Communication is the Key for Successful Project Management

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Communication is very important for any company or organization success. Communication is very critical factor in project management; it is not only about talking with each other but communication is also about transferring knowledge, sharing ideas, solving problems and providing new or updated information. There are many online project management or collaboration software are available in large number of varieties which can provide collaboration feature for effective project management. They provide a great collaboration feature for businesses that helps exchanging the required information inside your teams and with your clients.

Collaboration software provides a communication system very well. With the help of this collaboration software you can easily communicate with your clients and your team member from any where and at any time. Collaboration software is becoming a central hub where project manager, team members and clients can easily communicate with each others and share their ideas and provide information regarding the project and also suggest changes they want in the project for the completion and success of the project. Chat is also a great and very easy medium for communicating with each other. With the help of real time chat you can easily tell your team members what you would like to change in the current project report. You can make your communication easy while using the collaboration software as it includes scheduling, reporting and sharing information about the project.

Communication is necessary to provide your right information to right people at right time. With the help of collaboration tool you can easily provide your information to the right people so that he/she works accordingly that and provide the desire results. There are many companies who use this software for their project success like IT industry, banking, construction, architecture, sales and marketing, school and colleges and others also.

Communication is essential for project management because you need to communicate with your seniors for highlighting issues, risks and expectations, also provide direction to your project team by explaining or highlighting tasks, scheduled tasks, dates and general team briefing. Also communicate with your clients to negotiation for budget, resources and time allocation.

Communication can be done in project management by three ways like electronic communication, electronic conferencing and business collaboration management. Communication is basically a basic and effective tool throughout a project. Project members mostly use emails, comments section, memos and real time chat among themselves for communicating with each other. To facilitate smooth and accurate exchanges of information to your clients and project team members, you must communicate effectively throughout all phases of your project.

Effective communication is a key determinant of project success, and all stages of project management require a medium of communication, which should be interactive and facilitate comprehensive distribution of information. Communication also affects the performance of an employee or team members as well as project manager also. Proper communication is providing the medium for the team member, manager and clients to work together and understand the project objectives, tasks and requirements for the completion of project in time.

Author: John Nash Matthew

Article Source: http://www.articlealley.com/article_2143695_11.html

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The Importance of Communication in Project Management

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“Since I didn’t hear otherwise, I ASSUMED all was going well” – The Importance of Communication in Project Management

Second on Rick Klemm’s list of things most commonly overheard on a failing software project, this remark is characteristic of Project Managers who are not in frequent and efficient communication with their staff.

Communication is key to successful Project Management.

If project staff do not know what their tasks are, or how to accomplish them, then the entire project will grind to a halt. If you do not know what the project staff are (not) doing then you will be unable to monitor project progress. And if you are uncertain of what the customer expects of you, then the project will not even get off the ground.

Maintaining open, regular and accurate channels of communication with all levels of project staff and stakeholders is vital to ensuring the smooth flow of instructions from customer to factory floor and sufficient warning of risks and changes to enable early assessment and preparation.

The Information that You Need to Give

As Project Manager, it is your job to keep a number of people well-informed. It is essential that your project staff know what is expected of them: what they have to do, when they have to do it, and what budget and time constraints and quality specification they are working towards.

It is also your job to keep the Project Board informed of project progress. The Project Board usually includes the Executive (person ultimately responsible for the project), and representatives from the User and the Supplier.

It is important that the Project Manager updates the Project Board regularly on the status of the project, so that any changes or risks can be assessed, project progress can be measured against the original Business Case and a project that is not fulfilling its purpose or matching the value of its investment can be called to a halt.

The Information that You Need to Receive

In order to keep the relevant people informed, you must have regular and complete access to all information about the project: customer needs, objectives, plan, constraints, changes/risks and progress.

PRINCE2TM, the government-standard Project Management methodology, suggests that a system of ‘management products’ (documents used to make management more efficient) is set up.

For example, a Project Quality Plan relies on information about quality expectations provided by the Customer. The Quality Log is a record of quality checks performed by project staff. Both documents are necessary for effective management of product quality.

The PRINCE2TM method also recommends that Project Managers establish regular dates for Checkpoint Reports (detailing the progress of individual teams and team members) and Highlight Reports (documents prepared by the Project Manager, for the Project Board, describing overall project progress).

With disciplined adherence to a system of regular and focused communication, you will avoid the misunderstandings and delays that so frequently lead to project failure and ensure that all your project staff and stakeholders are secure in their knowledge of what has to be done, and who is doing it.

