When you start a project, the first thing you do is create a project plan. A project plan is a document designed to guide the control and execution of the project. In simple terms, a project plan establishes tasks, milestones, and deliverables and assigns people to each task. There is a lot of data and effort that go into a project plan creation. Yet there is one thing that a project plan doesn’t include, but that one thing can jeopardize the entire project.
Communication is an important part of every project but, as it happens often, the two parties involved in the project - the client and the contractor - assume that both are interested in the successful completion of the project. This is not always the case. While the contractor is charged with a huge responsibility of executing the project, the clients often don’t realize how much input is needed on their part. A Project Communication Plan helps the contractor get the client involved, while also setting the standards and frequency of communication that work for both parties.
What is a Project Communication Plan
A Project Communication Plan is a document that defines when, how and what kind of information is shared with the stakeholders and what input is expected on their part. Not every project needs a Project Communication Plan. Large-scale projects with multiple stakeholders will likely experience some problems if the stakeholders are not fully committed to building the extensive communication patterns. Small projects, on the other hand, imply a limited number of stakeholders and simplified communication patterns, so a Project Communication Plan would be redundant.
The most important thing to remember about a Project Communication Plan is that its main goal is to bring everyone onto the same page. As a contractor, you get a guarantee of a timely response which allows you to move the project forward, while as a client you get a clear plan of communication that you can schedule other activities and projects around. Ultimately, a Project Communication Plan is beneficial for both parties.
Why create a Project Communication Plan
Apart from keeping everyone on the same page, here are some other benefits of a Project Communication Plan:
- Eliminate unnecessary communication
Everyone hates excessive meetings and conference calls that don’t bring any results. A Project Communication Plan establishes just the right amount of contact necessary for the project and prevents wasting everyone’s time.
- Build better relationships
A project plan is all about producing great work, a project communication plan is all about keeping the connections going. No project can survive without a clear understanding of expectations. A project communication plan helps you set expectations right and provide a high level of communication service.
- Separate the weed from the chaff
There is a lot of communication going on around the project, but not all of it needs to be relayed to the client. You don’t want to overwhelm the client with too much information and delay decision making. A Project Communication Plan helps you determine what information is imperative to be passed on to the client, and what information can stay within the team.
How to create a Project Communication Plan
There are no set rules for creating a Project Management Plan, but here are some general directions:
1. Define your goals
Before you start creating a Project Communication Plan see if you need a Project Communication Plan in the first place. Understanding your goals will help you determine how a Project Communication Plan falls into the bigger picture of the project. Your goals might include: keeping the stakeholders informed of the project needs, providing opportunities for collecting feedback, providing comments and explanations to accompany project deliverables.
2. Fill in the stakeholders' information and communication preferences
The next step is to list all the stakeholders, their contact information, record their communication preferences and availability. This part of a Project Communication Plan will help you see who exactly is involved in the project from the client side and how much involvement is needed from each stakeholder. You might also want to write down your personal comments next to each stakeholder - these will ensure personal approach and help you deliver great customer experience.
3. Make a list of what will be shared
There is some information that will always remain internal such as chats between the team members and the status of subtasks. And then, there is information that has to be shared with the client such as project timeline and budget flags, the status of tasks, milestones, and requests for information from the client. You want to have a full understanding of each type of information and list it in your Project Communication Plan, outlining what will be shared and why this type of information is important to share.
4. Create a list of types of communication
Types of communication vary from weekly meetings to daily emails. As you create a list think about what types of communication will help you keep the stakeholders informed as opposed to creating redundant communication strings to show the client you’re busy working on the project. Describe each type of communication in detail: What does each communication type entail? What kind of input is expected from the stakeholders? How will the information be delivered? What are the follow-up actions?
5. Define communication tools and channels
Lastly, you don’t want the client to get lost in the multitude of communication channels. Among project management tools, email clients, chats, and messengers choose the channels that work both for you and the client. It’s best if the project has a dedicated space where all the information is shared. Usually, this dedicated space is a project management tool
. Before you start working on the project, make sure you communicate to the client how the project management tool is set up and what kind of client involvement is expected. The information on the project management tool used by the team should also be included in the Project Communication Plan.
Your work as a project manager doesn’t stop once the Project Communication Plan is complete. You need to present the plan to the client and have them agree to it. Even when the client agrees to the plan, it doesn’t automatically mean they are going to follow it. As a project manager, you need to constantly remind the client that in order for the project to go smoothly adherence to the Project Communication Plan is a must. But even in a perfect situation where both sides understand their responsibilities and are excited to work on the project, an approved Project Communication Plan serves as an additional testimony of the client's dedication to the success of the project.