Select Page
← Go Back

A robust and realistic project management communication plan is essential for project success. This informative and easy-to-read article looks at basic concepts of a project management communication plan, and provides examples, strategies and best practices.

There are several paths to project glory. However, one characteristic that all successful projects have in common is effective and efficient communications. Or, to put things more bluntly yet  perhaps more memorably: while there are many reasons for project failure, a lack of quality communication is often the biggest factor. Indeed, a survey of more than 700 project professionals in large enterprises around the world found that poor communication was the biggest barrier to project success — even ahead of organizational change and budget. That is why a project management communication plan is so vital, and often makes the difference between triumph vs. tragedy.

What is a Communication Management Plan?

In project management, a communication management plan captures the framework for how communications will be handled during a project. Key functions and benefits of the plan include:

  • Establishing a centralized standardized reference that all stakeholders can consult throughout the project to streamline communications, and reduce or avoid confusion and conflict.
  • Creating realistic expectations among stakeholders regarding when and how communications will be handled (e.g. a project sponsor should not expect daily updates if the agreed-upon communication plan establishes that they will receive weekly updates).
  • Increasing project visibility, as stakeholders can provide feedback — ideally before the project launches — if they suspect misalignment.
  • Increasing trust, as stakeholders do not worry that they are “out of the loop.”
  • Boosting productivity by making meetings more efficient and focused.

Project Communication Management Plan Processes

In its Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK – 7th Edition), the Project Management Institute (PMI) identifies three fundamental processes of project communication management:

  • Plan Communication Management: the process of developing an approach and plan for all project-based communication activities based on the information needs of each stakeholder, available resources in the organization, and the needs of a project.
  • Manage Communications : the process of creating, collecting, distributing, storing, accessing, managing, monitoring, and disposing of project information.
  • Monitor Communications: the process of ensuring that the information needs of project stakeholders, as well as the project, are met.

What is Included in a Project Communication Plan?

Generally speaking, a project management communication plan should answer the following key questions:

  • What are the vision and objectives of the plan?
  • Who are the stakeholders that will receive various communications, and what are their roles and responsibilities?
  • What type of information (e.g. reports, updates, announcements, etc.) will be shared with stakeholders, and at what frequency?
  • What methods (e.g. project management software, videoconference, email, etc.) will be used to communicate with stakeholders?
  • How will the plan’s effectiveness be monitored and measured?
  • Where will the project management communication plan be located, so that it can be referenced accordingly?

Please keep in mind that this is not meant as a definitive list. Each organization — and in some cases, each project within an organization — must develop a communication plan that aligns with specific needs, goals and expectations.

Project Communication Plan Example

Below are four highly-simplified project communication plan examples. The first is organized by the type of communication. The second is organized by the method of communication. The third is organized by stakeholders. The fourth is organized by frequency.

Communication Management Plan Example: Type of Communication

TypeMethodFrequencyPurposeLeadAudience
Project updateMeetingDailyDiscuss project status and any immediate issues.Project managerInternal project team
Project reviewMeetingAt scheduled milestonesEvaluate deliverables, discuss next steps.Project managerInternal project team, PMO, and project sponsor
Project statusProject management softwareWeeklyProvide updates on project status and highlight any issues, challenges, problems, decisions and/or changes.Project managerInternal project team, PMO, and project sponsor
Task updateProject management softwareDailyProvide daily progress on assigned tasks.Project managerInternal project team.
Project evaluation.MeetingAt the conclusion of the projectReflect on project performance and identify lessons learned.Project managerInternal project team, PMO, and project sponsor

 

Communication Management Plan Example: Method of Communication

 

TypeMethodFrequencyPurposeLeadAudience
Method: Meeting
Project updateMeetingDailyDiscuss project status and any immediate issues.Project managerInternal project team
Project reviewMeetingAt scheduled milestonesEvaluate deliverables, discuss next steps.Project managerInternal project team, PMO, and project sponsor
Project evaluation.MeetingAt the conclusion of the projectReflect on project performance and identify lessons learned.Project managerInternal project team, PMO, and project sponsor
Method: Project management software
Project statusProject management softwareWeeklyProvide updates on project status and highlight any issues, challenges, problems, decisions and/or changes.Project managerInternal project team, PMO, and project sponsor
Task updateProject management softwareDailyProvide daily progress on assigned tasks.Project managerInternal project team.

