PM Essence

Simple Steps for Effective Project Communications Management

 

By Sameer Murdeshwar
Great communication is a Project Manager's most important skill. With teams facing a barrage of information at work, it is sometimes challenging for Project Managers .
 
to sustain an effective communication process with their teams and stakeholders. A well-constructed and executed Project Communications Plan can positively influence team motivation, and increase the level of purpose and dedication for projects. This article focuses on how a Project Manager can build an effective Project 
 
Communications Management plan for a project in four easy steps (Refer figure 1). It is based on the author's experience of working with diverse teams on various projects, speaking to many Project Managers and colleagues, and supplemented by general Project Management research.
 
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Step 1 –Planning Project Communications is done at the start of a project plan after stakeholder requirements for communications are identified, the type and format of communication needed is finalized, and a schedule is developed. Some factors to help build a plan are – Overall project structure Role of stakeholders Business units involved in the project Project team members and their responsibilities Type of communication for various audiences – customers, internal-only, and industry A typical Communications Plan contains the following elements (Refer Figure 2) –
 
Step 2 –Disseminating information helps ensures that the Communications Plan is implemented on schedule and that the right information reaches the right people. Building a communications matrix, a variation of the popular responsibility assignment or RACI matrix, can define the flow of project information from sender to receiver. A supporting tool is a robust information retrieval system, in the form of a secure and organized database, designed for faster access to project information. In any project, more than half the information is disseminated verbally. Maintaining project meeting notes and distributing them to attendees can help capture what was said in these meetings. Other formats to distribute information are hard-copy documents, emails, conferences, webinars, and internal websites.
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Step 3 - Reporting effectiveness and measurement helps keep stakeholders informed with the latest updates on the project's performance such as costs, schedules, project risk and project quality. Four popular reporting communications formats are –
 
Status reports on how the project is performing currently
 
Progress reports on the milestones achieved so far and details on pending activities
 
Forecasting and scoping reports to dict the end date for the project, with details on whether the project is being run within deadlines and constraints, predict the end date for the project, with details on whether the project is being run within deadlines and constraints
 
Quality and Risk reports on the results of quality testing and analysis, and risk identification and mitigation
 
To help define the process of project communications reporting and measuring communications effectiveness, inputs from the project plan can be taken. Another tip would be to document all activities and work results to prepare reports for teams. Performance review meetings can be scheduled to note down and measure the success of the project.
 
Step 4 - Closing project communications – At the end of each process as well as that of the whole project, closure is required to document results and receive a sign- off from stakeholders and customers. This step involves the following aspects –
 
Analysis of project's success / failure
 
Documentation of the project and its processes
 
Project archives
 
Lessons learned document for future reference
 
Clear, consistent and simple communications is key for a project to function efficiently. Keeping these steps in mind, a project manager can effectively ensure that the project has been executed and the final deliverable is in line with the expectations of stakeholders and the customer.