Communications are a crucial deliverable of each successful project plus a key project management soft-skill. You might not have thought of communications as an actual project deliverable, but it is. It may not be the 1 your client or customer places the most emphasis on, but that’s due to the fact each client and customer will take great communications for granted.
Project communications is one deliverable that you are personally responsible for and it’s 1 that has a huge influence over your project’s success or failure. I say this because individual experience has taught me that the best managed projects, delivering on all their promises, on time, and on budget can still get a bad reputation and be perceived as failures. The reason: the project manager did not do an adequate job of communicating project success to their stakeholders.
We hope that the data and template in this section will assist guide you to choose the correct details, schedule, and communication vehicles for your project.
The Key Elements of Project Communications
Who to communicate to?
You could just say that it’s essential to communicate with all of the project’s stakeholders and leave it at that, but this approach would guarantee failure. Each and every individual stakeholder has a different set of requirements for project details, and prefers diverse methods of receiving their communications. It’ll not be feasible to define a special set of communications and communication vehicles for each and every stakeholder in most projects, so the top you can do is identify the distinct category of stakeholder and define the needed info and communication techniques that finest suits the group.
Almost certainly probably the most crucial customer(s) of your project communications. It is going to be worth your whilst to define a custom set of communications for each person in this category. Generally speaking, these are busy people who don’t have a lot of time to read lots of detail. Charts and graphs that tell the viewer a lot about the project at a glance will possibly function finest for them.
Take the time to interview them about their preferences: what they need to know, how they want to be communicated with, and how frequently. Keeping them informed about project performance is critical simply because they sign the cheque for the project (such as your salary). They also want information so they are able to maintain their peers appraised of the project’s performance. Remember, they are your project champions so the better armed with information they are, the far better job they can do promoting your project.
Tip: do not report a difficulty to them without suggesting a answer. For instance, if you’re reporting an SPI of much less than 1.0 for the 2nd week in a row, you’ll want to consist of a corrective action with the report.
Project Team Members
This will be the single most populous group inside your list of stakeholders. You may want to subdivide the group into sub-groups based on their roles. For instance you may wish to have a different set of communications for the Company Analysts and Software Developers, or for the Electricians and Plumbers on your project. This group has a various perspective on project performance than sponsors: the sponsor views the project as function being completed for them. The team member views the project as work becoming completed by them and therefore reports on project performance are a reflection on them. A great report pleases everyone – project sponsors and team members. A bad report will cause the sponsor to worry, but could negatively impact team morale.
These can be internal to your organisation, or external to it. These folks could profess no specific interest in project communications until the final product or service is delivered. You’ll want to overcome this disinterest and pique their interest in project progress. The much more informed they are on the project as it progresses by means of its lifecycle, the a lot more likely they’re to accept the resulting products or services.
These are individuals who are performing work which is in some way affected by the work of your project. You might both be working on projects which are portion of a programme, or your projects could just impact 1 another without further integration. For example, you may be managing a software project that requires a corresponding database project – the database project team is your partner. Or, you may be working on a brand new software program that can utilise an existing web portal for customer access – the portal team is your partner regardless of the fact they are not performing a project.
These are an increasingly important category of stakeholder. As more emphasis is being placed on organisations ethical behaviour and social responsibility, there is certainly an growing demand for projects to be performed ethically. Among the techniques this is done is by treating those who do not belong to the performing organisation, or to the customer/client organisation, as project stakeholders. Consideration of these stakeholders ought to go beyond communications, but project communications constitute an critical portion of your ethical dealings with them.
Do not forget to incorporate yourself as a stakeholder. Your want for project info is maybe probably the most important for the project. In case you aren’t receiving the details you should run the project, you won’t be able to share it with other stakeholders. Your wants will stem from the have to be updated on the progress of the individual tasks of the project to ensure that you’ll be able to maintain the project plans up to date and identify preventive or corrective actions.
Project Management Office (PMO)
Your PMO could have requirements for project information which will enable it to identify opportunities for procedure improvement. Even though these needs are quite considerably like the requirements of sponsors, buyers, and clients to know how the project is progressing, its focus is on the project processes, tools, methods, and greatest practices it supports. Your PMO might also be tasked with reporting on project progress to the organisation. Reports which the PMO is responsible for need to present really distinct requirements for data.
What to Communicate?
What project info to communicate to a stakeholder group is inextricably tied to the data that’s available for communication. Soon after all, you cannot communicate what you do not know. On the other hand, if the require for the data is actual and gathering the info is feasible, you should make every effort to create it obtainable. The option of the details to be communicated can’t be created without contemplating the project’s tools and methods for gathering the details and vice versa.
