of a model and future research into this area .Practitioners and researchers can build on this work
to help organizations realize more value by using social media to support project management.
Keywords: Information Services, Trust, Project Management, Social Media
1. Introduction
Social media are affecting the way people communicate, develop relationships and build trust in home and work
settings. What began as a set of tools for friends to stay connected has evolved into a means for businesses to
communicate internally and externally. Although social media channels are used in a variety of contexts, this
paper focuses on the emerging trend of its application to support project management. Managing relationships to
build trust is especially important for projects managers, because it is becoming increasingly common for project
team members to be distributed. This lack of physical contact makes it more difficult to establish strong
relationships and bonds that lead to high levels of trust, making the communication process more challenging
(Grabner &Kaluscha, 2003). Communications delivered through social media are potentially a valuable resource
for developing trust between project team members. The next sections review research related to social networks
and social media, trust, and project management information systems that incorporate social media. The paper
concludes with a review of project management information systems that incorporate social media and lays the
foundations for a model to guide future research into role of social media in supporting projects.
2. Social Networks and Social Media
Social media is transforming consumer behaviors and business communication patterns. The growth of social
media platforms such as Face book and its equivalents have been well documented. For example, a 2009 survey
by McKinsey of 1700 executives worldwide showed that about 64% of these companies were using social media
for effective internal communications (Culnan et al., 2010). Similarly, in a study of executives, Barnes and
Mattson found that 52% reported using social media as effective tools in their businesses. When asked if their
company uses social media “to communicate with other companies like vendors, suppliers or partners,” they
found that “social networking is the most widely used with 34% reporting they employed these tools” (Barnes &
Mattson, 2009).
The reasons for the success of online social networks can be found in the work of researchers who studied off-line
communities of practice and social networks. Etienne Wenger was one of the pioneers in studying the value that
these communities bring to organizations via the strong relationships and social ties that create effective
communication and the exchange of knowledge. His research suggests that the power of these communities lies in
their ability to develop strong relationships and trust, a prerequisite for effective communications (1996).
© Centre for Promoting Ideas, USA
The benefits associated with social networks are why they continue to grow within businesses. According to
Bryan et al. (2007), “social networks, both within and outside of companies, increase the value of collaboration by
reducing the search and coordination costs of connecting parties who have related knowledge and interests.” They
suggest that by developing and managing relevant formal social networks, organizations can facilitate
communications that improve decision making and operations. This is due in part because employees develop
more “weak ties” across organizational and project spaces. This allows them to be boundary spanners, bringing
expertise across the various social networks and increasing the flow of ideas and communication. In addition,
social networks can make it easier to access employees’ tacit knowledge (expertise and know-how) (Bresnen et
al., 2003).Because of these and other benefits associated social networks, it is predicted that the adoption of social
media will continue to grow and expand across business functions and industries within the business community
(Fenn et al., 2010).
3. Trust
Besides influencing the level of understanding among communicating parties, a communication exchange often
results in an assessment of the parties’ trustworthiness. The choice of words, format, and frequency can influence
the perception of trustworthiness. According to Van Zyl (2009), social networking accelerates the development of
trust, relationship-building and effective communications among people in communities because of the short ened
response time and contribution to the network. Social media enables small talk, which supports familiarization
and helps build rapport and a nurturing, supportive, collaborative, trusting environment (Pullin, 2010). Trust
supportsa project manager’s ability to influence and manage stakeholder expectations (Pinto, Slevin& English,
2009; Smyth, Gustafsson&Ganskau, 2010), which is important to the success of projects(Project Management
Institute, 2008). In addition, trust has been cited as facilitating cooperation (Mayer, 1995), a more productive free
flow of information (Hart & Saunders, 1997; Nelson & Cooprider, 1996), and collective learning and knowledge
sharing(Argyris, 1999; Reina & Reina, 1999). Trust also can help increase satisfaction with the processes and
transactions associated with intangible services like information services (Featherman& Wells, 2010). Moreover,
researchers have found that trust in intermediaries can be transferred to peripheral parties (Hong & Cho, 2011).
Thus, we speculate that strong relationships among core team members could influence the development of trust
throughout the network of parties involved in a project.
