Project Communications Management includes the process required to ensure timely and appropriate generation, collection, distribution, storage, retrieval, and ultimate disposition of project information.
Communication is what we do throughout the day, what is there to manage? This is a very common question we get when we hear “Communication Management” term. One point to remember here is it is not an individual communication we are speaking about here; it is about communication within and outside the organization(s). Of course organizations are made up of people and communication happens between people, but what to communicate, when to communicate, how to communicate, why to communicate and at last who or whom to communicate is what matters. Different communications has different value depending on the person who communicates it, time it is communicated and the way it is communicated. Depending on several factors the recipients of communication will receive the communication and understand it. As a PM it is your responsibility to establish a healthy communication model and methods so that information is shared or distributed in a way it brings value to organization. We have read in other article, who are stake holders? Stake holders may be from different regions, cultures or different backgrounds. Proper planned and effective communication will keep such diversified stake holders involved in the project.
Communication management may look complex and difficult by its name, but, once if we know how to execute it and realize the benefits of it, it becomes easy. Let me try to put it as simpler as possible.
Process group VS Knowledge area mapping for Project Communication management is given below.
Monitoring & Controlling
|Project Communications Management||Plan Communications Management||Manage Communications||Control Communications|
Before looking the processes’ inputs and outputs, let us discuss on the types of communications. These are the types that are mentioned in PMBOK 5.
- Internal Communication : Communication which happens with in the project /Organization
- External Communication : Communication which happens with customers, vendors, Other organizations, and public etc.,
- Formal communication: Reports, Minutes, briefings.
- Informal: emails, memos, ad-hoc discussions.
- Vertical: Communicating with up lines (seniors in your own hierarchy into whom you report) and down lines (People who reports into you).
- Horizontal: With peers and colleagues.
- Official: News Letters, reports.
- Unofficial : Of the record communication
- Written and Oral communication
- Verbal : voice inflections
- Non Verbal: body language.
Above are some of the types of communications that exists. Below are the skills that are required for anyone to communicate better.
- Active and Effective listening
- Active questioning & Probing
- Educating the team to perform better
- Fact finding to confirm information
- Setting and Managing expectations
- Motivating to encourage
- Coaching to improve performance
- Conflict resolution
- Summarizing or recapping.
- Identifying what’s next.
Till now we have gone through communication types and required soft skills. Let us start discussing about communication management process. At the beginning of this article we have learnt that it is only 3 processes in communications management and the first one is Plan Communications Management.
Plan Communications management
Plan Communications is the process of determining the project stakeholder information needs and defining a communication approach. The Plan Communications process responds to the information and communications needs of the stakeholders.
Improper communication planning will lead to problems such as delay in message delivery, communication of sensitive information to the wrong audience, or lack of communication to some of the required stakeholders. A communication plan allows the project manager to document the approach to communicate most efficiently and effectively with stakeholders.
Tools & Techniques
This is the process of developing or selecting appropriate approach for project communications. When selecting or deciding the approach we need to keep in mind, who are the stake holders, what are their needs etc., in most of the cases you need to opt different communication method to different stakeholder(s). Stakeholder can be known from stakeholder register, and templates or methods to use to communicate with different stake holders are called as Organizational Process assets. So, Stake holder register and Organizational process assets are two inputs this process. You need to understand the structure and culture of organization, its management style etc., to even better plan the communication. Such information is called Enterprise Environmental Factors. You also need to understand what the project is for so that you know the overall objective and how it is monitored and controlled. This information is found in Project Management plan which is also an input to this process. So totally there are 4 inputs to this process as given below.
- Project Management plan
- Stakeholder Register
- Enterprise Environmental Factors
- Organizational Process assets.
Now let us see what are the outputs of this process? The name of the process is Plan Communications Management and we are doing this to plan the communications with in the project and the performing organization. So, the first output will be Communications Management plan. We know that every plan is a subsidiary plan to Project Management plan and this is same here also. Communication management plan describes how communications are planned, structured, monitored and controlled. It contains the following information (from PMOBOK 5 page 296)
- Stakeholder communication requirements.
