Communication is the glue that holds an entire project together, and poor management of it can derail a project faster than any other factor. I’ve seen many project issues in my career that, when analyzed in hindsight, would not have been issues at all, or would have been quite mild had strong communication been present. Granted, since I come from the engineering profession I may have seen more communication issues than most.
Project communications management is about more than regular status updates. It deals with the distribution and storage of project information, communication among the project team members, technical meetings, and many other things.
That’s why the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) contains a knowledge area called Project Communications Management. It contains the following three processes:
- Plan Communications Management
This process includes that tasks involved in planning project communications. Who needs to know what, and when. At this stage the project manager plans out the information needs of the various stakeholders and presents the formal communication plan within the project management plan. Usually the project sponsor needs regular status updates. Investors need updated financial information. Stakeholders who’s objections could hold up the project need to be consulted.
- Manage Communications
During the project, managing project communications is essential as this is an endlessly changing part of the project. For example, adjacent landowners become angry because their morning commute was increased, or the hunting community realizes an oil installation has changed wildlife patterns. Every project has many unanticipated outcomes, and its precisely these that cause the most trouble, even for the smallest issues.
- Control Communications
Within the monitoring and controlling phase, during the project the project manager must ensure that the information needs of each stakeholder are adequate and adjust them as necessary. If any stakeholder is expressing displeasure or causing project changes, it could be worth asking if the communications were accurate (or if they were done according to plan).
Communication is one of the trickiest, but also most important areas of project management. Indeed, if the glue holding the project together is not strong enough, the project will fall apart at the seams.