Communication in Project Management
Communication is a crucial element in project management as it helps to ensure that all stakeholders are informed and working towards the same objectives. Effective communication in project management involves the timely and clear exchange of information, ideas, and expectations to ensure that the project is executed according to plan and achieves the desired outcomes.
Table of Content
- 1 Communication in Project Management
- 2 Objectives of Communication Management
- 2.1 Alignment With Organizational Objectives
- 2.2 Alignment With Market Conditions and Structure
- 2.3 Alignment With Market Conditions and Structure
- 2.4 Alignment With the Needs of the Client or Customers
- 2.5 Alignment With the Needs of All Stakeholders
- 2.6 Alignment With the Business Processes
- 2.7 Alignment With Technology Advancements
- 3 Project Communication Plan
- 4 Communication Matrix and Channel
- 5 Types of Communication Channels in IT Organisations
- 6 Case Study: Communication Management in IT Projects
Objectives of Communication Management
The objectives of communication management in a project are as follows:
- Alignment With Organizational Objectives
- Alignment With Market Conditions and Structure
- Alignment With Market Conditions and Structure
- Alignment With the Needs of the Client or Customers
- Alignment With the Needs of All Stakeholders
- Alignment With the Business Processes
- Alignment With Technology Advancements
Alignment With Organizational Objectives
Suppose an IT company wants to effectively implement cost-cutting measures in its ongoing IT projects. The company wants to increase its cost-cutting measures by 5% of the previous year’s target. To achieve this, the cost-cutting target value should be communicated to all team members working on active projects.
This communication may be made effective by sending e-mails or putting up the target value on blogs, notice boards, in team meetings, as a part of KRAs, etc. The aim is to constantly remind the concerned employees that this is something to be achieved.
Alignment With Market Conditions and Structure
Suppose an IT company that is developing products for a US company is fighting for survival in the market. The reason for this is the company’s late adoption of the quality management system, that is, Statement on Auditing Standards No. 70 (SAS-70) or Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Compliance. It has long been mandated for IT companies in the US market to possess this compliance certificate.
After the IT Company has obtained the compliance certificate, it needs to communicate this information to the market. This may be done through a website update, advertising through leaflets and brochures, etc.
Alignment With Market Conditions and Structure
Let us take an example of a project under execution. Suddenly, there are changes in the requirements, and information needs to be communicated to the teams involved, such as the testing team, human resource team, etc., for the induction of the new sought requirements. Teleconferencing can serve as the best mode of communication here.
However, even this will be ineffective if the communication does not take place promptly, with as many details and specifications as needed by software developers and supporting staff members. Therefore, the channel of communication should be such that the intended audience is also able to revert promptly to the information that is communicated.
This is a crucial aspect because, on many occasions, information is communicated but the concerned person does not act promptly; hence, the purpose of the communication is defeated.
Alignment With the Needs of the Client or Customers
Let us re-consider the example in which an IT project is under execution. The client wants to have an effective communication channel so that critical issues experienced in the project, such as a server crash during support operation, are notified to the client punch.
Although sending status reports to the client on a weekly or daily basis is a way of communication that has been followed across organizations customarily, sometimes, there are sudden urgent matters that need to be communicated to the client on an event-driven basis. The presence of a fast communication channel will prompt the client to resolve such issues promptly.
Alignment With the Needs of All Stakeholders
All the stakeholders of an IT project should be constantly updated on its current status, including the progress made so far, the changes made, and the new requirements. For example, the project manager must communicate promptly the travel requirements of the team members who are about to travel onsite or internationally in the interest of the project.
When traveling to international sites, communication has to be detailed and specific and must be provided to the travel desk in advance so that it can take care of their accommodation.
Alignment With the Business Processes
Consider an example of an IT company whose current project is about developing software for a client. During a private meeting with the client, the CEO makes a statement about the status of the project, which is at the implementation stage. The statement is concerned with the procurement of a hardware device that is required to be connected to the server for retrieving Call Detail Records (CDR) from the switch of the network.
Later, the company also has a meeting with the client. In the meeting, the VP makes a statement regarding the development of an interface program for that hardware component. This scenario illustrates how the business processes of this company go out of order as there are two versions of one matter – one dealing with the procurement of hardware, while the other dealing with the development of an interface program for that hardware. Hence, there is a misalignment of business processes.
Alignment With Technology Advancements
The IT field is rapidly advancing. Therefore, its players need to align themselves with technological advancements; otherwise, they will have to struggle for survival in the competitive market that is getting tougher with time.
