Social project management tools: Conversations, tasks in one place

Social project management tools can boost productivity. Clarizen updates its collaboration tool, combining project management with social engagement.

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Project management software provider Clarizen has combined enterprise project management with social engagement in a new version of its browser-based collaboration tool.

With social features tied into familiar unified communications (UC) applications, collaboration and project management can help distributed enterprises and employees create, find and share the right information. Social project management tools bring files, tasks, people and conversations associated with a project into one place for employees and their managers.

"Enterprises need social task management," said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst for Constellation Research. "Assignments with priorities and projects are helping to organize unstructured conversations that social features provide."

Employees want more 'social' project management tools

Social conversations, collaboration and project management have to be integrated, said Avinoam Nowogrodski, CEO of San Mateo, Calif.-based Clarizen. Clarizen version 6 includes a new social user interface that customers can customize for individuals and organizations to help employees and business units keep track of projects and tasks. The updated software also allows teams to take action on real-time discussions, he said. The newly revamped user interface allows managers to assign tasks with a drag-and-drop functionality and shift tasks around based on availability or expertise. The software gives employees and managers one centralized view of all items and discussions relating to a project.

Clarizon v6 is Software as a Service (SaaS) application that integrates with popular business platforms -- such as Salesforce.com and SharePoint -- as well as existing email platforms, so users have fewer tools to toggle between. "Clarizen customers can browse our online marketplace for integrations we have with existing business tools and mobile versions of Clarizen," he said.

Marketo Inc., a marketing automation software and professional services provider, uses Clarizen to organize its account management and professional marketing services for more than 2,500 customers. Marketo has small groups of marketing consultants assigned to each of its clients, who use Clarizen to track customer progress and projects, said Jim Hickey, director of customer success operations for the company.

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Marketo previously used homegrown collaboration tools, but switched to Clarizen four years ago. "We could be managing 800 different projects at any time, and those require rigid project management," Hickey said. "We also needed a tool that was customizable and flexible enough for us to grow as our business lines and customers grew." Clarizen's SaaS platform allows Marketo managers to see projects at a high level and also drill down into task details -- like how many hours are left on a project, he said.

The company currently uses Clarizen for internal project management, but plans to include customer engagement when the company moves to Clarizen v6, Hickey said. "We want to have one place for the customer to view their projects, including related documentations and correspondences," he said. "It's really going to enhance our customer's experience."

Enterprise project management: About the employee, not the manager

With social networking features, enterprise collaboration tools become more valued and effective. Users like familiar activity streams and news feeds, as well as the ability to informally comment on and share content. Project management tools must also evolve in this way, Constellation's Lepofsky said.

While social project management tools can provide managers more visibility into projects and insight into the work habits of their employees, these tools shouldn't be adopted primarily as a method for helping managers keep their staff organized, he said. "[Project management tools] should be geared toward helping employees [get] their work done by viewing their tasks and finding the right expertise to answer their questions."

Enterprises should also consider enterprise project management tools -- such as Clarizen -- that can allow third parties, or their own end customers, to view their projects, Lepofsky said.

As they do with UC tools, employees will make better use of browser-based project management tools that don't have to be separately launched or logged into, he said.

"The ability to drag and drop information into an application that is always running is important," he said. "Browser-based project management tools can also be updated faster and are easier for enterprises to deploy and get up and running."

Let us know what you think about the story; email Gina Narcisi, news writer, and follow @GeeNarcisi on Twitter.

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