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- Jeb Riordan, Editor, PROJECTmagazine
Planning Project Communications Print
Communications management is a recognised 'knowledge area' in the PMI PMBOK ((c), (tm) and all other related legal symbols).
Project personnel spend a considerable amount of their time generating minutes of meetings, reports and statistics.

Project communications management is about the timely collection of project information; formatting that information in a useable document; distributing the information to the relevant stakeholders; storing the information in an easily accessible location and then after project closure, storing the information in an appropriate archive.

In my experience, a significant amount of this information is not even read. So, it is in everyone's interest to make all communication efficient and effective.

Communications Planning.

Communications planning is usually carried out at the very beginning of the project, when the project plan is first prepared. The output from this process is a formal Project Communications Plan. The plan could be a standalone document but is normally a section within the overall Project Plan.

The Project Communications Plan should also be regularly reviewed. Communications needs at the start of a project may change over time, sometimes fine-tuned and sometimes abandoned.
These changes must be reflected in an up to date documented plan.

The project organisation chart will need to be looked at when defining the communications needs within the project. This will help determine the most effective way of gathering, formatting and distributing relevant communications.

Inputs

Communications Requirements

The total of the communications needs of all project stakeholders.
These needs can be catagorised by type and format.
Here we define what information will be formally communicated, what media to use, the language and the structure of the documents.

Communications Technology

The methods used to transmit information amongst project stakeholders.

These methods vary depending on the environment and the needs of the the project; from short conversations by the coffee machine to formalised minuted meetings, from hand written memos to the reports generated by computorised relational databases.

The factors that affect the technology used for project communications include:

- How quickly and 'red hot' the information is needed.
- The technology that is available to the project team.
- The resources available to collect, format and distribute the information.

Constraints

Constraints are limitations within the project and are related to the type and scale of the project. For example, if a significant amount of resources are subcontracted, or 'outsourced', then more attention must be given to the methods available to transmit communications outside the performing organisation.
In a similar way, if the project team members and stakeholders are in various geographical locations, more thought must be given to the most efficient and quickest means of reporting progress and for sending out the consolidated information.

Tools and Techniques

Stakeholder Analysis

The information needed by each stakeholder should also be investigated.

An analysis of the usefulness of the information should be carried out. Grand ideas at the start of a project sometimes turn into laborious chores for both Giver and Receiver. Resulting in wasted effort, time and money.
Similarly the most suitable methods of communications should also be found and agreed with both the Giver and the Receiver.

Outputs

Project Communications Management Plan

The communications management plan should be an easily readable document or a section within the overall project plan.
The communications management plan should include the following:

  • Procedures for collecting project information.

  • A description of the Project Library, the central point for collecting and sharing information. Including a description of how the information is updated.

  • A distribution list showing what information is provided by who, to what stakeholder, in what format and how often.

  • A description of the format and content of regularly distributed communications. Using standard templates and forms as much as possible.

  • A schedule showing periodicity of each regularly distributed communications and the person responsible for generating the communication.

  • A meetings schedule. Synchronise the meetings; subcontractor meetings before internal meetings, internal meetings before external meetings. Create escalation process; low level meetings before high level meetings. Emphasise the contractual obligatory meetings.

  • A description of how up to date information can be obtained in between scheduled publications of the information.

 

The project manager is at the center of all project communications.
Getting the right information at the right time to make the right decisions is paramount for success.
And with up to date information at your fingertips, in the right format, preparation of reports can be semi-automatic.
Good documentation means less discussion and arguing. So, preparing a comprehensive project communications plan at project kick-off time and sticking to it, will save much time, energy and stress throughout the project.

2002 © Jeb Riordan

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