Program management meets Web 2.0

Not all the new tools fit, but the ones that do can make a difference

In this report

Weighing Web 2.0

By expanding the ways in which people share information and collaborate, Web 2.0 promises to open the workplace to a freer flow of ideas and spur innovation. But despite proponents’ enthusiasm, constant communication and crowd-based creativity don’t fit every situation.

Take the case of program management, a discipline that traditionally relies on orderly processes and focused communications to share time-sensitive information among team members. Web 2.0 tools, such as wikis and blogs, can help facilitate those communications, but the new technology is — by its very nature — less controllable than more traditional channels, such as e-mail.

Web 2.0 tools could generate a lot more information for program managers to make sense of while keeping projects and teams on track with frequent status reviews and updates on milestones. The challenge is knowing how to engage with Web 2.0 while steering clear of the social-media weeds.

“Many people are struggling with those issues right now,” said Viq Hussain, senior consultant at SE Solutions, a technology services and consulting company.

Some government program managers have plunged into the Web 2.0 world on their own, while others are being introduced to it as popular project management software vendors such as Métier, Microsoft and others add new capabilities to their core products.

Government managers will need to consider Web 2.0 tools on an individual basis to determine which ones fit their program management processes and the resources they have available.

For example, wikis seem like a logical choice. They are Web sites on which users can easily create pages and change or add content. By serving as a central records repository for a group’s collaborative effort, wikis can replace the old program management practice in which one manager would analyze project-related documents and then send them via e-mail to other team members to review.

Wikis can also allow for transparent collaboration on the development of program plans and related strategies.

NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate has been using wikis to aid program management for some time. Two years ago, it had 130 wikis, though less than a third of them were used regularly. Today it has 350 wikis, and 70 percent of them are used on a daily basis.

“Wikis allow us to conduct rapid business process reviews, and then we quickly map the results of those back into the wikis” so team members can see them, said David Lengyel, the directorate’s risk and knowledge management officer.

But you can’t assume that people will intuitively know how and when to use wikis. You need to take the time to educate them on the tool’s use and value, said Steve Radick, an associate at Booz Allen Hamilton and a leader of the company’s social-media/Government 2.0 practice. He tells a story about people updating wiki pages and then pasting the content into Microsoft Word documents and e-mailing them to team members.

And don’t assume that because people are familiar with a particular Web 2.0 tool, it will be a natural choice for project management. For example, blogs can be useful on large projects when all team members need to receive information at the same time, but there must be a clear reason for their use.

It is also important for agencies to already have some experience with blogs. Lengyel said NASA program managers are not considering adding blogs to their Web 2.0 toolkit because the technology has not become ingrained at the agency.

Another Web 2.0 tool offers similarly interesting though potentially limited uses in project management. Twitter has been wildly popular in social-media circles for the past year, and vendors are already selling secure, in-house versions of such capabilities for use in program management.

Hussain said he believes microblogging will give program managers a powerful new communication tool by allowing rapid exchanges among team members. It will also enable crowdsourcing, an online form of brainstorming in which people can submit ideas on a certain topic.

However, Adam Vasquez, e-marketing director at program management consulting firm Robbins-Gioia, said microblogging is useful only for certain tasks, such as sharing status reports. Furthermore, he added, Web 2.0 technology must be integrated with other program management tools such as executive dashboards, which aggregate performance reports in an easy-to-read display of charts, graphs and summary information.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Tue, Jan 5, 2010 Barry Virginia

The most important key for government organizations' venture into the 2.0 world, as the author has pointed out, is viewing the tools as tools, not part of a coherent logical environment--which they are not. Unfortunately, the very designation of "Web 2.0" gave rise to "Government 2.0" implicitly suggesting that there is a place where government can go to improve its effectiveness... there isn't. Indeed, what we call Web 2.0 is an abstraction used to refer to a collection of technological tools, most of which were designed to help their creators sell devices, software or services. If government can keep this in mind, evaluating each component of the 2.0 world for its ability to support legitimate public functions, we will get through the changes OK. We wade into the swamp, however, when we--as some already do--start talking about a "new way of governing" based on 2.0.

Sat, Dec 5, 2009

NASA is doing an excellant job of creating an advancing new utilization of the ever changing tecnologies available for knowledge management.

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above