twitter, project management, tips, Toby Elwin, blog

4 tips to use Twitter for project management

Toby Elwin Blog Archive, Portfolio Planning, Social Project Management 11 Comments

Twitter, project management. communication, Toby Elwin, tips

Twitter: light on space, heavy on impact

In my last post I presented a case to manage your projects as a business portfolio. The ability to deliver projects on time, on budget, and within scope directly impacts your organization’s ability to compete and stay alive and project failure is an organization-wide risk.

In this post I want to introduce Twitter to manage projects. Why Twitter? Twitter is a great communication and community collaboration tool and once a project starts, 90% of a project manager’s job is communication. Project communication and coordination is vital to project success and important:

  • Keep stakeholders informed;
  • Manage project scope;
  • Identify risk;
  • Coordinate teams;
  • Ensure milestone schedules;
  • Manage work stream progress; and
  • Coordinate resource needs

Imagine 90% of your role communicating? How’s your day look now? Any room in your calendar to increase your communicating even more? I can’t imagine the amount of email that hits your inbox that requires you to read, decide “what’s this got to do with me”, create acceptable options, and then craft and fire off an adequate email.

More Communication Please

Think your project sponsors and stakeholders are looking for even more communication in their lives? I’m sure your sponsor or boss does not appreciate an email you forward without an explanation or concrete options you suggest to try. Lack of value added communication creates little confidence in your boss that you have things under control and, that you respect their time or that you are even worth the gobs of money you are paid to make decisions.

Think you’ll get a lot enthusiasm calling more meetings? Having more conference calls? more emails? or setting your project and users up with shared sites like Basecamp or SharePoint? Well, good luck to you.

We need to communicate to manage expectation and results. There is nothing more damaging to your reputation then a project delivered to a sponsor who says, “You should have added this” or “this is really not what I expect” [find more on this with my scope management eBook].

What’s a project manager to do? As a project manager your job is on the line, your organization’s resources are on the line, and your competition is only too happy when you can’t deliver on time, on budget, or with the features promised.

Here’s your answer, use Twitter and micro blogging to manage project communication and collaboration. What I love about Twitter and, microblogging is easily summed up: you have 140 characters to get your point across. With Twitter being succinct is a requirement and it is sure easier to read through a Tweet timeline than deciphering emails.

Communicate in 140 Characters

You have an obligation to communicate, but with Twitter you now have an opportunity to communicate more efficiently, more effectively. 4 reasons to use Twitter for project management:

  1. Concise messages
  2. Topics filtered by keyword (more on this below)
  3. Link to documents or websites
  4. Track communications by user and using a time stamp

There are a couple of services to set up a private group for sensitive information and to provide Twitter access that you, as the project manager, can administrate. Here are 3 steps to start managing projects with Twitter (hyperlinks provide more information on each):

  1. Create a Twitter account for your private group and have your team create Twitter accounts or assign Twitter accounts with privacy features for your project team;
  2. To add private message and group management functionality choose either of these current Twitter add ons:
  3. Create a j.mp link shortening account to shorten file names and hyperlinks as well as track when your files are clicked on and how many people clicked on your file (ever wonder if your customer really said he did not get your attachment? If you use j.mp you’ll at least see if he opened it).

What To Say The Twitter Way

Here’s a quick tip list on how your can use Twitter to manage project communication (hyperlinks provide more information on each):

  1. Use hashtags on your Tweets to code the Tweets within any number of areas for sorting and redirecting, try these hashtags examples: #risk, #change, #schedule, #scope, #resource, #budget, #stakeholderscrewup
    For example: See if your team has any new risk items by doing a #risk search
  2. Send a direct, and private, message to people using the “d username”. As an added bonus a direct message will also send an email to that person
    For example: to send a direct message to my Twitter account type “d tobyelwin” then your message and I will get a private message that will not appear in the Twitter timeline
  3. Use your j.mp account to shorten hyperlink addresses to files that use Google Docs, Windows Office Live, or Zoho or hyperlinks that are located on your company portal
  4. Use the Twitter RSS feed to stream your group Twitter feed into your RSS feed into a project collaboration portal like 37signals’ Basecamp

I also wanted to recommend a couple of sources on the archive and search capability you can use with Twitter for your Tweets, project-related or otherwise:

  1. 3 ways to Archive Your Tweets offers a way to backup your Tweets and 2 other tips;
  2. Collecting, Sorting, and Archiving Your Tweets includes a great tip to download and archive to an Excel Spreadsheet; and
  3. 10 Ways to Archive Your Tweets includes a tip to integrate your Tweet history with your Google calendar in their list of alternatives

How do you manage project communication?  Do you have any tips or other social media tools you use to manage project communication in the age of saturation? I welcome your thoughts.