Article Author: Simon Buehring

Simon Buehring is a project manager, consultant and trainer. He works for KnowledgeTrain which offers training in PRINCE2 project management and PRINCE2 trainingin the UK and overseas. Simon has extensive experience within the IT industry. Contact him via the KnowledgeTrain project management training website.

Article Source: http://www.articlealley.com/article_781438_15.html

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Managing Project Communications – How to Keep Your Team Engaged and Informed

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Communications are a critical deliverable of every successful project and a key project management soft skill. You may not have thought of communications as an actual project deliverable, but it is. It may not be the one your client or customer places the most emphasis on, but that’s because every client and customer will take good communications for granted.

Project communications is one deliverable that you are personally responsible for and it’s one that has a large influence over your project’s success or failure. I say this because personal experience has taught me that the best managed projects, delivering on all their promise, on time, and on budget can still get a bad reputation and be perceived as failures. The reason: the project manager did not do an adequate job of communicating project success to their stakeholders.

We hope that the information and template in this section will help guide you to choose the right information, schedule, and communication vehicles for your project.

The Major Elements of Project Communications

Who to Communicate to

You could just say that it’s important to communicate with all the project’s stakeholders and leave it at that but this approach would guarantee failure. Each individual stakeholder has a different set of requirements for project information, and prefers different ways of receiving their communications. It will not be possible to define a unique set of communications and communication vehicles for each stakeholder in most projects so the best you can do is identify the different category of stakeholder and define the required information and communication methods that best suits the group.

Executive Sponsor/Business Sponsor

Probably the most important customer(s) of your project’s communications. It’s going to be worth your while to define a custom set of communications for each person in this category. Generally speaking, these are busy people who don’t have a lot of time to read a lot of detail. Charts and graphs that tell the viewer a lot about the project at a glance will probably work best for them.

Take the time to interview them about their preferences: what they need to know, how they want to be communicated with, and how often. Keeping them informed about project performance is critical because they sign the cheque for the project (including your salary). They also need information so they can keep their peers apprised of the project’s performance. Remember, they are your project’s champions so the better armed with information they are, the better job they can do promoting your project.

Tip: don’t report a problem to them without suggesting a solution. For example, if you’re reporting an SPI of less than 1.0 for the 2nd week in a row, you need to include a corrective action with the report.

Project Team Members

This is the single most populous group in your list of stakeholders. You may want to subdivide the group into sub-groups based on their roles. For example you may want to have a different set of communications for the Business Analysts and Software Developers, or for the Electricians and Plumbers on your project. This group has a different perspective on project performance than sponsors: the sponsor views the project as work being done for them. The team member views the project as work being done by them and therefore reports on project performance are a reflection on them. A good report pleases everyone – project sponsors and team members. A bad report will cause the sponsor to worry but may negatively impact team morale.

Customers/Clients

These can be internal to your organization, or external to it. These people may profess no particular interest in project communications until the final product or service is delivered. You need to overcome this disinterest and pique their interest in project progress. The more informed they are on the project as it progresses through its lifecycle, the more likely they are to accept the resulting products or services.

Partners

These are people who are doing work that is in some way affected by the work of your project. You may both be working on projects that are part of a program, or your projects may simply affect one another without further integration. For example, you may be managing a software project that requires a corresponding database project – the database project team is your partner. Or, you may be working on a software system new software system that will utilize an existing web portal for customer access – the portal team is your partner despite the fact they aren’t performing a project.

Community Stakeholders

These are an increasingly important category of stakeholder. As more emphasis is being placed on organizations ethical behavior and social responsibility, there is an increasing demand for projects to be performed ethically. One of the ways this is done is by treating those who don’t belong to the performing organization, or to the customer/client organization, as project stakeholders. Consideration of these stakeholders must go beyond communications, but project communications constitute an important part of your ethical dealings with them.

Project Manager

Don’t forget to include yourself as a stakeholder. Your need for project information is perhaps the most important for the project. If you aren’t receiving the information you need to run the project, you won’t be able to share it with other stakeholders. Your needs will stem from the need to be updated on the progress of the individual tasks of the project so that you can keep the project plans up to date and identify preventive or corrective actions.

Project Management Office (PMO)

Your PMO may have requirements for project information that will enable it to identify opportunities for process improvement. While these needs are very much like the needs of sponsors, customers, and clients to know how the project is progressing to plan, its focus is on the project processes, tools, techniques, and best practices it supports. Your PMO may also be tasked with reporting on project progress to the organization. Reports which the PMO is responsible for should provide very specific requirements for information.

What to Communicate

What project information to communicate to a stakeholder group is inextricably tied to the information that is available for communication. After all, you can’t communicate what you don’t know. On the other hand, if the need for the information is real and gathering the information is feasible, you should make every effort to make it available. The choice of the information to be communicated cannot be made without considering the project’s tools and techniques for gathering the information and vice versa.

