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Why project professionals need to be digitally competent!

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As part of our upcoming Programme Management Specific Interest Group (SIG) Conference “Equipping Programme Managers for Global Success” on 10th March, we plan to draw on the expertise of a number of practitioners and leaders in their field. We are delighted that our line-up will include Jonnie Jensen, Online Business Strategist. Jonnie is no stranger to APM, having spoken at a number of conferences.

He describes what he does as “providing strategy, training and support services for social and content marketing; helping people to use the internet and social networks and technologies to grow their business, making their people more effective and ultimately improving the success of companies.

In advance of the conference I caught up with Jonnie, via GoToMeeting, and asked him “Why project professionals need to be digitally competent?”

What specific areas of social media are most applicable to projects and programmes?

I think it’s important to take that word media out of it. So it is what aspects of social are important to programme and project managers - it’s about collaboration. We are now talking on GoToMeeting in different parts of the country. In terms of the data management and the access to information - we shouldn’t be siloed into emails and phone calls that are lost to everyone else in the project. 

So it really is about access to information. As we empower people in our teams and projects they should be more effective in their work and ultimately that makes for a more enjoyable and successful project. So it’s communication, collaboration, data management and knowledge sharing.

Is there a link between digital competence and profitability and can you give us an example of it?

Yes, that’s a great question about digital competence and profitability … for too long companies have been saying we have got to understand social media, we have got to understand social and really it’s about the core competencies of the people in the business.

If you’re are going to implement Yammer, or you’re going to use Jive or any other Enterprise Social Networks and technologies better – it’s your people that need to know how to use those tools. If, for example, all of a sudden no one knew how to use a telephone you would have big problems in your organisation! Implementing these systems into your business is about your people being more effective and your projects being more efficient.

Think about HR. You might be paying a lot of money to recruitment companies but if you know how to find people through LinkedIn and through effective use of social recruitment not only are you making your projects more effective, you are reducing costs in other areas of your business - such as HR.

So, digital competence across the board, from the board room down through line managers, project managers and team members is a real asset to have in your business. If you think about a competitor who didn’t have those core skills, they would not be as good at running projects as yourselves. Increasing talent wants to know that you work like this before coming to work for you and clients, or prospective clients, want to know that you can do this before choosing you.

Is there a risk of loss of control on projects due to social media?

I think there is a lot of fear around control – particularly inside projects. Historically you would have the senior person leading the project and everyone else would have to follow in that linear system. Now, that you have a much flatter hierarchy and people are able to communicate and share information with each other there can be real concern about loss of control.

Ultimately, tackling this comes down to choosing good people to work with, setting up the project in the right way, making sure that everyone knows their role and the expectations on them. Just like any group – such as on LinkedIn – groups that are well managed have clear rules and someone to manage and implement those rules. For groups that aren’t very effective the opposite is true - it’s just a free-for-all.

So, if you put the right tool and right people in place and then manage the project effectively you are going to reap the reward, or benefits, of using these technologies and systems. And that’s really what this is all about - setting it up properly and managing it correctly.

How can the use of social media deliver productivity improvements?

Email is a really good example. If a conversation was had between one or two people. Maybe it was cc’d to 10 people. That information is just flying about wildly between a group of people. It is not categorised under a particular area of the project or a task. See YouTube video 'Email in Real Life'.

There’s are really great report from the McKinsey Global Institute published in 2012 called The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologieswhich looks at the efficiencies created by Enterprise Social networks over the use of email. It talks about a 20-25% saving in time between managing data and conversations inside a project management system such as Jive over simply using email. 

And it is really about time and efficiency and that’s where that productivity comes. Also happy people on the project are going to work better as well.

Is there a particular ‘take away’ for our Programme Management SIG conference on March 10th?

I asked Jonnie if he had a particular take-away for the upcoming conference “Equipping Programme Managers for Global Success.” He explained that “It’s about the implementation of a system or project management tool. You could talk about it as business transformation really but you really need to look at the culture. Success [only] happens when top down implementation meets bottom up action.

Jonnie Jensen addressed this subject to a project management audience where he spoke at APM Conference in Spring 2013 about the need to Adapt! 

Jonnie Jensen's slideshare presentation:Go Social or Die: Why Digital Competence Can't Be Ignored


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  1. Jonnie Jensen
    Jonnie Jensen 12 February 2016, 04:18 PM

    It's great to see the conversation forwarded and discussed. The more 'normal' it is to discuss communication and effective work practices the easier it is to integrate the social web into peoples work. Really looking forward to the event guys.

  2. Julian Smith
    Julian Smith 03 February 2016, 07:00 PM

    It's called "social" media because it fulfills a basic human function, to interact in order to meet our needs and the needs of other people - as in Aristotle's Man is a social animal.It's just that Aristotle had the agora in which to do it, and that was about it. We've got a bewildering array of means to engage with each other, on a scale largely unforeseen 30 years ago.For the project manager, the situation remains the same as it has done for anyone who wants to sell to, or persuade, another person:1. Who do I need to reach and why?2. Where will I find them?3. How can I interest and involve them - by listening to them and showing how I solve a problem for them or meet some other need they have (including the need for friendship)?4. What is needed to keep the relationship going successfully?It may be that you can answer these four questions simply by using face to face contact, as Aristotle did. Perhaps by phone calls. Perhaps by Facebook. These means of communication are not equivalents, and they require different approaches and levels of commitment. But the point is to keep the purpose of communication totally in mind, and let the means of communication follow logically from that.    

  3. Merv Wyeth
    Merv Wyeth 03 February 2016, 02:51 PM

    Hi Fran,Thanks for taking time to respond to my post on 'The Blog.' It is always good to receive feedback and the Building the Social Enterprise [November 2013]' article that you cite is certainly 'grist to the mill' when it comes to championing the case for digital competence.I particularly like the four principles that should guide the implementation of social technologies in an organisation, namely:1. Add value, not complexity2. Provide essential organizational support3. Experiment and learn4. Track impact and evolve metricsThese could equally be applied to most successful project and programme implementations - particularly when it comes to so-called digital transformations [which incidentally now make up almost 80% of HMG Major Projects Portfolio]I share your concern - perhaps even frustration - that Social Media is still considered in such a narrow context ['I don't do Facebook'] and a marginal, rather than mainstream, activity. You will have noted that in this article I/we [ProgM SIG] have attemtped to 'model' behaviours that we are seeking from others.I am excited that we have already connected via Linkedin and am keen to see what more we can learn from eachothers experience.Thanks Merv

  4. Fran Bodley-Scott
    Fran Bodley-Scott 03 February 2016, 10:51 AM

    What's great about this discussion is that it's nothing to do with Facebook and Twitter! Many of us are probably familiar with internal wikis or blogs from the exec team, good examples of social media as a busines tool. Yet sadly there is still a perception that 'social media' isn't relevant because "I don't do Facebook".  There is another good Mckinsey article about the value of social technologies for communication and collaboration inside the organisation: anyone is interested, I can point you in the direction of some case studies of organisations that have experience of introducing social platforms into the workplace.