For example, an IT company may still be doing projects based on the earlier versions of .NET technology when its latest versions have already hit the market. If the company wishes to stay a step ahead of the competition, it must update itself regularly as well as adopt newer technologies that arrive in segments of its interest.
Project Communication Plan
communication plays an integral role in any project. it is a coordinated effort by all the team members. A project communication plan is an administrative approach to providing stakeholders with relevant information about the project. this plan defines who will receive the information, what information will be communicated, how the information will be distributed and how often, who will be responsible for delivering the data and who for taking action upon it, and, finally, what channels will be used to deliver the information.
The following are the generic contents of a project communication plan:
- Intended audience
- Project structure
- Steering committee
- Project Stakeholders
- Information communication process
- Communication changes
- Communication tracking and storage
this section describes the scope of the communication plan. For example, the scope of the communication plan is limited to software professionals who are directly or indirectly involved in the development of the software. the testers, HR staff, and admin staff are indirectly involved in software development, while software coders are directly involved; hence, there is a need to communicate the progress of the project at regular intervals. Whereas, in the case of project managers, 80% of their time is spent communicating, as is globally evident.
This section describes the references to project documents repository, such as visual source safe (VSS) or concurrent versions system (CVS), wherein the documents related to important communication are stored and managed as per the configuration management policy of the organization.
This is the section in which the intended audience and the role it plays in the communication system are covered. For example, a software developer need not have access to information related to financial requirements. Rather, he/she requires access to the functional requirements of the project.
this section describes the structure of the project. it is on this structure that the flow of information is defined along with its access mechanism, such as read-only information, for information purposes only, or for taking necessary actions.
this section describes the role of the steering committee of the project as well as its role in handling the information, such as acting as the ultimate decision maker in handling escalation of issues like legal, technical, cost, management, organizational, and personnel with a good resolve.
This section describes the role of each of these stakeholders in the project and the type of information it is required to manage and act upon. For example, the project director must have access to the project status, resource utilisation, capacity utilisation, and other related issues, while the project manager is required to have access to operational information details, in addition to information related to capacity utilization.
Information communication process
This section describes the means and mechanism for how the information will flow and what type of information must flow to the concerned persons. For example, the configuration manager must allow information related to configuration items to the stakeholders.
This section describes any kind of changes in project information and how these changes will be communicated to all the members affected. For example, if the client’s requirements change, in what manner will they be communicated, as well as when and how much?
Communication tracking and storage
This section takes care of communication tracking and information storage. For example, when requirement changes take place, the section helps check whether the information has been communicated to the DBA, testers, configuration manager, and other associated project stakeholders or not.
Tables (A) and (B) show the summary and communication plan, respectively, of a project:
|Deliverable Info (What)||Recipient(s) (Who)||Delivery Method(s) (How)||Schedule (When)Who’s Responsible? (Owner)|
|Project information||Project Team||As needed||As needed||Project Manager|
|Project status||Project Planner PMO Director||ePortfolio Email||By noon every Tuesday By noon every Monday||Project Manager|
|Agenda/ Minutes||Project Team Steering Committee||Email Share point Team meetings||Monthly||Project Manager|
|Timeline Update||Steering Committee Exec. Sponsor Managers||Meetings Share point||As needed||Project Manager|
|Project Updates Action Item Status||Project Manager||Team meetings Conference calls Email||As needed||Project Manager|
|Project Risks||ITEC/ Exec. Sponsor Project Team||Risk meeting Meeting minutes||As needed||Project Manager|
This plan depicts what type of information is required to be delivered and to whom, the timeframe for delivering the information, etc.
The main purpose of depicting in this format is to highlight that there is no hard-and-fast rule regarding the structure of the project communication plan. It all depends upon the needs of the project as well as the client.
Communication Matrix and Channel
Project communication management refers to defining the communication matrix and channels for managing the information flow. A communication matrix is a type of assessment tool for mapping the content, paths, and endpoints of communication in respect of all the members of a project. On the other hand, a channel refers to a medium that is used to transmit information to the project team.
In this reference, let us consider an example of an ongoing project that is currently in the development phase. Suppose a telecom project for a client based in Newark, USA is under progress in India. As the project passes the development stage, an issue regarding the changing of the address functionality comes up and requires a one-to-one with the client immediately.
A meeting with the client is fixed where the development team and the project manager from India communicate with the client in the US. The meeting goes on for more than two hours, and finally, both the client and the project team solve a long discussion.
As the issue is resolved, there are new roles for certain team members to play as defined during the discussion. These are as follows:
- The testing team will update the test cases and test the code as per the updated and new requirements.
- The database administrator will make the changes required in the database.
