Project Management

Change Management Meets Web 2.0

Web 2.0 technologies like wikis and blogs are dramatically impacting teaching and learning. But how will they affect IT projects and change management on your campus?

Change Management Meets Web 2.0"There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things." When Niccolo Machiavelli uttered these words he certainly wasn't speaking of the advent of Web 2.0. But the words are eerily relevant, nonetheless.

Unless you've been dozing through the past few years, you're no doubt aware that Web 2.0 is the term describing a group of web-based creativity, informationsharing, and collaboration tools including wikis, blogs, social networks, and folksonomies. (See "Web 2.0 Tools 101") The common thread in all of these tools is twofold: They enable collaboration and information sharing, and their impact on higher education has been dramatic. See, for example, "Unleashing the Power of Web 2.0" (CT June 2008) and "Taking the ‘A' out of Asynchronous" (CT July 2008). But how have these technologies changed the way higher education goes about managing projects and managing the change process itself?

Web 2.0 and Change

Traditionally, project management (PM) focused on the process of implementing technical change, while change management focused on the sociological aspects of introducing change. Yet, with the introduction of Web 2.0 tools and their emphasis on collaboration and information sharing, the differences between the two are fading.

At Carnegie Mellon University, there were problems with the homegrown project management system: Access was cumbersome for non-IT professionals, it didn't provide execs with ready access to business intelligence, and it didn't include enough in-depth information.

Wikis and blogs, for instance, have been extensively used in a standalone fashion to support project management for some time now. Information infrastructure solution provider EMC, for one, has for several years been using wikis in IT projects, to store documents, create logs, and encourage discussions. According to Tony Pagliarulo, VP of application development at the company, wikis work best when they are focused on a specific project or group of users. They are "very good for a departmental project," he reports.

And interestingly, the CIA has applied the technology to intelligence gathering through its Intellipedia wiki (more information here), which is designed to serve a clearinghouse function between government intelligence agencies. Intellipedia led to the use of other Web 2.0 tools including documentsharing blogs, Jabber-based chat, RSS, and YouTube-style video. Not surprisingly, IT behemoth Oracle has begun adding software offerings that tap two Web 2.0 technologies: software as a service (SaaS) and social networking. And another IT giant, IBM has added social networking to its Rational software development platform, in order to allow all participants in the development process-- not just developers-- to collaborate.

Fortunately, there now is no shortage of wiki software, both open source and fee-based. (Head to WikiMatrix.org to compare the prices and features of over a hundred different wikis.) Two of the most popular are TWiki a widely used open source package (commercial support is available here), and Socialtext, one of the first commercial wikis.

Similarly, blogs have been used to assist in project and change management. For example, in my local community of Big Sky, MT, the hot local political issue is whether or not the area should incorporate. To explore that contentious issue, a Community and Infrastructure Solution Group was created. In addition to the traditional series of public meetings and reports in the local papers, the group created a blog that reports on the public meetings and provides a vehicle for additional public comment. The group was not comprised of IT professionals, but ordinary, everyday folks. Yet through TypePad, an inexpensive commercial service, these individuals are able to make use of Web 2.0 collaborative tools to effectively promote change.

Web 2.0 Tools 101

BEFORE YOU CAN FORGE AHEAD with Web 2.0-enabled project and change management, make sure you're up-to-speed on the tools that fall under the Web 2.0 rubric.

  • Wiki. A wiki is a collection of web pages that anyone can contribute to or modify. The most well-known wiki is the community-written encyclopedia Wikipedia
  • Blog. A blog is a website with regular entries or commentaries; the entries may come from a single individual or a larger group. One good way to get a feel for a blog is to set one up. Try Blogger or TypePad; the whole process takes just a few minutes.
  • Change Management Meets Web 2.0Social networks. Social networks such as MySpace and Facebook build online communities. Again, a good way to get a feel for social networks is simply to set up a pro- file on MySpace or Facebook.
  • Folksonomy (people's taxonomy). This is the practice of collaboratively creating and managing tags or keywords to annotate and categorize content. Folksonomy represents an alternative to the traditional practice of creating an index or generating metadata. Flickr, a popular site for sharing photographs, uses folksonomy to tag and locate pictures.
  • Software as a service (SaaS) is an internet-based alternative to the traditional software packages that run on end-user computers. For example, Google Apps provides a suite of services functionally similar to Microsoft Office, but running entirely on Google's central servers and accessed via a web interface. Because the data reside at a central location, multiple users can access the same document and modify it collaboratively in real time.

New PM Systems

I'm sure many readers are familiar with Microsoft Office Project, the flagship of project management systems. As powerful as it is, its extensive project management functionality is a challenge for inexperienced users, and the product's architecture makes it difficult to incorporate Web 2.0 collaborative technologies. This has led to a plethora of new products trying to gain market share by incorporating collaboration tools and web-based architectures in more traditional PM systems.

To take advantage of collaboration tools, Genius Inside, for one, has reengineered its project management system, Genius Project4- Domino, for users running IBM's Lotus Domino. The result, Genius Project SaaS, is a web-based and subscription-based SaaS product that provides the same functionality to anyone with web access, and boasts extensive collaboration features.

Christophe Borlat, Genius Inside's CEO, views effective project management as comprising two essential components: traditional project management tools and communication/collaboration tools, with the latter more important than the former. Genius Inside's product architecture supports three communication strategies: passive, active, and collaborative. The company bases passive communication on a central information repository that everyone can access. Active communication involves pushing the right information to the right people. Collaborative communication works to get the appropriate individuals to talk to each other "right now and online."

