Communications is the corner stone of successful project management. Nowhere in the PMBOK or other sacred scripture of project management do we get guidance on how much or how little communication is required. The unfortunate outcome is that some project managers operate like CIA agents (“This project update is on a need to know basis, and you DON’T need to know”) while others seem to have forgotten that they two ears, two eyes and only one mouth and can’t seem to stop communicating!
Communication is a knowledge area where one size can never fit all – some stakeholders require frequent real-time tweets to be pushed to them, while others prefer periodic higher level status updates that they can peruse at their leisure.
Planning appropriate communications is as important to projects as are scope, schedule & cost planning. If you don’t develop and get approval from key stakeholders on communication plans as a standard practice when planning your projects, you always risk missing the mark with project information updates.
When handed a project, a core responsibility of the PM is to understand the communication needs and wants of their stakeholders, and then institute procedures to provide their stakeholders with the right information at the right time. Using manual information gathering and reporting methods, this can be done, but will often reduce the project manager to purely being a project administrator (to say nothing of the likelihood of poor quality, obsolete or conflicting reports). Once you know a stakeholder’s desired level of detail, communication method (push vs. pull), and frequency of updates (near real-time vs. periodic) you can hopefully leverage technology to reduce this administrative effort.
Whether it is RSS subscriptions, project-focused Twitter channels, dashboards, user-flagged posts or regularly scheduled report runs, so long as the processes are in place to gather project information in a timely, quality fashion you can hit the right information balance without starving or drowning your stakeholders.