Ask a project manager what are “must have” outputs of project planning (regardless of domain or methodology) and you will likely get scope definition, schedule, budget and possibly the risk register. While these are all important deliverables to help manage a project, a key document that is often marginalized and sometimes completely missed is a Communications Management Plan (CMP).
The fourth edition of the PMBOK guide provides a comprehensive list (page 257) of a CMP’s contents, but here’s a few supporting reasons why this should be a mandatory deliverable from your next project planning cycle.
1. Creating it forces you to perform stakeholder analysis. The CMP should provide details on the communication requirements for your stakeholders and how these will be met – if you haven’t met all of your stakeholders yet, you won’t be able to complete this activity.
2. It helps standardize conflict and issue escalation processes. Without this, escalation approaches may be driven by emotion or knee-jerk reactions – neither of which is likely to help your project.
3. It helps to “right size” project administration and status reporting efforts for the entire team. Following the principle of “don’t collect data that no one is going to consume”, by learning and documenting the frequency and degree of information detail required, the project manager may be able to eliminate unnecessary project data gathering “fat”. This in turn will help focus the team’s efforts on delivering customer-acknowledge value.
4. It facilitates temporary or permanent transition for project leadership. Just as a core responsibility for functional management is succession planning, a good project manager should ensure that there is sufficient documentation in place to simplify transitioning their role if the need should arise. Without a CMP in place, at best your replacement will have to create one “on the fly” while the project is executing, or at worst, will attempt to guess at what’s required and might end up impacting stakeholder or customer satisfaction.
These points apply regardless of how “light” or informal the CMP is – it’s format should be dictated by your organization’s PM methodology & the needs of your specific project.
Communication supposedly makes up 90% of a PM’s efforts. If so, to mangle another old cliche, if you fail to (communications) plan, you’ll plan to fail!