Project communications is not a key deliverable of the project, but it should be treated as a project deliverable. Start with your Project Charter: does the project charter contain any requirements for information? If it does, the information and its target audience ought to be included in your Communications Management Plan. Your Scope Statement may also include requirements for project communications. The Statement of Work (SOW) may also have captured requirements for project communications. When you are performing a project for an external customer or client the SOW is your bible and any project communications that are part of the legal contract should be specified there.

After identifying all the needs already expressed in the project documentation to date, you need to solicit requirements from the various groups of stakeholders. This solicitation should be done in the context of what is feasible for the project to deliver. Be prepared to meet with your sponsor to identify their requirements. Be specific as to presentation: should the SPI (Schedule Performance Index) be shown as a bar graph with a rolling 6 week tally? Should it be shown as a line graph with the benchmark line of 1.0 and a rolling 6 month tally? You may even want to mock up some sample reports to let them choose the format.

A project dashboard is a popular instrument for communicating project progress to sponsors and other senior executives. The dashboard is meant to show the status of your project at a glance and may consist of the project’s SPI, CPI (Cost Performance Index), SV (Schedule Variance), CV (Cost Variance), PV (Planned Value), AC (Actual Cost), and EV (Earned Value). As a rule, you shouldn’t mix schedule indicators with cost indicators, but you can show schedule and cost indicators in any combination your sponsor would like. You may also want to include such things as the top 5 risks, top 5 outstanding issues, metrics on change (number of change requests, number accepted, number of rejected, total costs, etc.), and quality (number of tests, number passed, number failed, outstanding bug reports, etc.). You should try to keep your dashboard to a handful of slides and provide supporting detail in text, or Excel format as backup.

You should repeat the requirements gathering exercise with each group of stakeholders, weighing their need for information with the project’s ability to gather and communicate it. Tip: share as much of the information reported to the other groups with the project team (the people actually doing the work of the project), as is possible. Your organization may have policies or guidelines around what can and cannot be shared outside executive offices; share as much information with the team as possible without violating these policies. You’ll find sharing positive reports will boost morale, while sharing negative reports will stop the rumors that will further erode morale.

Be prepared to capture and report information by stakeholder group, department, or sub-project. The individual groups on your team will want the ability to view their progress in isolation from the rest of the team. Tip: make sure that you break the work down so that tasks performed by individual groups or departments are identifiable. This will enable you to report performance group by group or department by department and still roll totals up to report for the entire project.

The information you plan to communicate will drive your activities throughout the project. Your plans should include the metrics that must be gathered in order to support the information you plan to communicate. You will need to identify who is responsible for providing the information and where the information is to be stored and reported from. There are 2 questions you need to ask yourself before you commit to providing a report:

How do I get this information? (i.e. what metrics do I need to capture and where will they come from)
Where will I store the metrics?

A failure to answer both questions will mean that either you have to alter your plan to task someone to gather the metric, identify a tool to capture and retrieve the metric, or drop the requirement.

Finally, don’t forget individual accomplishments and rewards when reporting project progress. There’s nothing like a good news story to keep team morale high and the celebration of a team member’s accomplishment is something most sponsors enjoy hearing about.

How to Communicate

There are many different means of communication available to you – face to face, e-mail, intranet, internet, regular mail, phone, video conferences, etc., etc. These can be grouped into 2 groups: “push” communications and “pull” communications. Push communications requires you to push the information onto the recipient as the name would suggest, while pull communications requires the recipient to actively retrieve the information from a central source. Web sites and centralized repositories are examples of pull communications, while e-mail and meetings are examples of push communications.

Preference for either push or pull communications is typically a personal preference. Some people deal with information best when it’s presented to them and some prefer to retrieve it at their own convenience. Be prepared for conflicting requirements from individuals in your stakeholder groups. You may have to make the final decision on which method to use if there are conflicting requests. Alternatively, you may be able to identify a spokesperson for the group who will be empowered to identify the group’s requirements. The exception to this rule is your project’s sponsor. Because there is only one or two of these people, you need to ensure that your communication methods suit their requirements.

Tip: If you determine that the project must have a new tool, such as a web site, to satisfy a stakeholder requirement, you’ll need to justify the cost with a business case. State the benefits to the project in business terms that justify the costs. You can also include benefits that supersede your project. For example a web site or tool such as Lotus Notes could benefit all projects your organization performs, and may even provide a benefit to operations. You may also want to explore having the PMO, or Operations bear the cost of the new tool.

