A project’s success heavily relies on stakeholder interaction and communication. Effective communication practices can help foster a healthy, collaborative environment that will serve as a foundation for effective project management.
Better communication and excellent reporting provide more transparency in a project. This reduces the likeliness of misunderstandings and helps eliminate conflicts that could otherwise arise and cause distrust in project delivery.
The Four W’s
Whether working with government bodies on a civil project or as a general contractor for a developer, all project environments depend on human interaction. For that interaction to be successful, it’s important to set some guidelines for your communication which are appropriate to the different audiences with whom you will communicate.
Taking the time to plan for the project’s communication needs will help make sure the stakeholders receive only the information that they need, in a format that is easy for them to understand and, as a result, use.
When it comes to both reporting and project communications, there are four questions that you need to keep in mind:
- What information do you need to communicate?
- Who is it intended for?
- What is the most appropriate method to relay that information?
- What is the frequency required for the communication?
1. What information do you need to communicate?
The level of detail a high-level executive on the project board needs about a project differs from that of a project manager working on site. Too much information or complexity can delay how quickly or thoroughly it is understood and delay any decision-making.
It is therefore critical to identify which reports need to go to which stakeholders. Some reports may focus on specific pieces of detail like cost variances, while others may be graphical representations of overall progress to date, if the project board or sponsor needs to know the status of a project at a glance. The key point is to develop a clear understanding of what information needs to be communicated, and then ensure that the information is available in an appropriate format.
2. Who is it intended for?
On-site project managers will have different needs from executives. To be effective with their work, they need unit prices, detailed schedules, and action items on their reports. Project managers need frequent updates from their superintendents, subcontractors, and suppliers. Without that information, they cannot effectively manage risks or ensure their team members are focused on the right objectives.
What is valuable to one stakeholder may be irrelevant to another; presenting a project manager with quarterly reports aimed at financial directors will not be helpful, for example. It will most likely consist of a simplified project status overview or irrelevant data, which wouldn’t give the project manager enough detail to act upon.
3. What is the most appropriate method to relay that information?
Knowing who will need what type of information, and in what format, will also enable you to collect and present the information more effectively. Defining these parameters early on allows for easy adjustments based on who the information is being shared with.
Determining the project communication goals will allow for flexible repurposing of information. A report that includes various delivery timelines and projections can be adjusted or simplified by omitting or including certain data. This type of customization and repurposing of information will save your project team time and help tailor the report to the appropriate audience.
For example, a detailed project schedule can be easily converted into a simple line or comparison graph showing the project’s progress against preliminary predictions. The information is the same but depending on the stakeholder, one format will be more valuable than the other.
Also, modern technology has revolutionized the way that information is consumed. With people relying more on mobile phones and handheld electronic devices, a whole new world of possibilities has opened up whereby apps or alerts can be used to share information about a project in real-time.
4. What is the frequency required for the communication?
Quality of communications is more important than quantity. Unnecessary or excessive information-sharing often results in disengagement, and involving more people doesn’t necessarily mean better communication. It is much harder for project managers to stay on top of their tasks when their inbox is overloaded with irrelevant information, or they have to attend every meeting – even those with little to do with their work.
Whether conference calls, emails, presentations, or reports – all project communications can benefit from meaningful but straightforward messages. The less is said, the smaller the risk for misinterpretation, miscommunication, or disengagement.
We understand the value of excellent project communications and reporting
Clear, concise communication tailored to the right audiences helps clarify objectives, roles, and responsibilities, both within the organization and with its external stakeholders. Ensuring everyone involved has the information they need is a vital element of a well-managed project.
At DRMcNatty, we have experts that can provide professional practical advice specific to your project’s communications and reporting needs. Reach out today and let us develop a communications plan catered to your project using industry best practices, to help you achieve project management success.