Contact me if you would like to discover how to turn project management into your organization’s competitive advantage.

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Comments 11

  1. Great ideas, and I think an easy to integrate twitter-style communication into projects is to use a tool like LiquidPlanner that already comes with this feature included. You can post a reply directly to one person or to the whole group, and all comments are logged right on the workspace. You can have a stream of comments right on a task or folder of tasks, to keep things easily organized. LiquidPlanner also features other methods of project collaboration, but this one is extra handy for quick notes to team members and client communication via project portals.

    1. Thanks for the LiquidPlanner recommendation as a paid platform that offers Twitter-like communication to manage projects, I appreciate you adding this. I have had mixed success using a software option that replicates a social media tool, for a couple of reasons:

      1. Another tool to integrate or learn (redundancy)
      2. Another tool to monitor and pay attention tooI wanted to share a way to leverage a tool you may already use, but I certainly understand the preference companies have to bring things behind a firewall or data security.

      I remember the resistance to email in the mid 90s. So, as with any tool it is value and utility use or change management.I also wanted to recommend a couple of sources on the archive and search capability you can use with Twitter for your Tweets, project-related or otherwise:1. 3 ways to Archive Your Tweets offers a way to backup your Tweets and two other tips from the consistently good Geeky Ninja blogs 2.

      Collecting, Sorting, and Archiving Your Tweets includes a great tip to download an archive to an Excel Spreadsheet from Shaun Miller’s blog on Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology3. 10 Ways to Archive Your Tweets includes a tip to integrate your Tweet history with your Google calendar Sarah Perez of Read Write Web and lists other alternatives.

      Dina, thanks again for your comment and also an introduction to your site blog on project management ideas that, as you mention, apply to life inside and outside projects.

  2. Toby,

    I have published exactly a year ago an article on social project management, unfortunately the readers didn’t like it.

    Your article, on the other hand, is specific to a tool that a lot of Project Managers use and appreciate nowadays, there are quite a few Project Managers asking me every week about twitter and how to use it for Project Management.

    I would love to republish this article on PM Hut, please contact me either by email or through the “contact us” form on the PM Hut site in case you’re OK with this.

  3. Came across this on IT Evolution blog and thought to bring the conversation here to try to create a thread. Thank you Chris.

    A Twitter Kickstart for Project Managers

    Posted by Chris Larsen, PMP

    I’ve been a “firefly” Twitter user for a while, meaning that I’m on and off about Twitter from time to time. I think that at least the concept of the platform has meaning for project managers and team leads because of the crucial impact of communications on project success. I’m just not sure that the best implementation of the concept has appeared yet.

    In the meantime, Toby Elwin at the Project Management Hut has put together a useful compendium of Twitter knowledge for project managers that goes beyond what novices need to know. He’s clearly an enthusiastic advocate of using Twitter as a project communications tool:

    You have an obligation to communicate, but with Twitter you now have an opportunity to communicate more efficiently, more effectively. 4 reasons to use Twitter for project management:

    * Concise messages
    * Topics filtered by keyword (more on this below)
    * Link to documents or websites
    * Track communications by user and using a time stamp

    I wish he contributed a few more words to how Twitter – or microblogging in general – should fit into an overall project communications approach. Some kinds of project communication are easily adapted for Twitter, while many are not. I’m also skeptical about Twitter’s effectiveness as a project tool simply from the perspective of user adoption. For Twitter to be effective in this context, all of the project team has to develop the Twitter “habit,” which means making Twitter and tweeting as much a part of your electronic communications activity as e-mail and web browsing. That takes time, and people new to Twitter don’t often grasp where its value lies. Twitter for projects works best in environments where the team members have already drunk the Twitter kool-aid.
    All the same, Elwin’s post provides helpful tips and lists of tools that can direct an early explorer of the Twitterverse to a better knowledge of the platform.

    I’d love to hear from anyone who has experienced Twitter – or its more corporate-friendly cousin, Yammer – in a project context.

    1. My onsite reply:

      Thank you for the comments and presenting my blog here.

      My original post on my site has links that PMHut did not carry over that I think give a better context for “4 tips to use Twitter for project management”

      The learning curve for Twitter is extremely small and relies more on a communication curve to learn how to communicate effectively within 140 characters. I think Twitter’s popularity is this ease to state your case to gain someone’s attention in 140 characters; Twitter’s demand for brevity is equally frustrates many, but that may be a larger communication issue.

