Why a Communications Management Plan is a Must for Project Management
July 2nd, 2020 in Productivity
It is no doubt that efficient communication is important within an organization. To have successful communication and understanding within a company, coming up with a solid communications management plan is essential.
What is a Communications Management Plan?
What exactly is a communications management plan, and how can you write one? A communication plan outlines the informational needs of the stakeholders, when this information should be distributed, and how it should be delivered. It is part of a much larger project management plan. Communications management plans should cover the who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Identifying Stakeholders and their Expectations (To whom and Why)
To whom are you communicating to, and why? The first step is to identify the stakeholders of the project, and why you are communicating to them. This is known as a stakeholder analysis. Some questions to ask include, who will be affected by the project, who has influence or control over it, and who has an interest in its completion?
Stakeholders can be a part of upper management, such as your superiors, company shareholders, and senior executives. They can also be external groups, such as lenders, interest groups, suppliers, and trades associations. As well, stakeholders can be of public interest, such as the government, customers, the press, and the general community.
Once the stakeholders are identified, they can be broken down into four categories: manage closely, keep satisfied, keep informed, and monitor.
- Closely manage individuals who have high power and are highly interested in the project, such as your boss
- Keep satisfied the individuals with high power and less interest in the project, but don’t overwhelm them with information
- Keep individuals with low power but who are highly interested informed about the project’s details
- Monitor individuals with low power and who are less interested, and don’t provide excessive communications
Identify Necessary Communications (What)
After figuring out the stakeholders, the next step is to outline what communications are needed to keep the stakeholders satisfied and informed. What information is valuable to which stakeholder?
Commonly communicated information includes project scope and status, statements and updates on the project, baseline information, risks, action items, project acceptance, and performance measures. Each stakeholder will have interest in a different piece of information.
There are several types of reports that highlight important project information that can be added to a communications management plan: status, progress, trend, forecasting, variance, earned value, and lessons learned.
- Status: reports the current process performance against the performance measured baseline
- Progress: outlines total work accomplished
- Trend: highlights if performance is in an upward or downward trend
- Forecasting: future project status and performance based on current or historical data
- Variance: compares baselines to actuals
- Earned Value: reviews scope, cost, and schedule measures to assess project performance
- Lessons Learned: describes what was learned from the project for future endeavours
Identify Time-frame of Communications (When)
After highlighting the stakeholders’ needs, and which information they will receive, you need to describe when you will communicate to the stakeholders and for how long. Establish a timeframe and the frequency of communicated messages for each stakeholder. Will you communicate throughout the duration of the project, or only near the end? Will you send out communications weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly? Having an established calendar of communications will ensure that everyone is informed on time to satisfy their individual needs.
Identify Communications Method (How)
Communication covers a wide variety of mediums. There are many ways to communicate information. This can be broken down into synchronous and asynchronous communications. Understand how you will communicate to each stakeholder and use their preferred method of communications.
Synchronous communication is when parties exchange information at the same time. This can be done through live, in-person meetings, conference calls over the phone, and audio and/or video calls over the Internet. Instant messaging apps and texting are also examples of synchronous communications.
Asynchronous communication is when parties exchange information at different times. Email is still one of the most common methods of asynchronous communication. However, with the emergence of collaborative virtual workspaces, information usually sent via email can now be shared in a single, online location.
Written reports, press releases, social media updates, and videos are all examples of public-facing communications methods that can be used to update stakeholders as well. While written reports can provide a more in depth look at the project, the other three options can provide quick updates to the public about the project’s status.
Identify Message Communicator (Who)
Lastly, it is important to understand who will be communicating what information. For public-facing communications with such stakeholders as customers, the community, and the press, individuals in public relations and social media marketing are most likely the best option. For internal-facing communications with superiors, executives, and anyone else in upper management, the project manager most likely is the best person to communicate with these individuals.
Clearly identifying who will be communicating what will ensure that there is limited overlap in communications, and that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities.
Document Items for a Communications Management Plan
After answering all of the above questions, outline the templates, formats, or documents the project must use for communicating in the communications management plan. This is for continuity and consistency in how the message is communicated. For written reports and public-facing communications, it is important to maintain a specific style and tone for brand integrity.