How Social Task Management Can Help Your Business

By David F. Carr

Social task management tools explicitly manage deadlines, assignments, and relationships between tasks. They distinguish themselves from other task and project management applications with social-style interaction.

At the same time, they distinguish themselves from purely social tools by helping employees get work done, rather than merely talking about work. One such example is Podio, which is a cloud-hosted social platform used by businesses large and small and known for its innovative approach to organizing tasks and information.

Here are some typical features:

  • Create and view tasks. You can easily create tasks as personal to-do items and see a list of any tasks been assigned to you. As the following figure shows, tasks feature prominently in the Podio activity stream. In addition to the My Tasks listing on the right, there can be tasks attached to comments, embedded in projects, or associated with Podio Apps.

    Tasks and projects can be represented in the activity stream.

    Tasks and projects can be represented in the activity stream.
  • Assign tasks to colleagues. You make assignments to your connections on the social network as easily as you might @mention them in a post.

  • Set deadlines. Keep work on track by putting them on a schedule.

  • Receive notifications. Users are notified of assignments through the social activity stream and often also by e-mail. Additional notifications may be generated when a deadline is approaching or a task is past due.

  • Get to know the team. Every task is displayed with the names and profile pictures of the people associated with a task, including the person who created it and those assigned to complete it, with links to each of their profiles.

  • Add comments to a task. You can comment on tasks, so that a post asking, for instance, whether the deadline for a task is realistic appears in the context of the task itself.

Create a task as a social object

Making a task a social object means you can share it, comment on it, and otherwise interact with it as you would a status post or other object on the social network. By making tasks a distinct object type, you can make them behave differently from ordinary posts. For example, you can give a task a deadline, assign it to one or more people, and allow the assignees to mark it complete when they have performed the task.

In addition, by putting tasks in a social context, you can interact with them as you would posts, images, or documents by sharing or commenting on them. So instead of just seeing that a task is done or not done, you can follow a comment stream with progress updates that give a better idea of whether a deadline is likely to be met.

Assign tasks to other users

Part of the point of social task management is to assign tasks through the social graph — the network of connections between people in an online system. You may start with a long list of tasks that you have mapped in a larger project, but as you start to prioritize you will want to start assigning tasks to specific people who will be responsible for getting this done. Doing this in a social context makes it easier for everyone to see who is responsible for what.

Also, in a social collaboration environment, you aren’t just typing names into a spreadsheet but linking to the profiles of specific individuals to whom the system will then send automated notifications and deadline reminders.

Tasks can be assigned to one or more individuals, or to a group where whoever gets the task done will mark it complete.

Set deadlines

There is nothing particularly “social” about deadlines, but clearly deadlines are an important element to making sure work gets done. Once deadlines are set, those assigned tasks will send persistent reminders and alerts. Exposing deadlines in a social context also allows peers to see who is on schedule, running behind, or in need of help.

Here’s how using social collaborations tools can help you manage deadlines:

  • For an individual: Social task management tools provide a listing of tasks and their deadlines, often with past-due items shown in red or otherwise highlighted.

  • For the group: Making peer performance compared with deadlines visible creates positive social pressure to keep projects on track.

  • For the project manager: The social stream can be a valuable source of intelligence on which people who have been assigned tasks are running ahead or behind schedule. Social task managers also provide a dashboard for seeing an overview of which team members have missed deadlines. Some tools may also display a percentage of work complete statistic, as reported by the person responsible for completing the task.

If a project comes in late, or fails to achieve the expected results, the discussions surrounding tasks and deadlines will also come in handy for a post-mortem analysis of what went wrong and lessons learned for next time.

Explore additional social task management options

Other task management features, which social collaboration tools may address to a greater or lesser extent (or not at all), include

  • Organizing tasks into larger units of work, such as projects

  • Providing project planning and monitoring tools to help allocate units of work across a team without overloading any one individual

  • Project monitoring tools and visualizations (such as Gantt charts), to show overlapping tasks assigned to individual teams plotted on a timeline

  • Managing dependencies between tasks, where one cannot be started until another is completed

  • Orchestrating tasks into a workflow or business process management framework, where the completion of one task kicks off the initiation of the next one in a sequence.