      My goal calling out Twitter was to highlight the communication aspect of a project manager’s job: stakeholders, vendors, subject matter experts, implementers, etc… I take the premise that if subject matter experts built the work packages that the communication will focus on risk (tell me what happened that stops you from fulfilling your work package projected delivery).

      Because people tend to not know how to write effectively (concisely) our inboxes are saturated. And I don’t want to miss an important point that was buried inside a 4th or 5th paragraph, and certainly don’t wish I did not have to digest an email to figure out the communication takeaway is. Twitter takes less time to write than en email and less time to read – and you can have it directed to your email, if you wish.

      Also, the last thing a project manager or team needs is another status meeting. I manage projects using risk communication, and Twitter’s capability, or one of the other micro blogging technologies I recommend, to have time-stamps, keyword tags, and searches allows highly focused communication everyone has time to read.

      Using Twitter and a link shortening service, like bit.ly, as i write in the original blog, you can direct people to a file or link for more context or information.

      The user adoption I run into is less on technology and more on effectively communicating – no sarcasm intended. The Twitter training might make the kickoff meeting review and like all change needs to be managed and cultivated for adoption.

      Google Wave is an incredible meld of micro blogging, email, and side conversation here and might be a better solution.

      We project managers need all the help we can get, communication is only effective when it is understood. I’ve found Twitter a great way to manage effective communication, time, and results – reach out to me if you have other thoughts or question, I’m happy to help.

      Sincerely,

      Toby Elwin
      @TobyElwin

    1. I like how Twitter and project management work together and I am glad you found your way to the blog post.  I appreciate the comment, it is great to discover people this way and following your Twitter link and site is a find for me.

  4. There are many technophobes out there who refuse to use the Internet for a number of reasons. For me, the strangest thing of Internet righteous people, those who are project managers. Maybe when they think about the Internet, they think about problems (“abuse”), associated with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Wikipedia, then link those in the workplace. “I can not use Facebook and Twitter for project management,” you might say. I agree, however, these project managers do not see an “average”, in which content is transmitted. Of course, you can not use Facebook and Wikipedia for projects, but also “Facebook “style of delivery method of communication and” Wikipedia “style of co-operation could not be more perfect.

    What better way to manage projects, the web-based tools, where communication is instantaneous and documented reporting processes are automated and business-critical data can be managed and shared from anywhere in the world with Internet access.
    Project Management Tools

    1. Post
      Author

      Social Media technophobes who use instances of abuse or breach to defend their luddite position. These same people do not think about canceling their postal mail because of the frequency of spam. The view defends the frame.

      I understand change is all around and the effort to filter what to pay attention to and what to safely ignore is a delicate balance. But today, like all great instances, the key of communication is to create reaction.

      Exploring options to cut through the clutter is a proof of our resilience. Abandoning wholesale exploration is a reason two terms to describe Europe and North America continue to resonate: Old World and New World.

      Those of the Old World cling to the way things were. Those willing to explore the New World are a hearty breed. They make mistakes, they take risk, they want opportunity.

      And there will always be the two camps.

      Thank you, lucia, for the comment. What has been a project management tool you’ve used that creates the most value for you, your team, and your stakeholders?

  5. Yes, probably before 3 or 4 years back, Twitter was an excellent mode for a lot of marketing activities and from here I understand that it played a role in project management too. But now things have changed. Twitter no longer acts as an effective marketing media as it was then.

    People try to reach out to their target audience through other channels. Moreover, there are several good and free project management tools, that only manage projects. I think this is the major reason why people opt for free tools over open source and paid tools.

    But, lot of companies use paid tools too, just because of the project management and coordination features they provide. We are actually one of such company, as we are constantly looking out for innovative tools, irrespective of cost involved in it, if its worth.

    We started managing project using office tools and Google tools, but now we are settled with Replicon project management software, the reason being simple, we grow and our need grows too.

    1. Project management software seems to make the most effort to get us to communicate and document communication. I think the key is a tool that provides both without becoming an anchor.

      Whether high-cost or low-cost, the cost of doing something people do not use is high.

      I continue to value Twitter for a host of clean, crisp, and focuses message and search capability. It is an alternative I would never advocate for all circumstances. I would value further thoughts on Twitter’s decline in marketing.

      Thank you for the thoughts on project software that works, it is always good to get a view from people and organizations using tools well.

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