The Magic of Social Media in the Workplace

Don't Saw the Project Manager In Half Just Yet.

April, 2011

The Internet has brought us more than a few transient fads. Ideas we once thought were pretty clever (remember "WebVan"?), have rapidly disappeared and others have taken their place with even more alacrity. Social media has proven itself not one of those unfortunate examples. Its value, as demonstrated by the almost obscene valuations of some of the most popular social media sites, lies in the ability to leverage the data these sites collect to accurately target markets and promote product. Certainly the Facebooks, Twitters, Linkedins, et al. have come to realize the power yielded by the confessions offered by their user base. Traditional media has suffered as marketers realize the value of these services and apportion their resources accordingly. Google is Google because of these phenomenon. The potential held by the rest of the field is, in a word, awesome.

So what does all this mean in the workplace? In the office? On the project? There is a body of work to be done. Traditional project management says that there is "x" hours of work, and "y" number of resources available to do it. Do the math, and you get a date. This is where Billy Mays will chime in, "But WAIT!" Enter the magic of the collaboration made possible by social media / social networking.

The GenX, Y, Z, i, or whatever we're calling the youngsters entering the workforce are certainly aware of these tools and are quite proficient with them. It wasn't long ago that we considered them to be a bit too familiar. So much so that we set our content filters to block access to these "productivity suckers". In fact, if the proxy log said you were spending too much time loitering on Facebook, your butt was hauled down to HR. In most cases, you were gone.

Ah, but we were later enlightened. These tools are a way of life for the new generations of talented workers we're recruiting. They cannot work without them! They're going to access them via their smart-phones anyway. Instead of blocking these tools, we need to embrace them and exploit the power of collaboration they bring. The shiny new prodigies rejoiced as the proxy rules were purged, and the project managers reveled in the promise of the new level of productivity heralded by all this social-driven collaboration.

Suddenly we were inundated by our vendor-partners with offers of new enterprise social media solutions or added features to existing tools. A new must-have social module for your CRM package. A new social media package that lets your developers share their work in real-time, communicate and document their ideas, and follow documents, projects, and each other. All of this collaboration magic will transform your work environment; fundamentally revolutionize the way people work!

OMG!!!

There is no disputing the power and ongoing potential of social media to affect the marketing and promotion of products. At the end of the day, however one plus one equals two, resources level, and there is no magic collaboration "feng shui" that's going to get your project done any faster than some sound and clever leadership. Perhaps the time spent using these tools will reduce the amount of time spent in meetings. Perhaps the younger demographic's social habits are less interpersonal and more digital. Perhaps. But I'm not sure I'm dropping $25k or more on some yammering social media toy.