Recently I was asked what tools I used to support my project work, especially around communication. It is an interesting aspect of project management, and change management. Dissemination of information is vital to the success of any project, but especially so if you want stakeholders to feel fully engaged with the project and the changes you are hoping to achieve. I have spoken about dissemination and project engagement on my Enable blog, in particular about tools used to support partners in the project, Enable: Supporting Partnerships. However I haven’t really spoken about wider stakeholder engagement and dissemination. Perhaps now is the time. As a project manager I have found the following tools useful:
Online Blog – for project work I have tried to use ones external to the institution, this way I can feel comfortable talking about things that could be censored if written internally, and also helps me reach a wider audience. Often external blog tools have better functionality than those internally provided, as they have their own particular focus. I always try and ensure that the blog url is short & relevant to the project.
Twitter – twitter hashtags are very useful to keep quick diary updates on what is happening in the project, and to reinforce any communication themes that you want to promote. It is worth noting Twitter treats tweets as temporary updates to the world, you will need to archive them if you want to use them at a later date, tools like TwitterBackup, twubs and Hootsuite are good for this.
GoogleCalendar – I use this in conjunction to Blogspot for sharing events that are occurring that stakeholders might be interested in. The calendar can be shared with other users but take note, if you want those users to add their own events to the calendar then they will need a google email account, otherwise they will only be able to view and modify events. By setting up a project calendar it is easy to track time spent on the project and what contact has been made by the project team to stakeholders etc. You may want a ‘public’ project calendar and a ‘private’ one for project team members.
Dropbox – this is very useful, even when your institution has a shared drives, often as shared drives are only set up between departments/services and not across different teams of individuals. Dropbox also has a Public folder which can be used to add documents and other items related to the project that can then be linked to from blogs and tweets.
Email – this is useful to target particular key stakeholders, I have used it in projects to send updates out to steering groups etc on a regular basis (either weekly or monthly) highlighting key successes, issues and general project updates. Usually this is used to point to blog posts with more information.
Skype – I find this more useful than the telephone, you can be comfortable that people are at their desk working rather than interrupting them on mobiles etc. plus the use of video gives it a more personal, face-to-face, experience. I find it also stops me trying to read emails etc whilst talking to people! Obviously the telephone is also a useful tool to support project communication, although only on a one to one basis, therefore it can be very time consuming. The telephone is a great tool for backing up other communication methods.