Is your project communication plan missing the mark with stakeholders?

A properly documented project communication plan is key to the success of any project.

When asked about this document, most people will give you a short list of items it should contain. The trouble is many people rarely document the communications plan fully, putting them at risk of forgetting some of the key elements that are needed. This can hinder the project team performance in terms of providing proper support to the overall projects’ communications.

I never realized how important and misunderstood the communications plan is to a project until I started teaching a project communications class at my local College a few years ago. I conducted thorough research to put together a class on this output and supported it with a simple exercise for my students. In the exercise, students are asked to source on-line what they believe to be a “good” communications plan. They then need to share their opinion on why it meets the criteria of a good communications plan.

For most, the result is a simple matrix showing what reports are shared with whom, including how and with what frequency. If I were to survey many of seasoned project managers out there, I anticipate that this proposed simple matrix would fit the bill of a communications plan. I do admit that before I did this research, I too was a bit adopter of the communications matrix. That matrix is what also comes up 9 out of 10 times when conducting a Google search for a communications plan template. This matrix alone is not sufficient to be considered a communications plan capable of providing project managers and their teams with the confidence that communications will be fully addressed for any project.

So, what should a communications plan contain?

Well, if we start from its definition according to the PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition “A component of the project, program or portfolio management plan that describes how, when, and by whom information about the project will be administered and disseminated” in glossary section page 701. Then our matrix does not seem too out of place until we look closer and review page 377 of the communications knowledge area section where a list of fourteen items are provided as being contained in the plan.

If we were to use these as a guideline, we would expect to find in a good communications plan, yes, a matrix that shows who receives what information. Not only when and how they receive it, but also additional information about methods or software to be used, preferred modes of communication, and the approach or process for communicating over the entire lifecycle of the project.

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