What are we trying to accomplish with a communications plan? Effective project management is the efficient achieving of an organization’s objectives. To do that, we have to keep our project team informed and working toward the target. That includes our project sponsor and other stakeholders. Ultimately our plan should be able to quickly answer the questions:
- Who needs information? Who is responsible for delivery of specific information?
- What information including format?
- When are updates required?
- Where will relevant information be stored?
- Why is the information required?
- How will the information be communicated (formal, informal, document, meetings)
As part of the scope of the project, we must understand what is important about the project to each of these stakeholders. This is the “who” for the communications plan. We then must find metrics or measurements that portend the success of those stakeholder objectives. These metrics will be the “what” we will communicate to the team and will be part of the plan.
Our communications plan will also identify the frequency and level of formality of communications intra-team and extra-team as well as the method or mechanisms of that communications. We may have formal monthly project meetings with the key stakeholders. We may choose report via power point or word document via email, or perhaps we have cloud space or shared drive for the information. If there are exceptions for information handling (security) we will also define those
Often missing in the communications plan (from experience) is the escalation process for the project. Project populated by people invariably will come to some disagreements. The disagreements may be from within the project team or as a function of organizational structures (matrix organization). The source does not matter. Quick resolution of impasses are required, rather than paroxysm of panic to keep the project moving and on schedule. That is not to say we should escalate immediately. Conflict can help us arrive at better decisions and ultimately a better direction. However, unresolved conflict and languishing decisions puts the project at risk of achieving the delivery and cost objectives as we stand around arguing our positions and burn through our slack. To resolve these loggerheads, we create an escalation section of the communications plan. We will define how we want to move the conflict up to the level of management where resolution is possible.
As with all project plans, we must have the ability to alter as we learn more through the work of the project. Things change, and we must account for those changes in a way to ensure the rest of the team understands and is working toward those change objectives or within those change parameters. As such, our communications plan falls to our change management and configuration management controls.