Project Communication Plan is an important step in Project Management Plan or what is simply called Project Plan. Effective communication goes a long way in creating a simple but an efficient template to apprise the stake holders and leadership teams with periodic project status and updates, to track project progress, analyse potential risks, rework schedules of development plan if necessary and document development steps and results to ensure accessibility and create project case study as needed. For more details on Project Management please refer to PMP certification course.
What is Project Communication Plan?
Project Communication Plan is a communication plan that is meticulously laid out to keep various stake holders of the project such as client, project team members, executive leadership and business owners informed and aligned on the various aspects of the project such as project performance goals, project progress status and monitoring, upcoming schedules, etc. A good project communication plan identifies who is responsible for what level of communication, who should be the audience for a particular level of communication, at what frequency should the communication be sent out for various groups of stakeholders and what level information will be shared specifically with each group of the project stake holders. Project Managers use communication management plan to effectively communicate the project status, project information, risks, roles, responsibilities, and timelines with stake holders while ensuring the stakeholders have the right level of information at the right times that they could consume for their decision making or to plan their next course of action effectively. Apart from this, a good project communication plan facilitates feedback from relevant stakeholders at regular intervals, so that the project team could adapt them into project development early and in the minimum invasive manner.
Example of a Project Communication Plan
The complexity of project communication plan arises from the fact that the different audience or different stake holders need to know different details of project at different points of time. The project communication plan therefore needs to identify the need for the communication for different audience in terms of what is the need or necessity of communicating the project needs to specific teams or individuals and how they will be processing or consuming the information shared in project communication plan – for example , in a cross functional feature development that needs to be tested by multiple teams you may need to identify all teams who will be potentially impacted by the change and need to test that their integration with your product is not affected by a new change.
The importance of communication plan in project management cannot be over emphasized in any way. To dwell further into Project Management Plan Communication plan, let us consider an example of a real time project requirement and come up with a project communication plan template or project communication plan example that helps us effectively manage and time our communication to various stakeholders in reliable and informed manner.
Project Summary: Build a new website and mobile application for XYZ Bank
Project Communication Goals
- Communicate project timelines, project requirement, project staffing and project budget to various stakeholders
- Create a platform to seek inputs, feedback, decisions, and approvals from project stakeholders in leadership positions
- Create an accurate and transparent communication channel to share the project process information, progress updates to gather acceptance and take your key stakeholders into confidence about project deliverables.
Stakeholder Information Plan: Project Communication Audience, Frequency and Communication Channel
|Important Milestones/ once every month
|Progress Updates, Potential Risks and Accomplishments in email
|Prefers module level updates. Do not include detailed design or feature specific updates.
|Weekly/Bi-weekly meetings, MOMs in Email
|High level updates on features, budget consumption, resourcing, risks and timelines.
|Weekly Check-in Meeting and Daily updates in touch base calls, emails, as needed
|Detailed design discussions, contact for requirement clarification, feedback and POC for follow up and approvals
|Internal Development Team
|All Daily Progress Updates, requirement changes, weekly meeting and leadership announcements in calls and emails, as needed
|Should be included in all communications of day-to-day activities, availability, resource allocation and management, progress updates, bottlenecks, and achievements.
The above table serves as a communication plan template example or a project management communication plan example that you can follow on a high level.
Why does effective project communication matter?
Effective Project Communication matters because it efficiently co-ordinates, validates, tracks, and documents the path between the future project goal and the current project status. It allows the project managers to seek timely feedback and to obtain critical client information that is crucial for the execution of the project. It ensures all the stakeholders like the project team, contractors, cross functional teams, project leaders and executive leadership is always aligned on the process and progress of the project. Apart from these, it is imperative ethical responsibility to always communicate the project process, progress, risks, and bottlenecks accurately and transparently to ensure acceptance and approval of the final deliverables the project by all concerned parties.
Benefits and Importance of a Project Management Communication Plan
- Project Management Communication Plan can be used by Project Managers as a simple and effective tool to manage the multi-level, complex project communication to all its stakeholders.
