Information Distribution in Project Management
By Gina Abudi
Ensuring that the right people (such as stakeholders, project team members, project sponsors, etc.) get the right information at the right time for project status updates and to make decisions on projects requires a great deal of planning. Effective distribution of information relies on the selection of the right tools and methods to ensure you reach the people you need to reach in the manner beset suited for them to evaluate and/or make decisions.
The method to communicate that you select should be based on:
- The type of information to be distributed
- The audience requirements
- The timeline for a required response
Any or all of the following are acceptable methods for distributing project information to stakeholders and other relevant interested parties:
- Project team meeting
- Individual, one-on-one meetings
- Stakeholder meetings
- Video conferencing
- Conference calls
- Portal or project intranet site
- Collaborative work management tools
The method you choose is based on your audience, the environment, company policies and/or access to software, the size of the project and other factors.
There are pros and cons to different methods of distributing (communicating) project information. It is important to weigh the pros and cons against availability of certain tools/methods, expectations of the individual being communicated to about the project, expectations around formal or informal communication, the need for formal record keeping, etc.
General Categories of Communication
The three basic general communication categories include:
- Face-to-face communications (group or individual meetings)
- Hard-copy communications (letters, memorandum, reports)
- Electronic communications (email, conference calls, web conferencing)
Face-to-face communications can be either formal or informal, one-on-one or in groups. Face-to-face communication allows more easily for gauging others’ reactions to what you are communicating, which allows you to ensure they are hearing what you intend them to hear and understand what you are saying.
Meetings may be costly if you need to bring individuals in from other states and/or countries to participate. However, it may be a good idea, for global projects, to have at least a face-to-face meeting as a project kickoff and another meeting mid-way through or near the end of the project. To ensure your meetings are productive, be sure to plan for them ahead of time and send to all participants an agenda prior to the meeting. If participants are required to have information with them for the meeting, make sure they know they are expected to be prepared for the meeting.
To ensure an effective meeting, you will need to facilitate it or have someone available who is able to facilitate the meeting. This includes ensuring the agenda is followed and the meeting starts and ends on time. Document the notes from the meeting, including any “to-dos” or decisions made or which need to be made and distribute to all participants as a follow up the meeting. If there are “to-dos” or decisions to be made, include a timeline as agreed to at the meeting.
Hard-copy communications can really be combined with the category of electronic communications. In today’s information age with easy access to computers (in nearly all situations) hard copy reports, if desired, could be followed up with electronic version. You may choose to provide a hard copy status report to an executive if he or she prefers that format of communication, but you would want to retain an electronic version for recordkeeping, along with information about the distribution of the hard copy - such as a copy of the memo to the executive with the attached report.
Given the shortage of time, tight budget controls, the need for project managers to manage multiple projects, and project team members spread out over the country or in different countries, electronic communication methods are quite common. There are various methods of electronic communications and you may deploy a certain method depending on the communication need. For example, email may work best for short, brief updates on project status or to ask a question or get a decision made.
A project portal or intranet site is also a viable method of getting project data out to others and of sharing information via discussion forums or through chats to make decisions or get input. Tools such as Microsoft SharePoint® enable collaborative sharing of documents to make revisions - such as building of a project plan.
If you need to pull a large group together, and a face-to-face meeting is not possible, you may choose to use a collaborative meeting tool, such as GoToMeeting®, or a similar tool, to communicate with the team. Such tools allow for collaboration as video can be an option - if individuals are able to see each other there is a higher likelihood of collaboration. Many such tools also provide white boards and other collaboration options for document sharing, editing, etc. Similar to face-to-face meetings, follow up such meetings with document meetings notes, with “to-dos” or decisions to be made.
Communication Management Plan
Your communications management plan may include any or all of the following information, depending on your project’s needs1:
- Stakeholder requirements for communication
- Information to be communicated including format and level of detail
- Reason for the distribution of the information (e.g., share information, make decisions)
- Time frame and frequency of communications
- Person responsible for communication of information
- Person(s) responsible for authorizing release of confidential information
- Methods or tools used to convey information (e.g., email, meetings)
- Resources allocated for communicating information including time expectations and budget
- Escalation process identifying time frames and management names for escalation of issues that must be resolved at a higher level
- Method for updating and refining the communications management plan
- Glossary of common terminology
- Flow charts depicting information flow in the project including workflows with sequence of authorization, reporting, meeting plans, etc.
- Communication constraints if in existence, such as if there are legislation or regulations in effect or company policies
Bottom line - choose the appropriate method for distributing information for the project based on a number of factors, such as:
- The audience with which you are communicating
- The environment in which you work - for example, do individuals expect formal or informal communications
- Company policies around communications
- Size of the project and number of individuals involved, project complexity
- Project alignment to organizational goals
- Other factors relevant to your project, company, stakeholders, etc.
1Reference: Project Management Body of Knowledge, 4th Edition, Chapter 10: Project Communications Management, Section 10.2.3
Gina Abudi Blog http://www.GinaAbudi.com
Gina Abudi has over 15 years consulting experience in a variety of areas, including project management, process management, leadership development, succession planning, high potential programs, talent optimization and development of strategic learning and development programs. She is Partner/VP Strategic Solutions at Peak Performance Group, Inc. in Gloucester, Massachusetts. She has been honored by PMI® as one of the Power 50 and has served as Chair of PMI®s Global Corporate Council Leadership Team. She has presented at various conferences on topics ranging from general management and leadership topics to project management. Gina received her MBA from Simmons Graduate School of Management.
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