When to Communicate

Your communication schedule will be driven by the needs of your audience and the availability of the information to be communicated. For example, if you had the bandwidth, you could report on any metrics managed by your MS Project file daily. On the other hand, you can’t report on the results of your Gate Meeting until the Gate Meeting has actually been held. There is also no reason that a report communicated to one stakeholder group bi-weekly, can’t be communicated to another group every week.

You need to use common sense in addition to capturing your stakeholders’ requirements. If you choose to use a “town hall” to communicate to all stakeholders, don’t schedule the meeting to occur weekly. Tip: when planning a meeting that involves you (or another team member) communicating information to an audience, count the audience, multiply that number by the number of hours the meeting lasts and multiply that number by the loaded labor rate for that group. Avoid spending large amounts on frequent communications.

Other meetings, such as status review meetings with project teams must be done more often to avoid the project going off the rails. I find that when the project is on track, weekly status review meetings are sufficient. When your project encounters problems, you might want to increase the frequency to better control the work. In extreme cases such as a project rescue, you may need to hold them daily. Tip: when the project is running smoothly and you have an alternate means of identifying completed tasks, don’t be afraid to cancel a status review meeting and give the team an hour off!

Remember that communications is part of the project work. You should manage that work in your MS Project file like other project tasks, but be sensible – don’t overload yourself by tracking every meeting in MS Project. You should be using the “walk around” style of management if your team is collocated, you needn’t track each informal meeting you have with individual team members. Use MS Project to help you control the project, not overload yourself with work.

Tools and Techniques

Tools and techniques include tools you’ll use to convey the information, tools you’ll use to gather the information, and tools you’ll use to store and retrieve the information. Conveyance tools will include e-mail, web sites, web casts, conference calls, video conferencing, public directories, town hall meetings, and graphical tools such as Excel. What you’re communicating, how you need to communicate it, and your communication budget will determine which of these tools you’ll use.

There is one tool that you’ll rely on more than any other to manage information about your project: MS Project (or Primavera, if that’s the tool your company has selected for use). These tools are referred to as Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) by most PMP Exam preparation courses and in the PMBOK. These tools are capable of capturing, manipulating, and reporting most of your project’s relevant information so you need to be very familiar with their use. There are many excellent courses available that will ground you in the fundamentals of their use.

Your organization may employ a time tracking system in which case you have an additional source of information. Your time tracking tool should allow you to report on labor costs for your project (i.e. support the charging of time to your project code). It should also support the reporting of these costs by group and by type of work. For example it should tell you how much time was spent last week on analysis of your software project. You should reconcile the metrics from the time tracking system with your MS Project file to ensure they tally. Tip: if your time tracking system is used to generate the pay cheques for your team, make it your bible. A discrepancy means your MS Project file may be inaccurate.

MS Project comes complete with a selection of “canned” reports ready for your use. I have found that it’s most useful feature for reporting project progress is its ability to export data to an Excel spreadsheet. Because Excel has been around so long it’s feature rich and supports just about any type of graph or chart you can imagine. The trick here is to export the information you need to base your report on, then edit it in Excel. MS Project contains ample help facilities on how to export data.

I mentioned the 2 different categories for distributing information: push and pull. Many of your project’s communications will lend themselves equally well to both methods. For example, if you communicate you can review your dashboard report with the project executive steering committee during a meeting, push it to the project team via an e-mail broadcast, and archive it on a public directory or the project’s web site.

Lastly, remember that the accuracy of the information you communicate about the project will have a profound affect, either good or bad, on your reputation. You need to do your utmost to ensure the information you communicate is accurate. Measures such as the reconciliation between time sheets and your MS Project file can save you from making claims about project progress that aren’t supported by the facts. Even with that degree of scrutiny your information can still be misleading or out of date. Be open and honest with your communications: tell your audience where the information comes from, how it was compiled, and how old it is. Be forthcoming with any information that could impact on the accuracy of your reports and let your audience form their own opinions of the accuracy and value of your communications.

The tips and tricks described in this article implement some of the best practices promoted by the PMI (Project Management Institute). These are taught in most PMP® courses and other PMP® exam preparation training products. If you haven’t been certified as a PMP® (Project Management Professional) by the PMI and would like to learn more about certification, visit the three O Project Solutions website at:  http://www.threeo.ca/pmp certification. three O Project Solutions also offers a downloadable software based training tool that has prepared project managers around the world to pass their certification exams. For more information about this product, AceIt, visit the three O website at: http://www.threeo.ca/aceit features

Article Author: Dave Nielsen PMP

Article Source: http://www.articlealley.com/article_1503129_15.html

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