Perhaps no other aspect of project management during the course of software implementation is more important than communication. Project managers spend between 70% - 90% of their time on communications. In this blog entry, I’ll describe the different types of project communication. In a follow-on blog entry, I’ll offer my thoughts on the elements of effective communication and some tips to improve your project communications.
Project Communication Depends On the Role of Your Audience
The content in a project communication will vary depending on the role of the person. Project team members need status information – where are we and where are we going? These types of communication will often pertain to tasks and deadlines. Communications should describe what’s been accomplished and what’s to be accomplished next. Risks and issues or potential obstacles should be addressed.
The executive team requires information that in ways is more detailed and visual. Communication should be more direct. These communications often center around budget and milestones. For example, if the project team needs the participation of the organization’s payroll team and they’re not getting it, the executive team needs to know. Executive team members have the authority to direct people and mitigate problems the project managers cannot.
Complex projects such as ERP or EMR implementations usually involve the participation of people outside of the organization. These might include vendors such as benefits providers or payroll organizations. Communications to these entities always come directly from the sponsoring organization – never from other consultants, systems integrators, etc. The third party will likely have a preference for how files are transmitted to them and their format (comma delimited, .doc, etc.). Make sure that these outside organizations know their deadlines. They should have a clear understanding of their roles and milestones.
The Importance of Organizational Change Management
No discussion of effective project communications would be complete without addressing the importance of organizational change management. These type communications come from the executive team – and they can make or break a project. Communication pertaining to organizational change should begin when the project begins (or even before) and continue throughout the duration of the project. Getting people on board early is important to the project’s ultimate success. If you wait too long to start communicating the project’s effects on the organization, a veneer of cynicism can take root that might prove hard to dislodge.
The messaging around organizational change has to be clear and contain a “what’s in it for me” message directed to the recipient. These types of communications start out with facts and borrow heavily from the elevator pitch used to summarize the project. Repeatedly communicate to employees what they will gain from the project. Try to build excitement around the project. It’s important to communicate to the rank and file at least monthly and preferably weekly. Use whatever communications tools you have available – news blasts, emails, newsletters, etc. Don’t overlook the importance of two-way communication. Getting feedback is critical – people need to know leadership is listening to their concerns.
In a follow-on to this piece, we’ll talk about the elements of effective communication and offer tips on making your project communications more effective. Read Part 2 of Creating Project Harmony with Communication.