- The configuration manager will be maintaining the configuration of project components.
- The business analyst will be analyzing the impact of the changes in the subsequent functionalities.
- The marketer or account manager will assess the financial implications of these changes in functionality.
- The documentation team will update the technical documents of the project.
Here, a communication matrix will be an effective process to ensure that the decisions out of the discussion reach all the concerned members of the project.
|Issue||To be communicated by||To be communicated to||Frequency||Channel|
|Functional requirements related to software||Project manager||Executive management, configuration manager, DBA, testing team, business analyst, marketer, the documentation team||Event-driven whenever changes are to be incorporated||Email, intranet; employee portal, e-room, PMO|
|Functional requirements related to administration; issues such as relocation of workplace||Project manager, concerned in-change||Concerned manager; the concerned person||Event-driven|
|General notification for all the employees, such as a declaration of public holidays, get-to-gathers awareness information, new initiatives like cleanliness drive, etc.||HR representative, administration representative||Entire organization||Event-driven, regular intervals||Mail, intranet, blog, notice board, circulars, etc.|
The table below shows another form of an organizational communication matrix including other aspects such as category, method, and detail:
|Core team||Project execution/ status||Core team project progress, accomplishments, issues, and challenges||Team meeting||Daily||Action|
|Core team||Status||High-level project status||Weekly||Info/ action|
|Core team||Project execution||Issues and challenges||Meeting||Weekly||Action|
|Core team||Status||Detailed status||Status report document||Weekly||Info/ action|
|Extended team||Status||Status overview||Email or meeting||Monthly||Info/ action|
|Extended team||Status||High-level project progress||All-hands meeting||Quarterly||Info/ action|
|Management||Generic information/ status||Project progress, significant accomplishments, issues, and challenges requiring management assistance||Meeting||Weekly||Info/ action|
|Extended team||High-level project status||Email or webpage||Ongoing||Info|
We can have several versions of the communication matrix – it all depends upon the needs and expectations of an organization.
Types of Communication Channels in IT Organisations
After understanding the basic concepts of a communication matrix, let us now discuss various channels of communication. A channel, as we have discussed earlier, refers to the means or mechanism used for communicating some information.
The following are communication channels generally used in an IT organization:
- Annual Meetings, Biannual Meetings, General Meetings
- Notice Boards
- Induction Meetings and Sessions
- Group Meetings or Departmental Meetings
Annual Meetings, Biannual Meetings, General Meetings
These are the meetings in which the top management, i.e., the CEO and board of directors, participates. These meetings are more or less confidential as they mostly discuss the business, performance, financial results, and achievements of the organization. The CEO briefs the members about the progress of the organization, revenue earned from the projects, new ventures, initiatives, etc.
This is a channel for communication whereby generic information is displayed to inform the maximum number of employees. This may be information related to newly introduced policies, the general performance of the projects, or changes in the administrative facilities such as changes in transport timings, canteen timings, etc.
In this type of communication channel, the organization gathers the opinions and views of its employees before implementing something at the organizational level.
Induction Meetings and Sessions
This is another form of communication channel whereby recruits are briefed about the work culture, mission, and vision of the organization.
Group Meetings or Departmental Meetings
In this form of communication, the achievements/issues/concerns of a department or group are communicated to all the concerned members. The main purpose of such meetings is to ensure that the group is aware of the current picture of work and performs in harmony as a single unit, even if individuals have their style of working.
In this communication channel, the information is communicated to all or a selected group of people through the intranet.
This is a form of communication channel whereby external entities are communicated regarding the products and services or achievements of the organization.
Case Study: Communication Management in IT Projects
HP Techno Solutions, an IT company with a global presence, has several offices and development centers that are spread across the US, UK, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, India, New Zealand, and Brazil. Due to the global operations of the company, managing communication has become one of the key issues in a large number of projects that are being executed in different countries.
Team members, generally, need to communicate with their clients/counterparts in other countries. Due to different time zones, sometimes the client takes too much time to respond to a query. Moreover, if there are any changes in the project, it may require some time to communicate the changes to the team members.
To overcome the problems of communication management, the executive management has proposed the concept of PMO, i.e., the Project Management Office. This is the mechanism that IT organizations with global presence follow. This is sort of an e-room wherein the team members and the project managers discuss their work status.
PMO can provide project management support to the organization as well as directly manage the project.
Finally, HP Techno Solutions adopted the PMO and reaped substantial benefits. The following are the significant benefits of implementing PMO:
- The communication problem was solved.
- The operation cost was reduced to 20%.
- The market share increased to 60%.
- The time required for a project was reduced to 30%.
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