In project management, never mistake silence for a project running well. We repeat, NEVER. In actual fact, this is when alarm bells should be going off inside your head that something isn’t quite right. Why? Because communication in project management is extremely important. Project staff must know what their tasks are and how to complete them. Project Managers need to be able to monitor project progress.

Let’s first look at a list of tasks that a Project Manager should be doing on a day-to-day basis. Assigning tasks, managing resources, reporting, scheduling and status updates. All of these involve the communication of some sort verbally or non-verbally.

‘In the context of the organisational project and program management, communications is a core competency that, when properly executed, connects every member of a project team to a common set of strategies, goals and actions.’ (PMI ‘S Pulse of the Profession In-depth Report, May 2013).

A good Project Manager will create a healthy flow of communication channels from the beginning, right to the very end of a project or programme life cycle. At the beginning of a project, hold a kickoff meeting with everyone involved in the project. This is a chance for you to set goals, expectations and discuss any issues. This is also the perfect time to outline your communication plan.

What is a project communication plan?

A communication plan will vary from client to client depending on the different requirements but a standard one should include the following items:

  • The purpose and approach
  • Goals, objectives and expectations
  • Communication roles
  • Individual roles and what they have to do
  • What budget and time constraints everyone is working to
  • Communication tools and methods
  • High-level project communication messages

Why is communication in project management important?

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? Microsoft has been paying particular attention to collaborative and communication and now offer a number of tools to organisations to help them work together more effectively. We explain more below.

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.

We 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

There are two options now, we could go on to describe Yammer in detail or simply state “it’s Facebook for business”. We’ll stick 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 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.

Communication in project management is crucial to the success of any project. By adding these tools to your toolbox, you’ll be well equipped to collaborate and communicate with stakeholders and team members more effectively to achieve project success.