Communication in business and in project management can be difficult, especially when you’re collaborating with virtual teams or working on global projects, but clear communication is a critical component to a project’s success.

Did you know that a project manager spends 90% of his or her time communicating? Indeed, most problems on projects relate, to some degree, to issues surrounding communications. Yet, our studies show that communication issues are the most preventable problems on projects.

What’s the secret to good communication? Communications must be planned, managed, and continuously monitored throughout the life of a project. This requires the development of a project management communication plan.

Project Management Communications Plan

  1. What is a Project Management Communications Plan?
  2. Create a Project Management Communications Plan
  3. Ideas to Consider in Your Communications Plan
  4. Set Your Plan In Motion

What Is a Project Management Communications Plan?

The Communications Plan is an easy tool to create that you can use to improve communications with everyone on your team, as well as with clients and stakeholders. It outlines the methods used to deliver important information relating to you’re working your project, from start to finish.

  • The goal of a project management communication plan is to establish guidelines that everyone who’s involved in the project will follow to share information with others.
  • A communication plan defines how often information will be shared, who will be responsible for sharing it and details on how information is to be delivered.
  • It’s best to create a new project management communications plan for each project you start. That’s because every project is unique, with its own timeline, deliverables, team, and budget, so the same communication plan won’t work on all projects.

Create a Project Management Communications Plan

A good project management communication plan, starts with stakeholder management. This includes the identification of stakeholders, their requirements and expectations.

You’ll also use the project management scope statement and the WBS (work breakdown structure) that have been created as part of the project. As you create your plan, ask questions like the following so you can move in the right direction:

  • Would it be better to communicate the information more formally in an email or a phone call?
  • Is this an issue that is best discussed in person or virtually?
  • Is the communication important enough to call a meeting, or is it fine to simply create a report?
  • How quickly and how often does the information need to be communicated?

A key aspect of planning communications is determining the optimal technology for communicating information. Agile emphasizes more face-to-face communication while more formal written communications are necessary when utilizing a predictive approach.

Ideas to Consider in Your Communication Plan

Communications should be efficient (providing only the information needed), effective (providing information in the right format at the right time) and add value to the project. When creating a project management communications plan, here are some questions to consider:

  • What needs to be communicated, and why?
  • What information do stakeholders need and when?
  • What is the best method for communicating: What reporting format does the sponsor require? What reporting format do you want from the project team? Who is responsible for sending information? You’ll also want to consider when and how often should information be sent?
  • How will you clearly delineate project roles and responsibilities?
  • What methods should the team use to bring problems or issues to your attention?
  • Where does the project fit into the organizational initiatives, portfolio, and programs?
  • How to communicate changes
  • How will factors such as location, culture, security, privacy, and language impact project communications?

Consider project risks, status, the project charter, stakeholder expectations, the project management plan, and WBS. And don’t forget to also consider problems, changes, and updates to components of the project management plan, as well as upcoming work and delays.

Set Your Plan in Motion

Remember that, in project management, good communication must be planned into the project and managed throughout. The methods and frequency of communication must meet the needs of your stakeholders.

In the end, what your plan looks like will depend on the needs of the project itself, as well as the people involved. Writing down your project management communications plan is wise, it can serve as a valuable reference throughout your project. The best part is that it doesn’t need to be too formal either, yet it will certainly help you and your team succeed.

All of these elements can be found in much more detail in Rita Mulcahy’s PMP® Exam Prep book, so definitely check it out if you want to learn more.

A white paper by RMC Learning Solutions, “6 Essential Elements to Effective Project Management.”

Cate Curry
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