In his book, “Daemon”, Daniel Suarez envisages a future where people use wearable technology to explore an alternative internet called the “Darknet”. This tool makes it possible to layer virtual information onto the real world, for example superimposing people’s finances in order to make judgments about their credit-worthiness (now there’s a use for Google Glass!). In one scene, the arch-villain, Loki Stormbringer, is “down-voted” on the Darknet for performing a “data curse” on a chap who cuts in line in a coffee shop, thus bringing a storm of debt upon his poor victim’s head. Now, wouldn’t it be great to have that power and transparency out here in Project World, not only so we could ensure that our services are sought after and selected based on our prior successes but also to elicit immediate feedback on how well our stakeholders think we are currently performing?!
We have come a long way in a short time. In those halycon days when the internet was merely a gleam in Tim Berners-Lee’s eyes, getting people’s attention was a simple, if expensive, affair involving three main methods to capture customers’ attention: TV advertising; mail-outs; and trade shows. While these remain useful tools in the marketers’ armoury, these channels are no longer the only nor most effective tactics available. Technology allows us to skip ads using catch-up TV, junk mail is customarily junked without a second glance due to an increasing information overload, and conferences are just an opportunity to find a new job on the corporate expense account (no change there then). And the (not so) new kid on the block that is killing these traditional channels is, you guessed it, the ease with which the power of the web can be harnessed to get messages out to customers. Not only that, as the mechanism of advertising has changed so too have the options for consumers to create and read unbiased opinions – an area previously limited to a Which magazine subscription or actual (physical) word of mouth recommendations. Dodgy paid-for “impartial” reviews on the web notwithstanding, the web has pushed power firmly back into the hands of consumers who can now interact easily and instantly with other customers when deciding how to spend their hard-earned bucks. Nowadays, an account of a bad customer experience has the capacity to go viral, even if it isn’t actually true (try searching for “mutant chickens” on snopes.com to see a possible explanation as to why the word “chicken” was removed from the brand “KFC”). The flip side of this, of course, is that good service experiences can be shared, upvoted, and promoted.
Now, upvoting on the Darknet may be de rigeur in Daniel’s imagined future but how could this affect us in Project World? Well, one area where we can try to improve our personal or team brand through canny self-promotion is in “bigging up” our projects – that perennial way to get funding. Indeed, some management texts go so far as to suggest that project managers have only two responsibilities: the first is to ensure on-time delivery, and the second is to say that they are delivering. This is certainly one way to go, but it is rather one-sided (and so not Web 2.0). Surely it would be a far more powerful message if we were to capture stakeholders’ reactions to the products we are delivering together with feedback on the suitability of our project approach and then place this in the public domain?
It is very British to complain about things, but very un-British to complain about people (to their face, at least). But what if we were to start running projects using social media such as Yammer, with all (non face-to-face or phone-to-phone) communication captured in a Facebook-like environment containing links to project documentation stored within the site? Changes and progress could then be openly discussed with the relevant groups and updates published in a Twitteresque feed. In this way, all of a project’s stakeholders would have a single place to view the most current information and decisions affecting the project. In addition, thank-you “stars” could be sent to colleagues and displayed, Amazon-like, on public profiles maintained within the tool. Indeed, why shouldn’t this concept be extended to include feedback and people “reviews” such as those displayed on LinkedIn?
And how hard would it be to view this information using wearable technology…?
Ignore stakeholders’ views and concerns at your peril. They may not be able to rate you and your deliverables in a few clicks yet, but that day may not be far away. Now, if you would excuse me, I need to call my bank manager about that data curse…..