The importance of communication is something that should never be underestimated. When communication breaks down mistakes can arise that are costly, time-consuming, and sometimes even dangerous.
NASA learned about this the hard way when they found out that one of their teams was using the imperial measurement system and the other was using the metric system. This error caused NASA to lose a $125 million Mars orbiter after a 286 day journey to the red planet.
The miscalculations caused the orbiter to get closer to the planet than originally planned, roughly about 25km beneath the level at which it could function properly.
And, if it can happen to NASA, it can happen to you. Unless, that is, you have a solid project communication plan.
In this article we’re going to take a closer look at exactly why you need a project communication plan, and how to create one.
What is a project communication plan?
A project communication plan outlines how important information will be communicated throughout your project, who will be communicating, and when that information will be shared.
This communication plan should bring value to everyone involved in the project, including stakeholders, project managers, and clients.
It’s really all about the when, how, who, and what! Here’s an example (based on a company that’s creating an explainer video for a client):
WHEN: We will communicate with the client every Friday at 2pm
HOW: We will communicate via Google Meet and share the conference link in advance
WHO: The creative team working on the project will be involved (scriptwriter, storyboard artist, and animator) as well as the stakeholders on the client’s side
WHAT: The weekly meetings will be for the creatives to give an update on progress and for the client to bring up any potential questions or issues
Why is a project communication plan important?
A project communication plan is important because it can ensure your project stays on track, on time, and on budget.
A good project communication plan also ensures that all stakeholders are informed on the progress of the project, increasing customer satisfaction.
Without a communication plan, you can easily end up with issues like NASA did above – although hopefully never on that scale!
Poor communication can result in all kinds of problems, including decreased productivity and even financial loss for businesses.
On top of that, it can also impact the engagement levels and happiness of your internal teams. Surprisingly, according to our Project Management 2021 statistics, less than half of people surveyed said they find it easy to understand what other members of their team are working on at any given time.
This issue can be easily solved with a strong project communication plan. And once you have one in place, you can use it for all of your projects in the future so that communication is improved indefinitely.
How to create the perfect project communication plan
1. Choose a project management platform
Inviting your internal team and your clients (if applicable) to work together on a project management platform is one of the best ways to ensure your project communication gets off to the smoothest start.
A project management platform will keep all communications centralised, meaning that everyone knows exactly where to look for the latest piece of information.
With Project.co, you can not only keep your communications in one place, but also any project files, and tasks that team members are working on.
Everything about your project – from start to finish – can be managed on Project.co.
2. Decide how you’re going to communicate (and when)
The next step is deciding how communications should be shared and making sure everyone on the team is aware of that.
There are many different ways to communicate about your project. You could use a video conferencing tool, or have face-to-face meetings.
You can also use emails and, as mentioned above, your project management platform. The Project.co discussions tab is a great way to communicate with your team. All messages appear in date and time order under the discussions tab:
And everyone involved in the project can choose whether to receive email notifications every time a new comment is added:
What’s more, you can filter projects so that it’s easy to view those that are waiting for a response from you or someone else on your team:
This is very helpful when it comes to letting clients know when to expect the next communication from you.
Simply letting clients know that you will get back to them within the next few hours, the next working day, or even by the end of the week, is enough to give them peace of mind that your project is progressing smoothly.
You shouldn’t feel limited to just one method of communication. A mix of communications can be helpful. For example, you could start your project with a meeting and then use the project management platform for daily communication.
The main thing is just making sure that everyone knows how and when you’re going to communicate.
3. Assign tasks
In order to keep your project moving along, everyone involved needs to know what is expected of them, including when they will be expected to send and receive deliverables.
Assigning tasks to your team members is a great way of making it easy for them to keep on top of their workload.
With Project.co, you can assign team members, departments, and dates to your tasks, as well as any relevant notes or files:
Your team can then view their tasks in whatever way helps them best manage their workload:
If you’re working with clients, you’ll also have the option to mark some tasks as private so that only your internal team can see them:
4. Define points of contact
Knowing how and when communications will be received is important, but it’s also equally important to know who is going to be the person communicating.
This makes responsibilities clear for internal teams while also informing clients who their main point of contact will be for the duration of the project.
With Project.co, you can open as many projects as you like, and within those projects you can add specific team members and clients via the people tab.
As soon as someone is added and their email icon is coloured green, that person will start receiving notifications every time a new comment is posted to the project.
5. Agree on tools
As you’re creating your project communication plan, it’s really important that you get buy-in from everyone involved.
If you’ve decided that you’re going to use a project management platform and someone on the team only uses email communication then this could cause issues and result in communication breakdown.
The same applies for any files shared back and forth. If it’s been agreed that everyone will work on Google Docs and then someone in the team shares a PDF, that’s going to make life difficult for everyone and could result in slowed progress on the project.
Our embeds feature makes it easy to agree on tools because you can work on your files without ever leaving the project!
Just embed your item to the project, and from there people will be able to open the file within Project.co and collaborate in real time.
6. Create and share a schedule
The last piece of the puzzle is creating a schedule that you can share with everyone involved on the project.
This schedule can include expected delivery dates, who is assigned to what task, and when the next meeting/communication will be.
You can easily share your project communication plan with your team via the files tab on Project.co:
This way, everyone can download and keep their own copy to refer back to whenever they need it.
3 Benefits of using a project communication plan
1. Increased efficiency
A project communication plan means there’s no more wasted time digging through inboxes or repeating information. Everyone involved on the project will know where everything is, what’s expected, and when the next communication will be.
2. Better relationships
When information is communicated clearly and on-time it results in better relationships, both internally and externally. This can improve your customer satisfaction rates and even reduce employee turnover.
3. More successful projects
With a project communication plan in your toolbox you’ll be setting your team up for success. And once you have a solid plan in place you can emulate this again and again so that all of your projects go more smoothly in the future.
Clear communication is the key to successful projects, happy team members, and even happier clients.
A project management tool like Project.co can help you to keep all of your communications in one place and can, on average, save you 2 hours per day on unproductive work.