4. Communication and Project Management Information Systems
In the past, project managers could assume that most team members would be located together, project
management software would be on a desktop workstation, and status reports could be delivered at weekly team
meetings or monthly executive review meetings. Today it is likely that at least one team member will be
physically or temporally separated from the team, sponsors will expect to have real-time access to project data,
and executives will want the ability to view their projects as a portfolio of efforts. These transformations have
changed the requirements for information systems that support project managers and increased the importance of
strong communication skills in project managers.
The importance of effective communication to the success of projects is well documented. Müller (2003) studied
projects that spanned organizational boundaries and found that good communication between project managers
and sponsors was necessary for effective communication across project team boundaries. In addition, he found
that successful project managers communicated in ways that promoted good relationships and conveyed project
status information while adapting the communication style to the project’s characteristics and organizational
context. Task-oriented communications that lacked relationship building aspects were insufficient to support
successful projects. Before Muller, others documented the importance of effective project communication on
project outcomes (Pinto & Pinto,1991).
Strong communication skills have been shown to compliment other aspects of team performance such as
supporting team-building efforts by maintaining relationships throughout the project (Haywood, 1998) and
promoting team member satisfaction and project team productivity (Henderson, 2008). These and other relational
elements, along with financial and operational outcomes, play a key role in determining whether a project is
judged as a success (Haried& Ramamurthy, 2009). The recognition of the positive relationship between project
communication practices and project success has led to communication skills becoming one of the most desired
project management competencies (Crawford, 2002; Ingason & Jónasson, 2009) and increased the demands
placed on information systems that support project managers.
International Journal of Business and Social Science Vol. 3 No. 3; February 2012
The adoption of network-based software combined with the recognition of the important role of communication
and the inadequacies of email have led software vendors to incorporate social media into project management
information systems. This includes the ability to deliver status updates in a Twitter-like manner, Face book-like
project news feeds, and LinkedIn-like profiles. For example, VMware introduced Strides, a project management
tool that provides each project with a social network where team members see who else is assigned to the project,
view a news feed related to project tasks and milestones, and view a list of everyone logged into the project’s
social network and what task they are working on at that time. Other companies that have incorporated social
media into project management information systems are listed in Table 1.1.
Social Media for PM Software Vendors (Table 1.1)
Liquid Planner
VM Ware’s Strides
Zoho Projects
5. Model Foundations
Because the practice of using social media to support project management is still emerging, vendors have
included or excluded support for activities based on many factors, none of which include rigorous research. No
research is available to guide practitioners in understanding what combination of social media support and
practices contribute to successful projects.To address this knowledge gap, the systems in Table 1.1 were reviewed
and a list of dimensions along which they varied was compiled and is presented in Table 1.2. These dimensions
can form the foundation for a model to guide future research efforts into thesocial media supportsand actions that
contribute to project success.
Dimensions of Social Media in PM Systems (Table 1.2)
Assumes a PM methodology (Agile, etc.)
Integration with enterprise-level social network
Integrates with outside social networks
Integrates with other collaboration systems (email, Microsoft Project Server, etc.)
Integrates with existing network access and security systems
Multiple projects view for a PM
Portfolio view of all projects
Projects inside a community or vice versa
Workflow management
Collaboration support (file sharing, wiki, blog, etc.)
File permission control
Provides real time updates and links to social network members
Support for traditional PM activities (Monte Carlo simulations, risk management,
change control, etc.)
Support for complying with government regulations (privacy laws, securities laws, etc.)
6. Conclusion
Project management requires communication practices that go beyond transaction confirmation to include
managing relationships, building trust, and managing stakeholder expectations.It seems likely that project
managers can enhance the communication effectiveness of teams by incorporating social media. Therefore, it is
important for project managers to understand the relationshipsamong communication practices, trust development
and the affect that social media have on them as they apply to the execution of projects. Not only is it important
for practitioners to understand these relationships, but researchers and project management software vendors
would benefit from understating the role of social media in managing projects.
© Centre for Promoting Ideas, USA
Because the phenomenon of using social media to support project management is new, there are no models to
guide our understanding of the important elements associated with this practice or how these elements influence
project success.This paper identifies project management information systems that incorporate social media in
various ways. It extracts dimensions of these systems and lays the groundwork for the development of a model
that can guide researchers and practitioners in understanding this emerging practice.
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