Project Communication Management
The right project manager will command strong communication up, down, and laterally. Project management requires an airtight process to make sure that changes are identified, acknowledged, and revised in a way that’s complementary to the original expectations.
There are several important questions about communication that a project manager must consider as part of the project planning process:
- What information does each stakeholder or group of stakeholders need?
- When will they need it?
- What’s the best way to communicate it to them and what tools are available?
- How and how often should we review the communication plan for effectiveness?
Communication becomes necessary immediately, and so most project communications planning takes part in the early project planning phase. It is tempting but dangerous to assume that decisions made in the very early days of the project will remain true and useful as the project matures.
Communications requirements – This includes the type and the format of information required by all stakeholders. The project manager should also consider the value of the information needed. Since communication requires resources, you should only require communicating information when doing so bolsters project success (or poor communication prevents it). Other issues that might be necessary to consider include:
- Project organization and stakeholder positions
- Technical disciplines and departments included in the project
- How many people will be involved and where they will be located
- External communication (g. likelihood of public interest)
Communications technology – The available communications technologies can range from hallway conversations to formal meetings, from simple written items to online project plans and data. Some factors the project should consider include:
- Does project success require the most up-to-date information constantly available, or would regular written reports do?
- Are necessary communication systems already in place, or should implementing those systems be part of the project?
- Will project participants require training?
- Is the available communication technology in the organization likely to change during the project; how might that affect the project?
Constraints – In this context, constraints are factors that limit the project manager’s options. Are there information security needs or contract provisions that might limit the team’s choices?
Assumptions – These are factors that must be considered real for planning purposes. Assumptions involve risk, but unrecognized or unstated assumptions greatly increase that risk.
Communications Management Plan
A communications management plan is a part of the overall project plan that includes:
- The methods for collecting and storing necessary information; these should also cover updates and corrections
- A description of what information (status reports, schedule, technical documents, etc.) will flow to whom and the methods (written reports, meetings, etc.) for distributing the information
- A description of each item of information the team will distribute, including the format, content, level of detail, and conventions or definitions they will use
- A schedule showing when the team will produce each type of communication
- A description of the procedures to get information between regular communications
- A plan for reviewing and updating the communications plan as the project progresses
As with many of the plans we’ve covered to this point, a communications management plan may be formal or informal, highly detailed or broadly framed, depending on the needs of the project.