Project communications is not a key deliverable of the project, however it should be treated as a project deliverable. Start off along with your Project Charter: does the charter contain any requirements for data? If it does, the data and its target audience ought to be included in your Communications Management Program. Your Scope Statement may possibly also consist of requirements for project communications. The Statement of Work (SOW) may possibly also have captured requirements for project communications. When you are performing a project for an external customer or client the SOW is your bible and any project communications that are component of the legal contract should be specified there.
Right after identifying all the needs already expressed inside the project documentation to date, you have to solicit requirements from the various groups of stakeholders. This solicitation ought to be completed inside the context of what is feasible for the project to deliver. Be prepared to meet along with your sponsor to identify their requirements. Be specific as to presentation: really should the SPI (Schedule Performance Index) be shown as a bar graph having a rolling 6 week tally? Ought to it be shown as a line graph with the benchmark line of 1.0 and a rolling 6 month tally? You may even want to mock up some sample reports to let them decide on the format.
A project dashboard can be a well-known instrument for communicating project progress to sponsors along with other senior executives. The dashboard is meant to show the status of your project at a glance and could consist of the project’s SPI, CPI (Price Performance Index), SV (Schedule Variance), CV (Price Variance), PV (Planned Value), AC (Actual Price), and EV (Earned Value). As a rule, you shouldn’t mix schedule indicators with price indicators, but it is possible to show schedule and cost indicators in any combination your sponsor would like. You might also need to contain such issues as the top 5 risks, leading 5 outstanding problems, metrics on change (number of change requests, number accepted, number of rejected, total expenses, etc.), and quality (number of tests, number passed, number failed, outstanding bug reports, and so on.). You ought to try to maintain your dashboard to a handful of slides and present supporting detail in text, or Excel format as backup.
You need to repeat the requirements gathering physical exercise with every group of stakeholders, weighing their will need for information with the project’s capacity to gather and communicate it. Tip: share as a lot of the information reported to the other groups with the project team (the folks actually doing the function of the project) as is achievable. Your organisation might have policies or guidelines around what can and can’t be shared outside executive offices; share as significantly data with the team as probable without having violating these policies. You will discover sharing positive reports will boost morale, while sharing negative reports will stop the rumours that can further erode morale.
Be ready to capture and report information by stakeholder group, department, or sub-project. The individual groups on your team will want the capability to view their progress in isolation from the rest of the team. Tip: make certain which you break the work down so that tasks performed by individual groups or departments are identifiable. This will allow you to report performance group by group or department by department and still roll totals up to report for the entire project.
The information you strategy to communicate will drive your activities throughout the project. Your plans should include the metrics that should be gathered to be able to support the details you plan to communicate. You may must identify who is responsible for supplying the data and where the details would be to be stored and reported from. You can find two questions you should ask yourself prior to you commit to providing a report:
- How do I get this details? (i.e. what metrics do I need to capture and where will they come from)
- Where will I store the metrics?
A failure to answer both questions will mean that either you’ve to alter your strategy to job someone to gather the metrics, identify a tool to capture and retrieve the metrics, or drop the requirement.
Lastly, do not forget individual accomplishments and rewards when reporting project progress. There is absolutely nothing like a fantastic news story to maintain team morale high and the celebration of a team member’s accomplishment is something most sponsors enjoy hearing about.
How to Communicate?
There are numerous distinct means of communication accessible to you – face to face, e-mail, Intranet, Internet, typical mail, phone, video conferences, and so on., and so on. These can be grouped into 2 groups: “push” communications and “pull” communications. Push communications demands you to push the details onto the recipient as the name would suggest, although pull communications calls for the recipient to actively retrieve the info from a central source. Sites and centralised repositories are examples of pull communications, while e-mail and meetings are examples of push communications.
Preference for either push or pull communications is generally a personal preference. Some individuals deal with details very best when it is presented to them and some prefer to retrieve it at their own convenience. Be ready for conflicting requirements from individuals in your stakeholder groups. You might need to make the final decision on which strategy to make use of if you will find conflicting requests. Alternatively, you might be able to identify a spokesperson for the group who will probably be empowered to identify the group’s requirements. The exception to this rule is your project’s sponsor. Because there is only 1 or two of these men and women, you should ensure that your communication strategies suit their requirements.
