Sunday, March 4, 2012

5 Reasons Why Universities Need a Social Media Plan

Consumer Driven

Professionals in the field define social media as "...a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content." In terms of business, this means that the consumer generates much of the content on the Internet through blogs, social networking, and other websites that may focus on the business (i.e., ratings, reviews, rankings). For universities, this may mean either happy or not so happy students generating their own stories about their experiences at college, their outlook for career endeavors, reviews of professors, comments about the quality of the institution, potential conflicts on and off campus, and the list continues. Basically, it is the duty of the school and its administration to be aware of the chatter generated by students, alumni, staff, faculty, and leadership online. Establishing the proper social media protocols also allows colleges and universities to quickly respond to negative or inaccurate comments.


Content Sharing Capabilities

When I was in college, there was a saying that “If you experience something positive, you might tell two people. However, when you experience something negative, you will tell at least seven people and they will most likely tell five more.” In today’s terms, that saying would probably read more like: “You will share either a negative or positive experience with your social network. Depending on your current Twitter following or Klout Score, you may tell several thousand people in 140 characters or less in 30 seconds!” Social media is quickly becoming the preferred method for discovering and sharing content whether positive or negative. Universities with a solid social media plan can take advantage of both their own influence as an institution of higher learning as well as the collective influence of its people.


Highly Targeted Audience

With a growing number of lead generation, marketing, and social media analytics service/software providers such as HubSpot and Sprout Social surfacing almost daily, the amount of data one can derive from something as simple as a single Twitter feed is phenomenal. Such tools allow universities to “listen in” on conversations germane to their particular academic offerings. Imagine the power of honing in on questions or remarks such as “What kind of engineering degree should I pursue?” or “I’m looking for a good MBA program” in terms of adding to enrollment opportunities.


Measurable Return On Investment (ROI)

Sudha Jamth suggests three metrics that businesses can track to measure ROI. As applied to universities, they would look something like this:

1. Social media revenue conversion measures how many people become students through social media referral channels. This may also include students who enroll through an online call-to-action.

2. Facebook engagement measures a brand’s ability to communicate successfully with their community of learners, future students, faculty, and alumni on the social network.

3. Social customer support metrics measure the impact of student support on brand health and the cost of staffing a social support program.


The Conversation Has Already Begun

Whether you are aware of it or not, people are already talking about your school online. Do you have any idea what they are saying? Are your students and faculty satisfied? Are you missing out on increased enrollment numbers because you are not responding to calls for assistance? Universities cannot afford to leave such questions unanswered. If your budget does not allow for hiring internal personnel to staff a social media program, then consider hiring a professional. Companies such as Nao Media and Consulting are always happy to discuss your social media outreach goals and to provide suggestions for how to meet them.

Critical Success Factors for Project Managers (Part 2)

In Part 1 of the Critical Success Factors for Project Managers (PMs), I covered the first three critical success factor categories (CSFCs) of Global Factors, External Influences, and Internal Influences. Communication served as the dominating theme of the first three CSFCs. Below are activities/factors that relate to the categories of Risk Reduction, Performance, and Cultural Influences. As a reminder, I asked one simple question of my class for each category: What are four or five activities/factors that must go right for the project to be successful?

Risk Reduction

Activities that, if not done, pose a significant risk to project success. Projects lacking proper planning, a solid communication plan, suitable monitoring/controlling mechanisms, and a PM with good people management skills are doomed from the onset. Although these are basic project planning and execution principles, PMs occasionally skip or speed-through some of the tasks associated with planning for these critical activities. Another important activity to avoid risk is to develop a plan for identifying and reporting potential risks. You cannot attempt to avoid or mitigate risks if you do not know what they are in the first place!


Activities associated with an identifiable level of performance that must be realized for a successful project. In terms of performance, the class began with monitoring the triple constraint to complete the project on time, within budget, and within the proposed scope. Other critical performance factors included creating a performance plan, measuring quality against an industry or quality management standard, and tracking awards received (more aligned with managing multiple projects or in program management). As a former ISO 9000 auditor, I was glad to hear my students mention the importance of quality. This is especially true for product as opposed to service-based deliverables.

Cultural Influences

Activities required for establishing and maintaining positive relationships between the team, the organization, and the customer or customer's organization. When considering cultural influences, the students immediately indicated the importance of open communications, feedback, and timely reporting among team members, the PM, customer representatives, and the project sponsor. Other important cultural activities included establishing roles/expectations, developing a team culture that takes advantage of diverse perspectives (if applicable), managing conflict well, and facilitating cross training among team members to take advantage of technical skills.

It seems that both communication and proper planning/monitoring of the project served as the main themes from the remaining CSFCs. This was an interesting class exercise that for the first time (to my knowledge) tied this kind of CSFC analysis to project management. Perhaps such a study would be worthwhile to take to the next level by conducting full interviews of project management professionals (PMPs).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Critical Success Factors for Project Managers (Part 1)

Recently, I introduced a research exercise to my Project Management Implementation class called critical success factor category (CSFC) analysis. We used the basic tenets of this technique as a method for brainstorming activities that lead to the success of a project from the perspective of the project manager. While there are other categories typically associated with this method, I chose six categories to explore that included Global Factors, External Influences, Internal Influences, Risk Reduction, Performance, and Cultural Influences. Below are descriptions of each category and answers to one simple question for each: What are four or five activities/factors that must go right for the project to be successful?

Global Factors

Activities essential to any project manager regardless of the size of the project or industry. Global factors that the students mentioned included following and understanding industry standards, paying close attention to resource allocation in the planning phase, and developing a strong support system through your project sponsor. Included in building this relationship is making sure that you and your project sponsor share the same goals and assumptions about the project. Effective communication (downward to direct reports, sideways to counterparts, and upwards to leadership) is also key for project success in any project environment.

External Influences

Factors that can significantly influence the success of the project but over which the project manager has no control. External factors noted by the class included current economic conditions, local laws/customs, planning work around the environment, and advances in technology. Just think about how fast the computer industry (hardware and software) generates new processors or operating systems; and it is easy to imagine how advances in technology can serve as a predictor of project success. Your product deliverable could be outdated before you complete the project!

Internal Influences

Factors that can significantly influence project success over which the project manager has some measure of control. Internal influences included pay/rewards for team members, operational standards for the work, the physical location/environment, and the communication plan. Knowing that project managers can spend upwards of 90% of their time using soft skills like communicating to stakeholders, it is not surprising that communication emerged as a theme.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I cover the CSFCs of Risk Reduction, Performance, and Cultural Influences.