Identifying the various audiences and finding the perfect communication balance is one of many challenges of managing a project. Along with keeping all plates spinning without getting dizzy.
The first step is to build a Communication Plan for your project. Your Communication Plan will answer the following questions:
- What kind of communication is required? (Management Meetings, Team Meetings, Management Reporting, Project Records)
- Who needs to be communicated with? (stakeholders)
- How frequent is the communication required? (how often)
- What needs to be communicated? (reports, meeting minutes, details or summary)
- How will this information be distributed? (in a meeting, as a report, in an email)
Essentially, your Communications Plan is the list of reports and updates needed throughout the project.
The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
The WBS will help you map out a project. The goal of a WBS is to break down the large project into more manageable tasks. Once you have the larger effort divided into bite-sized chunks you can assign these various chucks to team members, and you can check them off as they are completed, yippee!
The Project Timeline
One of the critical elements that defines a project is the timeline. A project by definition is a temporary endeavor; meaning it has a start and an end – which means it has a defined timeline. Your timeline should be a visual overview of the project from start to finish.
The Project Budget or Financial Report
A project is constrained by three elements scope, schedule and cost. Thus, your project budget is a critical area to report. Ideally, you will provide a report that shows budget verses actual costs.
The Project Team Contact Data
The folks working on your project are often from various department, companies and even spread across the world. The role of the project manager is to bring the group of people together to create a team. Creating and distributing a list of team members, their role and how to reach them is the first step in getting them talking.
The Project Risk Register
Managing project risks is often overlooked or misunderstood by project managers. Creating an initial Risk Register is key to managing project risks. Start by building a list of all the things that could go wrong. Early on in the project, there will be a lot of these. As the project progresses and things become more clearly defined, many of these will be addressed. It is important to review and update this list regularly throughout the project.
The Project Deliverables Status Report
Think of Project Deliverables as the outcomes or end-result of your project. Some of these will be tangible deliverables, others might be outcomes. You can’t deliver it if it is not defined. Define and describe each of the project deliverables and then track their progress with a Project Deliverables Status Report. This report will illustrate to your stakeholders the expected outcomes and how you are doing.
The Project Status Report
A Project Status Report is an essential element of your project communication strategy. The project status report is the barometer of your project – it will give you, your project team and project stakeholders an overview of the health of the project. You project status report might include a collection of the elements described here. The status report might include;
- a red/yellow/green indicator for each of the project elements; Scope, Schedule and Budget,
- a list of the project milestones and their status,
- the current action items,
- a current run of budget status and
- any open risks.
Open Action Items
Your Open Action Items report might be included in your Status Report. But you will likely need to keep this list active and available to your team members. During critical periods of the project, you might distribute this list daily. Or you may want to use a team collaboration tool to allow users to view and update their action items collectively. Everything that must get done on a project should listed on your Action Items list. Remember, if it is not documented – it is not getting done.
The Project Stakeholder/Sponsor Dashboard
Stakeholders are not typically in project team meetings and they rarely review Project Status Reports. But they still want to have an update on the project. They are funny like that. For this audience, you will want to provide a high-level visual representation of the project. Simple, easy to digest and gets to the point quickly. Developing the content that will be presenting in the Project Stakeholder Report or Dashboard should be done early in the project and provided regularly and in a consistent format.
Each project is different, the format, frequency and audience for these reports will be unique to the project. Build a comprehensive Communications Plan that includes these key reports and your project team and stakeholders will thank you.