Tip: in the event you determine that the project must have a new tool, like a website, to satisfy a stakeholder requirement, you’ll have to justify the price having a business case. State the rewards to the project in organization terms that justify the expenses. You’ll be able to also include advantages that supersede your project. For example a site or tool including Lotus Notes could benefit all projects your organisation performs, and could even provide a benefit to operations. You might also need to explore having the PMO, or Operations bear the cost of the new tool.
When to Communicate?
Your communication schedule will probably be driven by the needs of your audience and the availability of the info to be communicated. For instance, if you had the bandwidth, you could report on any metrics managed by your MS Project file daily. However, you can’t report on the outcomes of your Gate Meeting until the Gate Meeting has really been held. There is also no reason that a report communicated to 1 stakeholder group bi-weekly, can’t be communicated to an additional group each week.
You need to use widespread sense in addition to capturing your stakeholders’ requirements. In case you select to make use of a “town hall” to communicate to all stakeholders, don’t schedule the meeting to happen weekly. Tip: when planning a meeting that involves you (or yet another team member) communicating details to an audience, count the audience, multiply that number by the number of hours the meeting lasts and multiply that number by the loaded labour rate for that group. Avoid spending significant amounts on frequent communications.
Other meetings, like status review meetings with project teams need to be done far more often to stay away from the project going off the rails. I find that when the project is on track, weekly status review meetings are sufficient. When your project encounters problems, you might need to increase the frequency to much better control the work. In extreme instances including a project rescue, you could need to hold them daily. Tip: when the project is running smoothly and you’ve an alternate means of identifying completed tasks, don’t be afraid to cancel a status review meeting and give the team an hour off!
Keep in mind that communications is portion of the project function. You ought to manage that work within your MS Project file like other project tasks, but be sensible – don’t overload your self by tracking each meeting in MS Project. You must be utilizing the “walk around” style of management if your team is collocated, you needn’t track every informal meeting you might have with individual team members. Use MS Project to help you control the project, not overload your self with work.
Tools and Techniques
Tools and techniques contain tools you will use to convey the info, tools you will use to gather the details, and tools you will use to store and retrieve the information. Conveyance tools will consist of e-mail, web sites, webcasts, conference calls, video conferencing, public directories, town hall meetings, and graphical tools for example Excel. What you’re communicating, how you need to communicate it, and your communication budget will figure out which of these tools you’ll use.
There is 1 tool that you will rely on much more than any other to manage data about your project: MS Project (or Primavera, if that’s the tool your organization has selected for use). These tools are referred to as Project Management Info Systems (PMIS) by most PMP Exam preparation courses and within the PMBOK. These tools are capable of capturing, manipulating, and reporting most of your project’s relevant info so you should be really familiar with their use. There are lots of superb courses accessible that will ground you within the fundamentals of their use.
Your organisation could employ a time tracking program in which case you might have an further source of data. Your time tracking tool should enable you to report on labour costs for your project (i.e. support the charging of time to your project code). It really should also support the reporting of these expenses by group and by type of function. As an example it ought to tell you how much time was spent last week on analysis of your software project. You ought to reconcile the metrics from the time tracking system together with your MS Project file to ensure they tally. Tip: if your time tracking program is employed to generate the pay cheque for your team, make it your bible. A discrepancy means your MS Project file could be inaccurate.
MS Project comes total with a selection of “canned” reports ready for your use. I have discovered that it’s most useful feature for reporting project progress is its capability to export information to an Excel spreadsheet. Since Excel has been around so long it’s feature rich and supports just about any kind of graph or chart you’ll be able to envision. The trick here would be to export the info you have to base your report on, then edit it in Excel. MS Project contains ample support facilities on how to export information.
I mentioned the 2 diverse categories for distributing details: push and pull. Several of your project’s communications will lend themselves equally nicely to both approaches. As an example, in case you communicate you are able to review your dashboard report with the project executive steering committee during a meeting, push it to the project team via an e-mail broadcast, and archive it on a public directory or the project’s web site.
Lastly, bear in mind that the accuracy of the data you communicate about the project will have a profound impact, either very good or bad, on your reputation. You have to do your utmost to make certain the information you communicate is accurate. Measures for example the reconciliation between timesheets and your MS Project file can save you from making claims about project progress that aren’t supported by the facts. Even with that degree of scrutiny your data can still be misleading or out of date. Be open and honest with your communications: tell your audience where the info comes from, how it was compiled, and how old it really is. Be forthcoming with any data that could impact on the accuracy of your reports and let your audience form their own opinions of the accuracy and value of your communications.