- Information to be communicated including language, format, content and Level of detail.
- Reason for the distribution of that information
- Time frame and frequency for the distribution of required information and receipt of acknowledgment or response, if applicable.
- Person responsible for communicating the information.
- Person responsible for authorizing the release of confidential information.
- Person or groups who will receive the information.
- Methods or technologies used to convey the information , such as memos, email, and or press releases;
- Resources allocated for communication activities, including time and budget.
- Escalation process identifying time frames and management chain for escalation of issues that can’t resolved at lower staff level.
- Method for updating and refining the communications management plan as the project progresses and develops;
- Glossary of common terminology.
- Flow charts of the information flow in the project, workflows with possible sequence of authorization, list of reports, and meeting plans etc.,
- Communication constraints usually derived from a specific legislation or regulation, technology and organizational policies, etc.
Communication management plan can also include guidelines and templates for project status meetings, team meetings, e-meetings, and e-mail messages.
I know it is a long list, but I thought it is better to give them in full as it is said.
As the project progresses, new stakeholders might get identified or existing might get removed from the list because of several reasons in which case there will be a change to stakeholder register and in the same way as communication goes on, there might arise a need to change schedule. Hence update to stake holder register, project schedule and other project documents are also an output from this process. So, Communications management plan, Updates to project documents is the outputs.
Now it’s time to look at tools and techniques used to generate the outputs. Let us look at them straight without trying to guess as they are totally new. First in the line is Communication Requirements Analysis
Different stakeholders need different information. Their preferred communication methods may be different from each other and the format also may differ. Communication requirements is the analysis and understanding of all these. PM should also consider the number of communication channels to understand the complexity involved in communicating. For example if a project has 10 stakeholders then we have total of 45 communication channels. It is a result of the formula n (n-1)/2 where n is the number of stakeholders/people. This will help the PM to plan the communication, who will communicate to whom and who will communicate what. Sources of information which is used to identify communication requirements include but not limited to:
- Organizational Charts
- Project Organization and stakeholder responsibility relationships
- Disciplines, department and specialities involved in the project
- Information on number of people involved and their physical locations
- Communication needs within the organization
- Communication needs external.
Next tool is communication technology. How the information is transmitted or transferred to different people and to different locations may differ. We may take several factors to select the communication technology. Some project may prefer lengthy written documents and some may prefer simple documentation. Factors that can be taken into consideration are urgency of the information at the recipients end, required confidentiality level, ease of communication, kind of project environment and work culture and availability and usability of technology. Along with technology, models are also important. Communication models selection also might be dependent of several factors. In a basic communication model between sender and receiver, thoughts are encoded into language words or sentences, transmitted to the receiver. After receiving the receiver will decode the message again into his own thoughts and understanding and in most of the cases acknowledges. Acknowledgement is not acceptance. Acceptance/response is provided only after complete decoding and understanding.
Encode, Transmit, Decode, Acknowledge, Accept/Respond are the stages in basic communication model.
Technology, model and the third one is Methods of communication. Below are different methods:
- Interactive communication – Most effective way of communication.
- Push communication – Information is sent to intended recipients but not ensure that it is understood.
- Pull Communication – information is accesses at the recipient’s discretion. Used for large volumes of information or large audiences.
Another tool used to communicate information is MEETINGS. People/Stakeholders come together and discuss or share the information. Most of the meetings are scheduled ahead with proper agenda. Issues or items to discuss are circulated before and Minutes of the meeting is circulated after the meeting.
So, Communication Requirement Analysis, Communication Technology, Communication Models, Communication methods and Meetings are the tools and techniques used.
Next Article “Project Communication Management – 2” will includes following process
- Manage Communications
- Control Communications
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