Managing Project Communications

by Joseph_Phillips on January 22, 2013

Managing project communication is about answering three simple questions:

  1. Who gets what information?
  2. When is the information needed?
  3. What modality is the information expected?

Simple, huh? Of course, it’s not. Project communications is tricky business. You, the project manager, are at the center of the communication demands from stakeholders, the project team, vendors, management, and more. You’re constantly quizzed about the status of the project, this report or that report, vacation days, resources, and every facet of your project. And you’re expected to know all of this information off the top of your head and at a moment’s notice.

Several factors affect project communications and how you’ll communicate:

  • Urgency of the information to be communicated. If your project has just turned disastrous is an email really the best way to communicate the information? The urgency of the information should dictate how the project manager communicates – and is expected by the stakeholders to communicate.
  • Communication technologies. Web sites, email, instant messaging, text messages, and more – all technologies that help ease communication between the project manager, project team members, and other key stakeholders. It’s a good idea, however, to identify the preferred methods for communicating at the launch of the project. You probably don’t want status reports delivered via voice mail.
  • Project staffing. Large projects, sometimes called macro projects, may have a dedicated administrative staff that can help ease the communication demands. Smaller projects, micro and MAC projects, likely don’t have this luxury so communication demands fall onto the project manager and the project team.
  • Project length and priority. Long-term, important projects need a defined schedule for how and when project communications will take place. It’s essential for the project manager and the project team to document the communication expectations on larger and high-profile projects. A consistent schedule for communications is part of successful project management and keeps stakeholders abreast of the project’s progress.
  • Project environment. Some projects are loose, small, and even volunteer-driven. Other projects are important, dangerous, or expensive. The nature of the project will, to some extent, determine the type and frequency of project communications. The organization of the project team will also affect how communication will occur – consider a virtual team and its communication challenges compared to a collocated team working in a war room.

The results of project communications, especially written communications, become part of the organizational process assets – the historical information of the project. Lessons learned are another important component of project communications – documenting what the project has experienced and what has been learned as part of the project work.

All of the project communications – okay, not all of it, but most of it – should be organized in a project communication retrieval system. This can be a fancy-schmancy database or just a well-organized banker’s box. The reports, presentations, emails, stakeholder feedback, and other communiqué all will become part of the project’s historical information and that can support the project’s product once it goes into operations, as well as help other project managers learn from the current project.

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