Controlling Project Communications

control communications

Let us first see what type of information is generated on the project –

  • Project status related – status reports on cost, schedule, scope, quality and so on
  • Quality related – metrics, measurements, test results
  • Project progress related EVM numbers – Earned Value, Planned Value, Actual Cost, SPI, CPI, Schedule Variance, Cost Variance and so on from EVM method
  • Forecasts – such as Estimate At Completion (EAC) and Estimate To Complete (ETC) numbers
  • Actual data versus baseline data, and variances
  • and so on..

This information tells you how the project is doing and it is communicated as project performance to the stakeholders. These reports may be detailed or short, textual or graphical, daily or periodic (weekly/monthly), related to current or analysis of past performance.

All this information has to be monitored and controlled throughout the life of project. Control Communications process makes sure that every stakeholder gets the information she is supposed to get, at the time she is expecting it and using the method she is supposed to get it by.

This project management activity may discover shortcomings in Communications Management Plan or Project Communications. As the project progresses, we may also discover changed communications needs of stakeholders and hence trigger the above two processes again. This is what it is – a continuous churning of communication activities to serve the stakeholders communication needs.

What do I need to control project communication?

Project plan

The following information can be gathered from project management plan, which is helpful to control communications –

  • reasons for distribution of information
  • how frequently should the information be distributed
  • details about people who are responsible for communicating information
  • people who have to receive information

Essential pieces of project communication

This is the output from Manage Communications process. Some of the communication reports are –

  • Status of deliverables for a specific release
  • Costs status and forecasts
  • Personnel performance feedback reports
  • Progress on schedule
  • Information related to new baselines

Issue log

This is used to identify and list all issues arising on the project, assign people responsible for resolving them, timelines and so on. These should be communicated to the right people for their reference, decision and action.

Actual project performance data

This data is used to compare against baselines.

Then you would need pre-defined templates (if available in the organization) for the reports defined in communication management plan, organizational policies with respect to communication, and any other such as lessons learned from earlier projects.

..and just about how is this done?

Information management systems

This tool manages informational needs of the organization, by providing tools to capture, store and distribute information to stakeholders. They help create reports from analyzed information and even send out at regular intervals. As we have seen earlier, reports could be textual, graphical, tabular or even in the form of presentation.

Meetings with experts

Expert judgment is an invaluable tool in any controlling process. Project manager can observe stakeholder interactions to pick up proactively any brewing issues related to communication. She can also tap into team’s collective intelligence to resolve some of the issues. This can be provided by anyone inside the team, outside the team, or outside the organization.

As we have seen earlier as well, meetings are quite useful tool (often abused) to brainstorm, discuss and identify issues related to communication and resolve them. Meetings with vendors, suppliers, stakeholders, customers, upper management and even with other project managers can help manager unearth some of the communication issues so she can control them.

…and what does this all produce?

Project work performance related information

As we have seen earlier, work performance data that comes in as process input gets analyzed in the context of process and its dependencies on other processes, and becomes work performance information. This is the organized and summarized, project status and progress information such as Earned Value Management calculations (such as EV, PV, AC, CV, SV, SPI, CPI) and forecast numbers (TCPI, ETC, EAC) you did in Control Costs process.

Click here to understand how earned value methods are used to generate project performance information.

Click here to understand how variances and forecasts are calculated.

Change requests

By now you would have gathered that every control process generates change requests. You may notice deviations or a need to adjust project management plan or other project documents during control communication activities. These are the preventive or corrective actions identified when comparing project performance with baselines and looking for variances. These will end up changing project management plan (project baselines) or configuration documents. All change requests should go through Perform Integrated Change Control process.

Updates to project plan and documents

Any of the baselines, subsidiary plans mean changes to project management plan. Several project documents may be updated such as change log, issue log, risk register, stakeholder register, and more. There is no fixed list. What gets changed depends on what is discovered!

Lessons learned will help other project managers, and should be logged. You may update reporting formats if you found a better way to report the data (improvisation happens all the time). Whenever there are preventive or corrective actions planned, you can update their reasons as well.

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