VMware's Socialcast Strides Into Social Project Management
Complementary to the enterprise social network, Socialcast Strides focuses on social organization of projects and tasks.
The new product, Strides, can be used independently or with the Socialcast enterprise social network. Strides is essentially a social network built around projects and tasks--or specifically around the "stride," which is a well-defined unit of work sort of like a "sprint" in Agile programming methodology. The home page for each stride shows you who else is working on the product, with a news feed organized around tasks and project milestones. Strides also puts a greater emphasis on realtime interaction, letting you see who else has the project page open right now, what they are working on, and the progress they are reporting.
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Although organizations already use the Socialcast enterprise social network for informal project management and tracking, Strides was designed to "do it in a lot more elegant way" with a focused product, said Socialcast's Tim Young in an interview. "We decided to rethink 'what does it actually mean to get activity done during the workday?' and [how to improve] working with teams. We're taking some of what software teams have learned about lean methodology and Agile development and bringing those concepts to the rest of the workplace," he said.
After Socialcast's acquisition by VMware, announced in May, Young transitioned from CEO to VP of enterprise social software for VMware. Strides originated within Socialcast, prior to the acquisition, he said.
The project started about a year ago, driven by conversations with customers. Many of them said they had adopted lightweight project management methodologies, using tools like Basecamp, but now "had 300 Basecamp instances, all disconnected" and were looking for a better way of coordinating all these activities, Young said. In Strides, each project team has its own mini social network, but there is also a broader organizational view of activities. When used in combination with Socialcast, Strides synchronizes profile and activity-stream data with the enterprise social network.
Following the public beta, the product is targeted for general availability this fall, most likely November, Young said.
The idea of rebuilding project management around social networks is cropping up in many products, including Teambox, Clarizen, Liquid Planner, and Mendix's Sprintr. We've also heard something like this theme from Rypple, a social software company focused on tracking and rewarding employee achievement, where co-CEO Daniel Debow sees his firm helping all sorts of employees organize their work more like Agile project teams. Some, like Sprintr, are specifically designed to support the Agile project management methodology.
Part of the idea is that there is less need for formal project management and documentation when everyone can see what everyone else is doing through a social network that incorporates ideas such as tasks, milestones, and status updates.
"I think a lot of people are working on this because it's an area of opportunity to help companies improve the productivity of their knowledge workers by reducing coordination costs," Young said. Although others may be doing this, Socialcast "has taken a lot of time to do a lot of deep research on this" and do it better, he said.
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