The Project Communication Plan
Communication is of vital importance during the execution of any project. There are different communication needs for the various stakeholders in the project. For instance, the project sponsor needs to be kept up to date about budgets and timelines, whereas a developer has a need to communicate on a much more ad-hoc and informal level, to clarify ideas and requirements. At the start of each project, we at BinaryOps make a point of meeting with the client to setup the communication plan, tailoring individual items as needed to make sure all the project stakeholders receive the information they need in a timely fashion. Bonnie Biafore wrote a great article on MPUG about the communication plan (The Project Communication Plan). It is a great starting point for developing a plan for any software development project. In the article, she identifies all the types of project communications needed for various audiences and communication methods. There is definitely the threat of having too many reporting obligations in a single project. Reporting and communicating should not become a burden, also ambiguity in the content of the various reports must be avoided. The keep-it-simple method certainly applies.
Our starting point is often as follows:
- Establish a team channel on an IM tools of choice (like Skype, Slack or Google Hangout), where the day to day question and answer can happen.
- A scrum with all the developers and the project manager. This can be daily, or as little as twice a week, depending on the project, the team members, and their availability. The subject is simply: What are you working on, is anything holding you up, and what will be next. This is not intended to hash out application design, it's a time to highlight progress, status & blockages.
- Regular (weekly) status reports, it refers to progress on the project plan, the budget and any issues that affect the project from a management point of view.
When we're working with a client that has their own Project Manager assigned to the project, we'll defer to their communication preferences. This helps manage expecations, assigned tasks and project visibility within a larger team. Aside from project status updates, there needs to be a common method of providing feedback that gets shared. This may be the result of application testing, corporate style guidelines or just general application feedback. Collecting feedback where it can be reviewed, prioritised and worked back into the project plan is an important management step and fosters a feeling of ownership with the users.
Are you ready to create a plan for your next project?
Let's lay it out in these simple steps:
1. Identify communication requirements
It's important to consider the size and the nature of a project before setting on a communications plan. On smaller projects it would be easy to overwhelm stakeholders with daily updates, feedback, testing and release schedules etc. If your project is leaning to the larger side, there may be different people involved each one having different communication needs. For example, less technical individuals or senior leadership may not be interested to hear about the goings on within a cloud provider environment, whereas IT resources and developers will be very much interested. The reverse is also true of planning and budget constraints.
2. Define reasons for communicating
Blasting out updates to everyone with involvement in your project is going to result in less involvement, not more. If the information provided isn't relevant, messages will get ignored and important updates or specific requests will be missed. Make sure your communication is purposeful and directed only to the people who need to be included. When planning meetings, it may be useful to lay out a simple agenda so that attendees come prepared to discuss the topics planned for each meeting.
3. Select a preferred communication method
Choosing a communication method comes down to what's going to work for your team members and what supporting technology is available. Is your team working remotely or are they all in the office each day? Is there a centralized tool such as Azure Devops, Jira or something similar that can be used to centralize your project communications? Does your company use Slack, Skype, Teams or Goolge Meet? If certain members in your stakeholder group prefer a phone call, it's a good way to make those connections personal.
4. Establish a frequency
Plan for communicating with the stakeholder group on a regular basis, but don't let it become a burden that takes away from the actual project work. When people expect regular meetings, they can put things aside for future discussion and limit random meeting requests that interrupt people and prevent deep focus. Meeting with stakeholders on a consistent schedule allows people to come prepared and make your time in meetings more productive.
5. Identify the stakeholders
Assign ownership of certain project areas so that your plan can flow seamlessly and people know what's expected of them. A project mananger will take the lead on most communications, but that shouldn't stop you from assigning certain types of communication to other individuals.
Know your team
You know your team and the stakeholders supporting your project, so it's important to consider each of them and understand their needs when creating a project communications plan. Keep meeting notes and shared files in an easy to access location and settle on a communications technology early. We work with every client to create a communications plan that suits the project requirements, and includes any existing workflows and documentation requirements.