Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
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lundi 17 mai 2004

No, it's not a typo. A plog is short for 'project log' like a blog is short for 'weblog' or 'web log.' And plogs start to be used as tools to manage projects, especially in the IT world, as discovered Michael Schrage of the MIT. He reports his findings in an article published by CIO Magazine, "The Virtues of Chitchat." Schrage found that if plogs are not really commonplace, they're not exactly rare. And they are even used to manage large IT projects, such ERP rollouts. I totally agree with him that a plog is of great value to integrate people in a team or to keep track of the advancement of a project. And you, what's your view? If you're a project manager, do you use a plog for better control? And if not today, will you use one in the future?

Here are some selected excerpts of Schrage's article.

I discovered that while internal IT blogs may not be commonplace, they're not exactly rare. Though utterly unscientific, my informal queries found several major companies allowing blogs to coordinate and annotate project status information. At least one global IT consultancy has a rather witty blogger -- I can't find out if it's approved or not -- whose work is apparently required reading for his associates. The blog's hotlinks to internal reports, presentations and client reviews are reportedly first-rate.

Of course, internal blogs can be banned by some companies, like inappropriate personal e-mails are.

That said, the blogging phenomenon has intriguingly useful implications for IT. I have to ask myself: Why wouldn't it make sense for an IT project manager to post a blog -- or "plog" (project log) -- to keep her team and its constituents up-to-date on project issues and concerns? Is it inherently inappropriate for an individual to post constructive observations about a project's progress? IT organizations that can effectively use blogs as managerial tools (or communication resources) are probably development environments that take both people and their ideas seriously.

Schrage also looked at plogs from a managerial perspective.

I can hardly think of a better way to get new members of an IT team contextually grounded than to give them plogs to peruse, rather than make them read the outdated project sheets or suffer through a hasty luncheon debrief by the current project leadership. Of course, that's contingent upon the quality of the plog -- but then again, the utility of virtually all management tools ultimately depends on their quality.

Still, there is the risks that some bloggers can denigrate a project or other members of their teams.

So plogs can and should be different from blogs. Different organizations have the opportunity -- I would now say the obligation -- to explore how best to marry this medium of expression with the insatiable need for better managing communication, coordination and collaboration with IT and its clients. Frankly, I think plogs -- like project leadership -- represent an investment in professional development. That is, if a developer or manager or customer support rep can produce plogs that attract interest, raise awareness and foment change -- well, that's a skill that deserves recognition and reward.

Finally, Schrage thinks that plogs can be useful tools even outside the IT world.

The simple truth is, many organizations may need plogs to discover their own simple truths about how well (or how poorly) their projects are going. Maybe plogs will be more successful as project communication media for departments outside of IT. Wouldn't that be ironic? That's the sort of emergent managerial phenomenon that somebody might well decide to launch a blog about.

After reading this, are you convinced that a plog can be a great tool to manage a project? Are you ready to start one? Please post your comments.

Source: Michael Schrage, for CIO Magazine, May 15, 2004 Issue

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