Avinoam Nowogrodski, co-founder and CEO of startup Clarizen sees three differences between his company's project management software and traditional offerings such as Microsoft Project. First, Clarizen's software is web-based rather than file-based. Second, the software goes beyond planning, and incorporates collaborative tools. And third, because the software is web-based, the normal security concerns surrounding giving outsiders access to computers within the corporate network are less relevant. Nowogrodski argues that these differences change the focus of the software from planning, to execution through team adoption.

Other vendors of similar SaaS project management packages that have integrated Web 2.0 functionality include AtTask and Daptiv. (For a more complete list of project management software, go here.)

Strategies From the Trenches

Certainly, higher education has made good use of project management tools for many years. In the past, however, the primary users were project managers. But Web 2.0 collaboration has changed all that: Now all development team members, from senior executives to end users, are becoming involved.

New PM systems aren't just for IT. At The University of Toledo, the Marketing department handles a hundred projects a year, and has adopted Easy Projects to manage workflow. Projects used to fall through the cracks with more complex PM software, but don't anymore.

Carnegie Mellon University (PA) is an excellent example of a campus trying to move from homegrown efforts, to implement a campuswide strategy of project and change management. About five years ago, the Computing Services unit at the university created the Planning and Project Management Office, set up for centralized information technology projects. As the office evolved, it developed a homegrown system based on the FileMaker database. The system was designed to provide tactical planning and included calendaring, milestones and deadlines, and a project status spreadsheet. Currently, there are no campuswide project management standards at CMU, although a number of units have gravitated to Microsoft Project and Basecamp.

According to Clay Fulton, technical coordinator in the office, there were several problems with the homegrown system. The first was that access to the system was cumbersome for non-IT professionals. The second was that it didn't provide executives with ready access to the information they needed to make decisions (business intelligence). Finally, the homegrown system didn't include enough in-depth information. Administrators in the Planning and Project Management Office wanted a tool that would allow a wide spectrum of users to find information easily, support collaboration, and offer better capacity planning capability. They now are in the final stages of selecting a project management package that will be supported across campus.

Clemson University (SC) is another example of a campus moving toward a more systematic approach to project management. According to Project Manager Logan Rice, when the Clemson Computing and Information Technology (CCIT) office created a Project and Service Management unit a little over a year ago, administrators wanted to create a collaborative environment that included the end user. They also wanted to utilize existing tools with which IT staff and end users were familiar. Since it was already widely used on campus for classroom instruction, the Blackboard course management system was one of the tools adopted as a vehicle to share documentation and provide access to wikis and blogs (which are created with TWiki). Blackboard is used to share documentation, distribute project templates for first-time and experienced users, record workgroup minutes, and capture "what we've learned" information that subsequently can be incorporated into help desk documentation. TWiki also is used for all technical change management within the CCIT. And since Google's Gmail was used to provide e-mail to students, CCIT made use of Google Apps to handle project scheduling for smaller and less formalized projects. While Google Apps doesn't constitute a true scheduling tool, the project management staffers found it an easy and convenient way to capture and share project information and track changes.

Finally, this group has used Adobe Connect (formerly Macromedia Breeze) to support the transition from development to production, to promote group interaction, to track down problems, and to share knowledge across support teams. According to Janell Bohlmann, director of project and service management, this has had a marked impact, facilitating live collaboration on go-live day, and assisting with quick turnaround of problems and issues. "It provides us a ‘virtual situation room' when a new system goes live," she reports.

Although a Project office was created to assist with central IT projects, Bohlmann has noticed a bleed-over effect to other departments; they are beginning to adopt some of the same tools. Bohlmann also notes that the campus is in the process of looking at adopting a single enterprise-wide solution.

8 Change Management Pitfalls

MANAGING CHANGE is fundamentally a social and cultural process, not a technical one. In his classic Leading Change (Harvard Business Press, 1996), John Kotter outlines eight mistakes that organizations make when trying to change:

  1. Allowing too much complacency. There has to be a sense of urgency.
  2. Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition. Successful change requires active support from organizational leaders and followers.
  3. Underestimating the power of vision. Without an appropriate vision, a transformation effort degenerates into a confusing, unrelated, time-consuming project.
  4. Under-communicating the vision by a factor of 10 (or 100 or even 1,000). People won't make the sacrifices required by real change unless they believe the change is possible.
  5. Permitting obstacles to block the new vision. Even though people agree with the change, they may feel overwhelmed by real or perceived obstacles.
  6. Failing to create short-term wins. Without short-term wins, you lose momentum.
  7. Declaring victory too soon. Changes are fragile and subject to regression.
  8. Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture. Change sticks when it becomes "the way we do things around here."

For more on the essential need for communication between planners, implementers, and users, read Roger D'Aprix's Communicating for Change (Jossey Bass, 1996), which expands on this theme.

It's Not Just for IT Anymore...

Central IT divisions aren't the only ones using the new Web 2.0-enabled project management systems. As ease of use has improved, many departments and projects have engaged. Andrew Smith, a marketing specialist in the University Marketing Department at The University of Toledo (OH), reports that his group is typical: The Marketing department functions as an internal ad agency for the university and is responsible for as many as 100 projects a year, each involving two to six people. After finding Microsoft Project too complex, the department adopted Easy Projects a year ago, to manage workflow. Staffers wanted a system that was easy to use and allowed them to interact with their customers. According to Smith, "Projects used to fall through the cracks; that doesn't happen now."

Endnote

There's no doubt that Web 2.0 technologies are here to stay. A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that more than a quarter of today's teens have created their own online journal or blog, and more than half create online content and engage in social networking. The workforce of the future will be more than familiar with collaborative tools and will consider their use a normal part of whatever they do. And that bodes well for project and change management.

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