Communication management refers to a strategies and solutions which enable organisations to effectively communicate their message to external parties, and keep internal teams connected.
For architects, communication management centres around individual projects, and should include provisions to ensure all relevant parties are kept informed and always updated. Your internal team needs the ability to transfer large technical files en-masse, and collaboration tools that integrate with the design software they depend on. Engineers and contractors need unhindered access to technical drawings and spec documents, with everything accessible via single-source-of-truth data vaults. And lastly, your clients and stakeholders need a running commentary on project progression, through the ability to access real-time project management data.
For any project, ensuring the seamless flow of information between key parties starts with the development of a project communication management strategy.
Creating a project communication management strategy
This strategy will clearly define how information will travel between everyone involved in a project. It should clearly outline the actors involved, the communication media being used, and any additional elements such as the use of data safeguards – permissions, encryption and access authentication technologies. The following 5-step process can be used to lay the groundwork of your strategy.
Step 1 – Set out your communication objectives
Define key objectives for each channel of communication. This will enable you to select the appropriate tools for each of the parties involved.
For example, the main objective of client communication is awareness – you want to present data and insights relating to build progress, keeping them both engaged and reassured. When communicating with site teams your main objective is providing actionable information – data that supports and enables on-site activity.
Internal communication between members of your team can have various objectives. When communicating new company policies your main objective is “awareness.” The objective of intra and interdepartmental communication is collaboration – communication that supports task and project fulfilment.
Step 2 – Create a list of everyone who falls under the scope of your project communication management strategy
This is a list of the project stakeholders, and by that we mean everyone with a vested interest in the project. This includes your client/s, any financiers involved, the site team (engineers and construction workers), your internal team and key suppliers.
Step 3 – Define the type of information to be shared on each channel
Consider the types of information that each party will be privy to. Consider which groups need access to actionable information, and how can this be delivered in a consistent, accurate way? Which groups need access to sensitive information such as financial reports, and how can this be provided without compromising data security? Where could the use of project management and workflow tools prove beneficial? And, what kind of information should be provided in client updates?
Step 4 – Identify the best communication media for each channel of communication.
Choose the optimum communication method for each channel, taking into account the considerations we’ve made in steps 1-3. Think about your communication objectives, the nature of the information being shared and choose from a variety of communication options, including:
• Project management tools
• Business insight platforms
• Phone calls
• In-person meetings
• Collaboration platforms
• Instant messaging
• Intranet sites
• Cloud storage services
Consider the practicalities of each option for the task at hand. For example, how feasible is it to rely solely on in-person meetings to keep clients updated on progress? Is email the best and most efficient way to share project KPIs with investors? Are phonecalls a reliable option to relay vital data to on-site teams?
Step 5 – Define communication timelines
For some communication channels – between your internal team for example – the relaying of information and exchanging of ideas will be constant. For other channels it’s helpful to establish a communication schedule, to keep key stakeholder in the loop. For example, you might want to schedule in a weekly video call with your client, to discuss progress and allay any concerns they might have. Similarly, outside investors may require regular updates, including access to key financial data and project forecasts, and these should be scheduled in accordingly.
Once you’ve established a comprehensive project communication management strategy, you should be able to define the following for each communication channel:
• Who the recipient is.
• What the purpose of the communication is.
• What type of information is to be sent.
• How that information is to be sent.
• When the information is to be sent – is there a schedule applied?
The purpose of communication management is to ensure information is delivered in a reliable, consistent, efficient and productive manner. Creating a strategy, provides your team with a framework for ensuring they communicate in accordance with these aims. The strategy will give everyone involved access to the information that’s relevant to them, via the most suitable communication medium and at time intervals that are appropriate to their level of project engagement.
Stay tuned, as in our next article we’ll share some of the ways Office Automation Technologies can bring technology to the aid of your firm’s business communications.