Communication Can Make or Break Your Projects

In a 2007 CompTIA web survey, nearly 28 percent of the more than 1,000 respondents to the web poll singled out poor communications as the number one cause of IT project failure.  I would take that result one step further and say that poor communications causes most project failures even today, regardless of the project type.   One way to ensure good project communications is to plan for it early on. Experienced project managers often document a communication management plan to facilitate engagement with stakeholders and team members throughout the project by establishing and implementing a controlled and bi-directional flow of information.

project-level communication plan is typically derived from corporate communications policies, any program-level information management strategies and the more specific project level communication requirements. Key factors influencing the plan’s contents include the defined project management team structure, the scope of the project effort, results from project stakeholder analysis efforts.

At a high level, a project communication plan has a description of the means and frequency of communication to parties both internal and external to the project. Here is my outline for a generic project communication plan.  Use it all or use it like a list of ingredients for your favorite recipe and take what your projects need to enable effective communications from start to finish!

  • Introduction
    • Purpose, goals and scope of the communication plan
    • Who is responsible for implementing the plan
    • Intended audience 
  • Communication Procedure
    • Any communication methods or standards to be used
    • Justification for any variance from the corporate or program management standards
  • Tools and Techniques
    • Communication tools and techniques to be used – what, why and when
  • Records Storage and Retrieval
    • What communication records will be required and where they will be stored
    • Access, authorization and document control
  • Project team member contact list
    • Name and title
    • Project role and responsibilities
    • Associated team manager or leader
    • Location
    • Telephone number(s)
    • E-mail address
  • Key stakeholder contact list
    • Name and title
    • Project role and responsibilities
    • Organization
    • Location
    • Telephone number(s)
    • E-mail address
  • Reports (executive, stakeholder, project team)
    • Any reports that are to be produced, including their purpose, timing, layout and recipients
  • Meetings (executive, stakeholder, project team, ad hoc)
    • Type, purpose, attendees, agendas and frequency
  • Timing of Communication Activities
    • When communication activities are to be undertaken
    • When performance of these activities will be measured and reviewed
  • Roles and Responsibilities
    • Who will be responsible for what aspects of the communication process
    • Who is responsible for sign-off and levels of decision making within the project
  • Information needs for each interested party
    • Information required to be provided from the project
    • Information required to be provided to the project
    • Information provider and recipient
    • Frequency of communication
    • Means of communication
    • Format of the communication

Susan Weese

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