Although I will inevitably start evangelising (shortly) about one, two or maybe three Microsoft solutions that can support effective communication, I want to start off with a simple question. Why do humans run the world?

You could successfully argue a number of reasons, however, I’d like to quote an answer from a Ted Talk I heard recently within which History Professor Yuval Noah Harari explained:

Humans control the world because we are the only animal that can cooperate flexibly in large numbers.

The keyword in the quote above is ‘cooperation’ without it individuals wouldn’t have a common purpose! If we add ‘collaboration’ into the mix, individuals can become a team and work together in achieving that goal. So why am I mentioning all of this? Because:

  • ‘Cooperation’ + ‘Collaboration’ = ‘Effective Communication’.

A recent PwC report highlighted that organisations who implemented effective communications saw an increase of 17% when it came to projects being completed within budget. That’s one of the pillars for the project success.

Effective communications however can be difficult to implement, especially as project teams often span departments, organisations and continents. Just to cite some other findings, a separate report by IDC “Bridging the Information Worker Productivity Gap” highlighted a 21% loss in productivity due to collaboration challenges.

So the facts are clear, effective communication is vital to project success so the question is, how can you put it in to practice? Well, I was hoping to promote the use of “The Force” but after several attempts to communicate using this approach, I can reveal with regret, that it doesn’t work. I’d also like to report that numerous attempts to move my stapler using The Force, were also unsuccessful, but rest assured – I will not give up.

Moving on.

Effective communication is something that Microsoft has been focusing on and brace yourself, I’m about to start evangelising. But before I do, take a minute and have a look at the photo below which depicts how NASA engineers communicated back in the 1960s:

NASA communication 2960

Things have moved on since then and the old school pairing is being replaced globally by the likes of SharePoint, Project Online, Skype for Business and Yammer just to name a few solutions.

Microsoft SharePoint

Starting with SharePoint you might be surprised to learn that it is capable of doing more than just document storage. To outline the versatility of SharePoint, the Ferrari website was built on SharePoint and a large number of organisations utilise SharePoint as their Intranet platform or as a starter Project & Portfolio Management solution, which is what we helped Home Retail Group to achieve.

Specifically, here are some (not all) of the features which can aid Effective Communications:

  1. Communities. The Community Site template was introduced in SharePoint as a new social feature to help promote open communication and “information exchange”. Each site can host categorised discussions, which members can participate in and get rewarded for with badges. So if your organisation has a PMO, how about setting up PMO or PM community! You could extend the feature set and use it to contain all of your master templates and much more.
  2. Alerts. A major element of communicating revolves around notifying individuals about content changes and SharePoint does this well! So any changes to documents, RAID logs can be communicated swiftly with users having control over frequency and type of alert.
  3. Announcements. This feature allows you to create announcements with expiry dates so that you don’t clutter the interface. This also ensures that users don’t see the same announcement for the next 3 years! Typically this is placed on the landing page of your Intranet.

I could go on and outline the ‘follow’ feature, wiki pages, blogs and a variety of other features, break it down further but stop, Yammer time. A nod to all of the MC Hammer fans…

Microsoft Yammer

I have two options now, I could go on to describe Yammer in detail or simply state “it’s Facebook for business”. I’ll go with the latter option, Yammer is effectively an internal Facebook for business and it integrates with SharePoint and Project Online to provide users with a wide range of social features that most of us are now accustomed to via Facebook, LinkedIn and the leading social network, MySpace.

So how can you use it within the project focused organisation? You can create project-specific Yammer groups! We’ve done this recently with a number of clients and integrated the Yammer groups into Project Sites within Project Online.

Microsoft Teams

When we think of communication in the purest sense, Microsoft Teams fits the bill. It lets you collaborate with anyone, anywhere, on any device. Whether you’re looking to conduct an online meeting, send instant messages, or share documents, Microsoft Teams ticks all the right boxes.

Within the solution users can also configure their presence information and highlight whether they’re available (rare), busy (pretending), away (hiding), do not disturb (bidding on an eBay item). This information, sarcasm aside, is visible against the person’s name whether they’re being viewed on SharePoint, Yammer or Project Online, and from within either of those solutions, you can initiate a conversation.

Microsoft Project Online/Project for the Web

Last but certainly not least, the primary hub for all project-related communication and collaboration, Microsoft Project Online/Project for the Web. This is essentially an extension of SharePoint, so the features I outlined earlier are unsurprisingly available here but it’s enhanced with a variety of other communications elements such as timesheets, which allow users to communicate and agree on changes or updates centrally with ease – replacing the trail of emails that would otherwise ensue.

I’ll stop there as I’ve outlined numerous Microsoft PPM benefits and features in previous articles so won’t be repeating them here, but in closing the solution allows project team members to collaborate and communicate effectively in a number of ways which as I stated in the opening increases project success.