- Project Management Communication plan ensures transparency, timeliness, assigning responsibility and setting expectations to the stakeholders on the timelines and the level of information that they can expect from project manager or the project management team at regular intervals.
- Like we have already discussed, a good communication plan in project management goes a long way in ensuring successful implementation of the project.
- A project communication plan readily informs the project manager as to what level of project progress information needs to be shared with what audience so that they effectively consume the information shared in project communication plan without having to worry about the risk of over-communicating or under-communicating based on the needs of individual stakeholders.
What Are the Important Elements of a Project Communication Plan?
The important elements of Project communication plan or establishing the project communication strategies are:
- Identify Project Type, Timeline and Project Title and Number of people involved and invested in the project
- Identify key communicators who will be responsible for sending out the project information based on what level of information would they be sharing
- Organize Stakeholders and their contact information, segregate them into groups based on the frequency and the level of project information that would need to consume
- Frequency: Determine, plan, and create a schedule to send out Project Communication to relevant stakeholders. Ensure communication plan and schedule is published to all stakeholders so that they know when to expect what level of information from the project management team.
- Communication Channel: Determine communication channel or forum that works to publish the information for respective stakeholders. For instance, a few updates could be shared on daily or weekly catch-up calls, whereas a few updates should be included in monthly or quarterly email updates based on the timeline of the project.
- Ensure project size and scope are considered for finalizing a communication plan: The plan must take into account the scope, size, and timeline of the project to ensure the template for the project communication caters to the need of the project.
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Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Creating a Project Communication Plan
Some of the common pitfalls while creating a project communication plan template or project communication plan example are as follows:
1. Lack of communication plan guidelines for emails and meetings
All projects will need a lot of discussions in the form of meetings and emails. The information that is exchanged during one-on-one emails and the outcomes of meeting attended by multiple people often go undocumented, causing valuable information loss that can impact project tracking in long term. So it is important to establish, agree, and follow a communication guideline to document and store all important information exchanges that could have happened in meetings or one-on-one emails in an accessible location and create back up as necessary.
2. Responsibility Assignment and an Alternate/Backup Project Communication Plan
As discussed, identifying key communicators responsible for sending out project communication is an important element of writing a project communication plan. We often tend to miss to consider that the requirement changes might affect project timelines, and this will necessitate reviewing and adjusting project communication plan accordingly on regular basis and come up with an alternate or back up communication plan or the contingency plan as needed. Also, we will need to identify backup for key communicators to ensure that the communication plan does not fall through in the event of unavailability of our key communicators.
3. Over Communication or Under Communication
Excess information is as bad as giving no information at all. Therefore, identifying and grouping the key stakeholders based on the level of information that they can consume is very important. Most of us are aware of the perils of under communication but we tend to easily overlook the impacts of over communication. Over communication will provide abundant information, more than what is necessary and can send your audience into the mode of excessive analysis which is often unwarranted and is bad use of their time and energy. This can also cause a lot of confusion and raise more questions which might require you to provide more unnecessary information without any clear purpose or benefit to show.
How to Create a Project Management Communication Plan in 10 Steps
- Step 1: Identify a Project Title, Project Goal, and a Project Timeline
- Step 2: Identify Stakeholders and organize their Contact Information
- Step 3: Formulate various meetings, touch points and information exchange communication channels between various stakeholders in consultation and acceptance with all invested parties
- Step 4: Identify various key project communicators and set expectations outlining the roles and responsibilities of the each of the communicators
- Step 5: Set clear agenda, assign responsibilities, and provide guidelines for all parties taking part in a specific meeting or touch point communication channel such as workshops, approval emails and joint working sessions
- Step 6: Identify an alternate or backup team and process to handle contingencies
- Step 7: Tabulate the communication plan clearly stating stakeholders, type of the communication channel, level of information and frequency for each of the meetings or form of communication
- Step 8: Publish communication plan to all stakeholders and seek their approval
- Step 9: Periodically review and adjust the communication plan
- Step 10: Change is the only thing that is constant. So, keep it flexible and dynamic to accommodate for changes based on feedback.
