10 Things to Think About When Building a Project Communication Plan

What do you need to consider when building your project’s communication management plan? There are a number of things to keep in mind when developing this plan.  One of the biggest reasons for project failure is poor communication.  Sure seems like we should spend some time planning for how we will communicate effectively on our project.  Here are ten things to think about when building your next communication plan that may help you keep your project communication on track: 

1. Is all pertinent stakeholder information available?  Effective project managers recognize the importance of knowing, understanding, and involving your project stakeholders across the project life cycle. It is essential that you understand how many people are involved with your project and to what degree they are involved.  Not all stakeholders are created equal – some may need weekly status reports while others may be directly engaged with the team defining the project requirements.   

2. Have we defined the project roles and responsibilities? Remember that there are two discrete sets of information you need to collect about your project stakeholders. First, you have the administrative data, such as names, departments, contact information, locations, roles, responsibilities, authority, and expertise. Second are the actual results of stakeholder analysis, including stakeholder influence, interest, expectations, and involvement with your project.

3. Are all internal and external communications needs defined for the project? Planning your team’s communication with project stakeholders requires serious coordination and thought. You must decide what, who, how and when—what project information needs to be communicated, who needs to receive that information, how the information will be delivered, and when that information will be required.

4. What communications technologies will be used? If you expect the project team and key stakeholders to use particular communication tools or technology during the project, you need to define what those tools are and how they will be used. If you decide that text messaging will be the primary form of communication between remote team members, you need to make sure that they have the ability to text using a handheld device or an application on their computer.

5. Do methods exist to update/refine the communications approach? Your initial project communication plan will require revision based upon discovering new stakeholders, addressing major changes, or before each new project phase begins. Experienced project managers make sure that methods exist to update and refine the communications approach across the project life cycle.

6. Is there an electronic project information repository? Figure out how you save and access your project records, deliverables and reports. Records maintain information regarding project progress and performance while reports provide snapshots of project effort at certain points in time. Records and reports should be placed under configuration management.  Your project’s technical or specialist deliverables should be also be managed as well as be placed under change control.

7. Are all required deliverable formats defined and available? Many organizations have defined sets of project deliverables and templates for them.  This can include project management and technical or specialist deliverables throughout the project.  You need to decide where in the project life cycle the project deliverables are created from their templates, agreed-upon and updated.

8. Is the project communication plan aligned with project size and complexity? Project complexity impacts your project in a number of ways. In general, the more complex the project is, the more complex the communication plan should be as part of the project work. Complex projects may result in a greater number of formal deliverables and stakeholder review points. It is also important that the communication plan be compatible with the development life cycle and approach being used on the project.

9. What is the urgency of information need on this project? You need to be sure that your communication plan aligns and integrates with the communication needs and expectations of your project stakeholders.  This means addressing decision-making and levels of authority as well as information.  

10.  Are there any communication concerns related to our project environment? You need to focus on the right communication approach for your key project stakeholders.  This means involving them with the communications planning and asking them for their communication requirements up front.  You may also want to ask them later in the project life cycle if everything is working as it should be.

These are my top ten things for building a project communication plan, I hope you find them helpful. 

For more information about project planning, check out one of Learning Tree’s courses, such as Project Management: Skills for Success or Project Scheduling: Controlling the Project Timeline.

Susan Weese

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