10 February 2010

Microblogging your project

I considered using Yammer (a twitter for project teams) and even put it to a couple of developer team members that they should try it and see how it could be useful. They told me that no, it was a waste of time.

And after reflection I agree.

This, of course is the answer for our project. Your experience may be different.

My team use a layered approach to requirements and work management, and reporting. We start with some high level concepts about what we are going to build. We construct backlogs for our products. We then break the next phase down into more detail, and the immediate month or two ahead in even more detail. It's all very by-the-book in a scrum context.

We use a couple of tools for planning and preparing product backlog items including powerpoint, Visio, photos of white boards, and excel. Recently I have added Pivotal Tracker to the toolkit as a way of improving the dynamic list management aspect of backlog management we were previously doing in excel. This is all pre-development stuff.

Once we start a sprint however, the two main tools for tracking and monitoring work become TFS and white boards with cards or post-it notes. We are all in the one physical place so far, although we are bringing on a remote team soon.

My initial thoughts were that they could publish status updates or progress on tasks via the tool. I could then log on and check where people are at. They could also migrate some of the "I'm checking this out" chatter to that forum.

Bottom line, though is that task status are there for me to see in TFS and the white boards. And the chatter about co-ordinating and sharing info can sit within e-mail. I just have to filter it out more effectively. (Why do I get copied in anyway?)

Sure these newer tools have better user interfaces and design.  But adding a new tool just adds needless complexity, and at the end of the day it doesn't add capability to the team in any substantial way.

Is your experience different?  Will I change my mind once I start working with the remote team?

Now a disclaimer.  I realize that Yammer is more than a micro blogging tool, so it probably presents a real solution option to some teams, but as I am - ahem - blessed with SharePoint 2003, most of the additional features from the Yammer product kit are already addressed.


  1. Craig,

    As well, the answer to the question "what are you doing right now? is - "I'm work."

    Sending messages to ask for a response is productive. We use IM inside our domain, email of course, and the Team Sites on SharePoint.

    But this notion of narrow bandwidth, half duplex, character streams being used to "manage" the project is the same notion as "managing" the project using a 128 character limited telegraph.

    Does seem very productive to me.

  2. When businesspeople attend our project management training courses, they often use their breaks to keep in contact with their team back at the office.

    Because the desire to keep up-to-date with what's happening is strong, I can certainly see the benefit of using a service like Yammer. On the other hand, it is possible that over-reliance on social networking forms of technology can, in some cases, hinder rather than help.

    With thanks for a thought-provoking article.


  3. I easily see how microblogging stand-alone apps can be inefficient. We did you twitter, but no, it did not work to well.
    Although recently we started using hosted project management software (Wrike), that accommodates microblogging as one of its features. And it makes hell of a difference! People don’t have excuse to waste time within their PM software. It is also connected to all our business activities with automatic updates. It does help a lot this way!
    So, I believe that microblogging is not such an efficient tool on its own. Although it becomes an extremely useful addition to project management software!
    Some extra thoughts on microblogging - http://www.wrike.com/projectmanagement/07/01/2010/Microblogging-in-Project-Management-2-0

  4. And a few years later I am 100% behind the use of Yammer or other similar tools