Risk analysis for my Project Management tools study

I’ve refined the descripion of my project slightly and added a risk analysis.

The study involves –

  • Carrying out a comparative survey of web-based project management and collaborative tools, and identifying different categories of tool based on their functions.
  • Interviewing/surveying project managers and members of project teams about their needs and priorities, to identify which collaborative activities would benefit most from the use of web-based tools, and what criteria they would apply in deciding which to use (for example functions, cost, security, ease of use.)
Description of Risk Probability Impact Response
Scope of study too large for the timescale. An unmanageable number of web-based project management and collaborative tools is identified. High High Reduce impact – Carry out the study on a subset of the tools
Shortage of data from project managers and teams. Unable to persuade an adequate number to participate in the study. Medium Medium Reduce probability – Carry out a wider survey (for example, try LinkedIn project management groups.)
Planning issues. Insufficient time left in project to complete certain key tasks (for example analysis, writing up.) Medium High Reduce probability – Create project plan
A participant in the interviews or the survey has an issue with data protection. Very Low High Reduce probability – Follow best practice on anonymity and informed consent.
Dispute with a software company over accuracy of the information about one of the tools covered in the study. Very Low High Reduce probability – Display a disclaimer including details of who to contact if any information is inaccurate.

Web-based collaborative tools for Project Managers

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be looking at various web-based collaboration tools and how they might meet some of the needs of project  managers.  Here (below) are some preliminary thoughts, which I’ve also set out in the form of a mind map.

It’s well known that one of the vital ingredients for a successful project is effective collaboration. This includes collaboration between the members of the project team, and between  the project team and other participants (customers, project executive, third party contractors, etc.)

The rise of Web 2.0 and  social networking has spawned a wide range of tools which can support these activities.  Many can be implemented quickly and easily, often  at  no direct cost. They can open up possibilities for new and more efficient ways of working (for example version control becomes much simpler with cloud-based documents; web-based whiteboards and presentation tools offer new approaches to generating and sharing ideas.)  As well as the many generic tools, there is a growing range of specialist applications – ranging from comprehensive project management environments to relatively light-weight tools designed to support particular techniques.  The following discussion in Quora is a good illustration of the range of options available: http://www.quora.com/Project-Management/Which-is-the-simplest-collaborative-project-management-tool

The variety of possible solutions is a potential minefield. A well-chosen tool can contribute greatly to a project. Conversely, though, the wrong  tool could cause considerable disruption, soaking up valuable time and resources for little or no benefit.

Therefore an important part of my investigation will be to gather information from project managers about their needs and priorities – with the aim of  identifying  which collaborative activities would benefit most from the application of web-based tools, and what are the key criteria to apply in assessing their suitability and usefulness.

Visitors and Residents

Here are some reflections on the Visitors and Residents principle, which Dave White introduces in this video . (Dave points out that Visitors and Residents is a development of Marc Prensky’s Natives and Immigrants principle  – focussing more on patterns of use and less on the age of the users.)

Dave provides these very useful definitions and keywords:

Visitors –
“they go online, they do what they need to do, they come away again, they leave no trace”
Keywords: private, individual, goal-orientated.

Residents –
“they live out a portion of their life online. They have a form of their identity, which stays out there online even when they log off.”
Keywords: social, communal, visible.
(Copied from the transcript of the video.)

How might these concepts apply to an organisation? What would be the benefits and drawbacks for an organisation in being a Visitor or a Resident on Twitter or Facebook?

Firstly, how might an organisation behave as a visitor on these networks? One way would be to try to utilise them as a source of information about its customers. Staff could monitor certain pages in Facebook, or run searches based on particular names, tags, or groups in Twitter.

Potential benefits from this would be insights gained into customer needs, difficulties, likes and dislikes.

Any drawbacks? I think there are some – arising from the fact that Facebook and Twitter are (as Dave points out) fundamentally “residential platforms” and in the long term it would be difficult not to get drawn into their social aspects. Sooner or later, representatives of a “visiting” organisation would have to address questions such as – Should they just “lurk”, concealing their presence at all times, or should they be prepared to intervene in discussions – particularly if there is a misconception they could clear up or a problem they could solve? Is it ethical to deliberately conceal their presence? If they become known, some people will expect them to be “social” and to be ready to respond to questions and requests. How do they handle these expectations? In practice, therefore, it may not be viable to maintain “visitor status” for any length of time.

What if an organisation were to use these platforms for the same purpose (as a means of finding out about its customers) but as a resident rather than a visitor? Being part of a community leads to opportunities to make connections and build relationships – leading in turn to richer communication, with the potential benefits of greater mutual understanding and trust. Drawbacks? I think the biggest is the amount of TIME it takes to properly maintain an online identity. As Dave puts it, you need to keep feeding the machine. This is something that an organisation would have to consider carefully, particularly as Facebook or Twitter would probably just be one of a number of mechanisms they would have for communicating with their customers.


Hello World

I work in Information Technology, as a Team Leader in the IT Department of a UK University. Before my present job I managed various research projects, mainly to do with various aspects of the Internet – starting with information portals and metadata in in the late nineties, then learning environments, and more recently online identity and access management. I’m also currently doing a course in Web Enhanced Practice. I gravitated to IT from the Arts, via Library and Information Science.

I think this blog will mainly consist of my thoughts on current developments and issues in IT, but elements of my past lives and other interests may creep in from time to time.