Reading a post by Glen Alleman introduced me to an article published in the PMI PM Magazine. The article in the PM Magazine deals with the issue of whether or not Social Media helps Project Managers get the job done. Amongst the other facts, figures and interpretations brought up in the article, it mentions a study conducted by McKinsey & Company, according to which “69 percent of the 1,700 executives surveyed reported having ‘gained measurable business benefits’ from social media tools”.
That’s, however, not quite what the McKinsey site is actually saying (see in http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/How_companies_are_benefiting_from_Web_20_McKinsey_Global_Survey_Results_2432). There it says that “69 percent of respondents report that their companies have gained measurable business benefits”, but the context of that statement is in explaining why Web 2.0 remains of high interest to executives. The discussion is around the use of Web 2.0 technologies and not, as implied from the PM Magazine, around the use of Social Media tools. BIG DIFFERENCE!
I can’t but be reminded of the old adage that If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. The perception regarding the role that social media is playing in organizations is overly, as well as inaccurately, stated by individuals and organizations whose reputation and livelihood is dependent on enough people believing that this is in fact the truth. I’ve elaborated on this issue in a number of earlier posts (most recently in “Project Communication and Social Networking“) but it is worth mentioning one more example of how prevalent this sort of PR has become.
In “Social media in a project environment – the results“, Elizabeth Harrin concludes that “Over 70% of survey respondents believe that social media and enterprise collaboration tools are a key issue for project managers this year. The range of tools in use across organizations show that both large and small corporations are adopting social media and enterprise collaboration tools.” To be fair to Elizabeth, I haven’t seen the full survey, as this was not published in the article. My assessment of the results, though, is that the correct interpretation of the survey results should have been that 70% of the respondents believe (as I do) that the use of enterprise collaboration tools is a key issue for project managers. Read this sentence again and you will see that the real issue is the integration of collaboration tools in the tool-set at the disposal of the project manager. This, however, has got absolutely nothing to do with Social Medial
As to my earlier comments regarding the inaccuracy introduced by the PM Magazine, my challenge for them is simple. The authors of the PM Magazine article should either retract their comments or explain why, in their mind Social Media = Web 2.0, as even with the most lenient interpretation, Social Media would be considered to be a mere subset of the greater Web 2.0 application space. I would also be interested to know based on what specific questions and what specific responses did Elizabeth make the above conclusion.
One last comment. I am not particularly concerned about the introduction and/or use of Social Media tools in the workplace. If it makes sens and value can be derived from it then it is OK. My issue then is not with the technology, its introduction or its use. My specific problem is with the spread of misinformation claiming results, value and advantages that have not yet been observed, objectively, in real life situations. So when McKinsey and Co. publish a survey (provided they followed established scientific approach for conducting their survey) I don’t have a problem with their results. When they say that a large number of executives see Collaboration as a major organizational enabler, I’m happy. When, however, this survey is being manipulated to suggest that executives see social media as a major organizational enabler, I’ve got a problem. Blog authors, consultants and project managers have an ethical responsibility to present the facts (especially the numerical ones) and let the numbers speak for themselves.
What do you think?