By Dennis D. McDonald
Here’s a dissertation worth looking at: Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of Weblogs as an Enterprise Project Management Communication Tool, by Marcus J. A. Peaston. It’s a Master of Science dissertation dated February 15, 2006 submitted to The University of Liverpool. (The link is to a downloadable PDF file of the 26 page dissertation.)
Peaston deserves a round of applause for completing this piece of research. It’s nice when students select something useful to research! This one addresses the applicability of weblogs as tools in support of the project management process. It contains a decent research and requirements discussion and then describes the results of an experiment where a blog was set up to support project work.
I won’t attempt to summarize the whole thing here. Let’s just say that both positive and negative aspects of the blog were reported during the experiment.
On the positive side, Peaston reports that the blog was perceived as a useful communication tool. On the negative side, its lack of integration with other tools (such as document management and calendaring) were seen as negative.
As someone who has set up and managed a variety of web based portals or web pages to aid in project and group management efforts, I believe that there is much to recommend a blog, especially when projects are spread out geographically.
That said, I see two additional issues regarding the use of blogs in support of project management.
First, any time you add another tool to a project management effort — not jut a blog — you have to take into account the level of additional training and integration it will require to make it useful. Are you asking people to replace something, or are you asking them to add time and complexity to an already time-consuming and complex set of tasks? (Peaston correctly points out the value of integrated functionality. This is in line with what some industry commentators have said about the future of blogging as being less about standalone blogs and more about the integration of blogging functions with other applications.)
Second, just as some corporate executives might resist the openness and collaborative nature of some Web 2.0 communications tools, some more traditional project managers might also have some misgivings about the open nature of communication and information exchange that blogs can support. (If you have ever managed a project that required the participation of staff from different departments whose managers sometimes have difficulty cooperating, you’ll understand why this might become an issue.)