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Communications Management (Practical Project Management Series)

Communications Management (Practical Project Management Series). This time the subject is Communications Management.

Communication is the most important activity of a Project Manager. The American Project Management Institute (www.pmi.org) even states that a Project Manager is about 90% of her/his time busy with communicating.

The communication is executed in many different forms and should be adapted to the target audience. Executive Management for instance not only wants an other type of information but also wants to receive this in a different manner than for instance a team of technical specialists. To make it not more complex I leave cultural and language aspects out of this discussion.

The commuication actually already starts when you as Project Manager are assigned to the project. The first person you communicate with is the sponsor/client (let’s call this in this context ‘sponsor’). De sponsor pays and determines what is going to happen.

Project Management is not ‘only’ management of your team but also of your environment. Of course you have a particular ‘span of control’. However, as soon as you are getting outside this ‘span of control’, the best way is to escalate when things are not going you want them to go. This escalation doesn’t release you of the obligation to manage this escalation. Project Management often means chasing people …

The communication around the project, both inside the project as well as outside the project, is documented in the Communications Management Plan. In very large projects communication experts are involved while this activity requires a lot of time and special skills (example: Dutch public transport chipcard).

On the Internet you can find many examples of Communications Management Plans. The covered subjects I advise are at least:

  1. Project organisation structure (‘Organisational Breakdown Structure’ by means of an organogram). Describe in the table also who has which tasks and responsibilities.
  2. Meeting structures. Describe per type of meeting who is present, who is the chairperson, who writes the minutes of meeting, the agenda, meeting frequency, meeting medium (physical presence, teleconference, …) and to whom the minutes of meeting will be distributed.
  3. Escalation path. Keep in mind all stakeholders.
  4. Tools to be used. This can be an integrated Project Management Suite but also a series of ‘tools’ such as MSProject, MSWord, MSExcel and MSPowerpoint.
    List the version of these ‘tools’ in order to prevent conversion issues for people having access to this data.
  5. Progress report. Content. layout, which persons, frequency and confidentiality.
  6. Describe which media you use for which type of communication and sharing data. Examples are: e-mail, video conferencing and ‘clouds’. You can also think about the use of ‘social media’. Beware regarding confidentiality in case using the standard social media.
  7. Keep in mind the licenses and license costs of ‘tools’ and/or hardware. Make a distinction between one time cost (buying) and maintenance costs.
  8. Document the language to be used (eg. British English) and the format of the date (dd/mmm/yyyy). This can prevent a lot of issues especially when you are working with people from Europe and the USA. It is rather painful if the Dutch Project Manager intended to deliver on the 7th of June (07/06 dd/mm) and the American teammember understood the 6th of July (07/06 mm/dd).
  9. In case the communication is handled by people outside the project additional costs might be applicable which might not have been budgetted within the project.

The next time my article will describe the ‘project file’ also called the ‘project conscience’.

This is a ‘blog’ article by Lex van der Heijden regarding practical Project Management. For questions/remarks I’m available via [email protected] or via LinkedIn (nl.linkedin.com/in/lexvanderheijden/).