An investigation into the use of social network sites to support project communications
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System deployment projects are extremely complex and with more and more organisations now choosing to configure and deploy off-the-shelf systems, the project teams are presented with new challenges. The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of the issues faced during such configuration and deployment projects and see if support could be provided. A year long observational study of one of these projects was carried. While it was initially assumed that it would be technical issues related to the system’s configuration that would be the primary problems, the study revealed communication issues to be at the heart of a large number of the issues. Online social networks such as Facebook are extremely popular, allowing users to stay in touch with large numbers of distributed people. Private social network sites were applied to projects to see if they could replicate the benefits the sites provide and support project communications. A social network site was created for both a distributed research project and an administrative systems project and their use observed. Statistical data on the use of the sites and qualitative feedback from users is presented to assess the viability of the approach. The experiments showed social network sites to have many benefits when used as a complementary mechanism to traditional channels for project communications. It is clear however, that social network sites cannot solve all the problems projects may encounter. If the use of a site is to be a success it is vital it gains a critical mass of users. The approach taken to the site’s configuration and introduction will be hugely influential in its success. In order to choose the right approach a clear understanding of what the project’s communication needs are and the possible uses of the site is needed. A process of configuration and development with a small group of potential users is recommended to ensure it is as user friendly as possible before going live to a large user base.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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