Making the most of modern methods of communication
Good project management needs good communication.
Steve Nicholls describes how social media applications can help
Social Media tools are of increasing importance as firms and individuals work out how to get the best from the emerging applications. Many companies have started to experiment with social media as they are finding innovative ways to save time and money through better communication and collaboration on projects.
Below is a summary of some of the most popular social networking and sharing tools that could bring huge benefits to your project.
Skype is very useful for remote or informal meetings. It can be used like a telephone or as a video conferencing application. For key people you interact with often, its buddy list enables you to see if they are online and available to chat with.
Skype can also enable you to share your screen, but a better similar free application is Join.me. This application can be used for remote meetings where it is important to share your screen, for example a presentation, with the other participants. The best way to use this is in conjunction with Skype for the voice call or with PowWow (www.powwownow.co.uk), which provides telephone conferencing services.
There are a number of specialist applications that can integrate a number of tools used on large projects. For smaller projects or for more informal sharing, try using YouTube or Flickr. YouTube allows you to share videos, to create a YouTube channel and to upload videos or pictures, while Flickr enables you to share not only pictures but also videos with anyone.
A Facebook fan page for project stakeholders can be set up in a few minutes. The page can be used to share information about projects such as their location, team members, and other social media links such as Twitter, YouTube, Flickr. The page can be viewed by anyone. Alternatively, a closed group can be created on Facebook or LinkedIn to share photos, videos, and documents or to have private discussions among registered members.
An iPad or similar mobile device can be useful for project managers and participants. Their ability to take videos and pictures on the fly means communications can be improved and issues discussed very quickly.
An issue that is difficult to explain in an email or over the phone can be described clearer using a short video clip or a few pictures. A call to the key people using Skype combined with the screen sharing application like Join.me can make a discussion of the issue quicker and easier.
Dropbox is a useful application for sharing large documents that you cannot email or those that you want to share with others immediately. You can also use it as a shared drive for project documents.
Evernote, meanwhile, is a very useful application for mobile devices such as a smart phone or iPad which allows you to keep them synchronised with your main PC or laptop. This application can also be used to take notes while on the move — it enables you to take pictures using a mobile phone, iPad, or scanner and to hold the information as web pages.
It allows you to carry easily important documents around with you and has further benefits if other key players on your project also use Evernote.
Steve Nicholls is author of Social Media in Business — Succeeding in the new Internet Revolution.
Readers tell us what smartphone apps they’re making the most of
Marcus Leverton FCIOB, director, Leverton UK
#1 Unit Conversion app and Rightmove app
Both free from iTunes
I’ve been using the free iPhone #1 Unit Conversion app, which is really handy when you are working with different types of material on site, such as fluids and power when mixing concrete, for example, and you need to convert measurements to ensure you get the right quantities. It’s able to convert weight, mass and volume and having it on the phone saves time doing calculations in your head.
As a company, we also do a lot of property investment, and the Rightmove app has proved really useful. It sends us regular updates of available industrial, commercial and residential properties, so you get a heads up well before anyone else has seen a project, and obviously the earlier you can contact the owner the more likely you are to get the best deal.
Bill Price, systems and technology director, Costain
We’ve been using the social media app Yammer, which allows employees to share knowledge and converse with co-workers via a private, secure social network. We’ve got about 800 users in Costain. It’s mostly used as a discussion tool accessed by users via either PC, tablet or smartphone. It pulls together all the ideas and experience in the company that might otherwise be difficult to tap into. For example, someone might post a comment “We’re tendering for a suspension bridge project, does anyone have an image of a bridge I can use?” and receive several responses.
Because people are keen to engage with the social side of it, it makes it much easier to capture site information that was previously quite difficult to obtain. Typically, our managers use it to relate details of sites they visit, who they are meeting with, and to take photographs of the work being completed. It’s a classic example of how social media is transferring into mainstream work. The basic version is free, but if implemented company-wide there’s a per user annual subscription fee.
Ray Crotty, director, C3 Systems
Subscribers to Toolwatch services print bar codes and stick them to tools and when an operative checks out a tool for use the barcode is scanned using the smartphone’s in-built camera, which pairs details of the tool with the operative’s personal details on a central database. It’s an effective solution to the problem of tools being stolen or lost, which could reduce a firm’s tool costs and help it manage the servicing of equipment more efficiently.