The Project Communication Plan

If you want to ensure that your stakeholders feel loved and cared for during your project or program execution, you’re going to need a communication plan to ensure that communication to stakeholders occurs regularly and in an agreeable manner.

Do not leave communication to chance. You should aim to create the communication plan as quickly as possible after the project starts, but be sure you understand the project vision and your communication objectives first. The main items which should be covered in a project communication plan are:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Information Collection
  3. Information Distribution Definitions
  4. The Communication Matrix
Let’s examine each item in turn:

1. Executive Summary

Often known as the Management Summary, this section simply summarises all the information that follows within the document as succinctly as possible. I often find its useful to include the communication matrix within this section to give a top-level view of the planned communications.

2. Information Collection

In this section you will discuss how information will be collected and managed within the project. For example, information might be collected formally via status reports at the weekly project status meeting, and this information stored in advance of the meeting on a Wiki. Informal communication also needs to be captured and stored so it is visible to the team. For example, informal emails and telephone conversations could also be transferred to the above mentioned Wiki.

3. Information Distribution Definitions

In this section of the communications plan we define the structure of each formal communication which will be sent. For each formal communication you should define the following:

  • Communication name
  • Purpose
  • Owner
  • Format
  • Frequency
  • Participants or recipients

Here are a couple of examples to make this easier to understand. The first one looks at the Weekly Project Status Report, and the second one at the Monthly Project Status Sharing meeting.

Communication Name: Weekly Project Status Report
Purpose: to share the overall project status
Owner: the project manager
Format: email
Frequency: weekly
Recipients: all stakeholders

Communication Name: Monthly Project Progress Sharing
Purpose: to actually demonstrate to people how the project is progressing
Owner: the program manager
Format: teleconference
Frequency: monthly
Participants: all

4. The Communication Matrix

The communication matrix is simply a visual representation of the communications which will happen within the project or program. An example is shown below:

Communication Matrix

As you can see, this diagram makes it very clear which groups of stakeholders should be receiving which communications. To know which stakeholders should be part of which groups you will need to perform some stakeholder analysis. You can track the output of your stakeholder analysis either in the appendix of your communications plan or in a separate spreadsheet.

Summary

As you can see, The Project Communication Plan makes it very clear who should receive what communications throughout the project. We create the plan as early in the project as we can. This both acknowledges the importance of communication and ensures we are on top of it from the outset. Finally, you may want to add a final sign-off page to your communication plan template and have your steering group review and sign-off the plan.