Acting Course Director, Project Management School of Built Environment, University of Technology Sydney.
This project will explore the opportunities that social media could offer to project managers at different stages of transport projects. The findings will improve the understanding of how project managers could use social media to enhance project performance.
Transport infrastructure projects have been chosen for this study. The team will design this project as multiple case studies. Data to be collected will be in two sets - social media data and project management data. A matching collection and analysis of the two sets of data will lead us to achieve the research objectives. The results will be consolidated in a structured approach for using social medial at different stages of a project.
Brief background to the research
Due to global trends such as urbanisation, there is an increasing need for the delivery and maintenance of transport infrastructure, such as roads, railways and subways around the world. Transport infrastructure projects have at least two characteristics that make them unique to study.
First, the scale of these types of projects tends to be large, and the delivered infrastructure is designed to be in use for several decades.
Second, transport infrastructure projects are of interest not only to internal stakeholders but also to citizens who are the future users. Although citizens can, especially in collaboration, have a strong influence on projects (Aaltonen and Kujala, 2016), their capacity for making their voices heard is limited by their peripheral location in stakeholder maps. However, a critical avenue for individual citizens to be heard is social media, which has become widely used in recent times to be able to express opinions publicly.
The published studies combining social media and project management have focused on topics such as improved project learning through social media (Rosa et al., 2016; Winter and Chaves, 2017), better intra-project communication or collaboration through social media (Kanagarajoo et al., 2019; Zhang et al., 2018), and social media as a platform for branding a megaproject (Ninan et al., 2019). Although the number of studies is still low, the combined message seems to indicate several possibilities for utilising social media in project management (see also Hysa and Spalek, 2019).
Aims and objectives of the research
This project aims to explore the opportunities that social media could offer to project managers at different stages of transport projects. Three research objectives are to:
• RO-1: Investigate the current state of social media use by project managers
• RO-2: Investigate the impacts of social media on project management
• RO-3: Develop a structured approach for using social medial at different stages
Proposed research methods
Multiple case studies will be the research method. Case studies are useful to study a phenomenon in-depth within a context to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of real-life events (Yin, 2014). We will study two cases, as this will allow us to have cross-case analysis and also because multiple cases are analogous to multiple experiments (Eisenhardt, 1989).
We choose to study CBD and South East Light Rail project and Sydney Metro Northwest project, as the project team is familiar with the origin of these projects and has completed a pilot study to use social media to assess benefits realisation in the Sydney Metro Northwest project. These two projects are also selected because both are in the operational phase and have social media presence and activities, thereby enabling us to use social media for study.
Data to be collected will be two sets. First, we plan to use Python and Application Programming Interface provided by the social media platform (e.g. Twitter Search API) to retrieve social media data using pre-defined project keywords and time range. Second, project management data will be collected through interviews. A minimum of five interviews with project managers and team members are anticipated per case. A matching collection and analysis between two sets of data will lead us to achieve the research objectives. In the interviews, project managers will demonstrate how they have used social media in managing their projects at different stages. A cross-analysis on social media data will inform us of how social media has responded to the project management activities, leading to the achievement of RO-1. On the other hand, the analysis of social media data.
On completion, the research findings will be published in our PGCAR journal.
2021 winner to be announced June 2021.