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How to Use a Project Communication Plan?
After we have identified stakeholders, finalized format, frequency, and have a created a good Project Communication plan – we need to understand to use it efficiently to reap the maximum benefit out of it. We will need to publish the Project Communication Plan to all stakeholders, so they know when to expect an update and they do not float around emails asking for updates to you or your team. Your team also benefits from the regular updates by understanding the progress/parallel work that is done on the overall project and it brings in a feeling of one large team.
We can then assign tasks through a small RACI matrix to identify who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed for tasks in project communication so there is a process of review and accountability to implement sensitive information control and avoid any undue or half-baked information from being shared to the shareholders. It is easier to plan an alternate plan with such an assignment in an event of unavailability of any of the key communicators.
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Communication Plan Example:
Project Management Communication Plan example is shown in a image below
How Should You Communicate Sensitive Information?
Communication plan provides an easy way to implement information control for sensitive information. Usually, an algorithm or a flowchart can be used to standardize the process of communicating sensitive information. In a communication plan example, you can also include a step-by-step algorithm to share sensitive information which will act as a guideline for key communicators as shown below:
- Step 1: Is the information being shared sensitive or confidential?
- Step 1.1: If yes, does it need review or approval from executive leadership?
- Step 1.1.1: If yes, request for review and approval
- Step 1.1.2: If no, skip review and approval
- Step1.2: If no, Follow regular communication matrix
- Step 2: Request a meet with project sponsor/co-ordinator on nature of communication and clarification that is necessary
This simple algorithm, if included in project management communication plan template or project management communication plan example, can work as effective strategy for information access control for sensitive of classified information. Also, project management communication strategies employed by the organization also guide managing sensitive information across all relevant stakeholders.
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6 Best Practices for Using Your Communication Plan
There is a general guideline of using 6 Cs for effective communication in any form. The communication should be - Clear, concise, complete, considerate, correct, courteous. This is always a fundamental rule that needs to be followed in project communication plan as well. Apart from ensuring your project communication plan incorporates all qualities listed above, you can follow the below best practices to get maximum benefit out of your communication plan.
- Access and Audience - The communication plan should reach every team member, every member of the client team and leadership team including every vendor who can consume such information meaningfully.
- Strategize – Have a concrete strategy in place for driving a communication plan both internal and external
- Collect Feedback – Create a transparent, trackable channel to collect, manage and action on the feedback
- Prompt and Punctual – Always maintain a regular stream of communication at agreed upon intervals
- Simple – Do not overcomplicate your communication. Check if all intended audience can understand and consume what you are trying to convey
- Review and Improve – Always review the effectiveness of your communication plan with intended goals of communication and improve it accordingly.
Project Communication Plan Template
A project communication plan template that can be used for a relatively complex communication plan is shown in the image below:
In conclusion, Project Communication Plan is a documented, standard, agreed upon communication plan created by Project Managers as part of Project Management Plan to track, document and manage the project communication with all stakeholders and invested parties. When it is implemented correctly, it works as a guideline to effective assign responsibilities to key communicators and help in efficiently communicating the project process, progress, and parameters to all the stakeholders
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What should a communication plan include?
Communication Plans must include Communication Goals, Identifying Suitable Audience, Assigning Key Communicators, Frequency and Timeline
2. Who is responsible for developing a project communication plan?
Project Manager, in consultation with his team and other invested parties are responsible for developing a project communication plan.
3. What are the types of communication plan?
Verbal, Non-Verbal, Writing and Visual communication that is shared in calls, one-to-one meetings, emails and graphs are the types of communication in the project communication plan.
4. How do you write a communication plan example?
Analyse the requirement, Define Communication Goals, Identify audience, Create a strategy and agree on a format, frequency and evaluate the results.