 

Communication Management Plan Example: Audience

 

TypeMethodFrequencyPurposeLeadAudience
Audience: Internal Project Team Only
Project updateMeetingDailyDiscuss project status and any immediate issues.Project managerInternal project team
Task updateProject management softwareDailyProvide daily progress on assigned tasks.Project managerInternal project team
Audience: Internal Project Team, PMO and Project Sponsor
Project reviewMeetingAt scheduled milestonesEvaluate deliverables, discuss next steps.Project managerInternal project team, PMO, and project sponsor
Project evaluation.MeetingAt the conclusion of the projectReflect on project performance and identify lessons learned.Project managerInternal project team, PMO, and project sponsor
Project statusProject management softwareWeeklyProvide updates on project status and highlight any issues, challenges, problems, decisions and/or changes.Project managerInternal project team, PMO, and project sponsor

 

Communication Management Plan Example: Frequency of Communication

 

TypeMethodFrequencyPurposeLeadAudience
Frequency: Daily
Project updateMeetingDailyDiscuss project status and any immediate issues.Project managerInternal project team
Task updateProject management softwareDailyProvide daily progress on assigned tasks.Project managerInternal project team.
Frequency: Weekly
Project statusProject management softwareWeeklyProvide updates on project status and highlight any issues, challenges, problems, decisions and/or changes.Project managerInternal project team, PMO, and project sponsor
Frequency: Based on Progress
Project reviewMeetingAt scheduled milestonesEvaluate deliverables, discuss next steps.Project managerInternal project team, PMO, and project sponsor
Project evaluation.MeetingAt the conclusion of the projectReflect on project performance and identify lessons learned.Project managerInternal project team, PMO, and project sponsor

We can see from these (again highly-simplified) project management communication plan examples, each is built with the same data. However, they are organized differently. There is no definitive standard that says one type of approach is superior while another is inferior. The approach that works best is the one that meets the needs of the project stakeholders — those who are sending communications, and those who are receiving communications. Some organizations and/or projects also provide multiple versions of a project management communication plan (e.g. one plan organized by audience, and another organized by type).

Using a RACIVS-Matrix to Enhance Project Communication Management

As noted earlier, one of the most important aspects of a project management communication plan is identifying the roles, responsibilities and requirements of different stakeholders. This objective may seem fairly straightforward, but as experienced project managers know (and new project managers quickly discover!) it can be difficult and stressful — essentially because some stakeholders may not appreciate or tolerate being “out of the loop” on some types of communications.

A popular — and for some project managers, also a beloved — tool that can help in this effort is RACIVS, which is an acronym that stands for:

  • Responsible: the individual or group who is responsible for producing a deliverable.
  • Accountable: the person or group who has ownership of a deliverable and is responsible for its completion.
  • Consulted: the person or group who will be consulted as necessary during the production of a deliverable.
  • Informed: the person or group who will be informed of the end results once a deliverable is completed.
  • Verifies: the person or group who will review a deliverable and advise the project manager, project sponsor, or any other authority to accept or reject it.
  • Signs-Off : the person or group who will officially sign-off on a deliverable.

RACIVS is a versatile model that can help identify who should be informed, of what, and when. Just as usefully, RACIVS can help stakeholders objectively grasp why they should not necessarily be informed of all project-related communications. For example, a project sponsor who is adamant about being invited to all meetings and receiving all updates may realize, with the help of RACIVS, that this level of involvement is neither necessary nor justified. Conversely, RACIVS can help identify stakeholders who should be added to certain meetings or communications, but were left out of the initial distribution plan.

Project Management Communication Strategies

Here are some strategies to help make project management communication planning  smoother and more successful:

  • Consider having two plans: one that provides a simple overview plan of communications, and the other that represents a more detailed communication plan.
  • Use top-rated project management software that equips teams with cloud-based tools that provide a real-time, 360-degree view of each project — so they spend less time talking about goals and more time achieving them.
  • Standardize the communication process, yet be prepared to shift tactics and approaches as necessary.
  • Keep the communication plan updated! An outdated plan is not just useless — it is dangerous.
  • Have protocols and processes in place for communicating sensitive information.
  • Be aware of and respect cross-cultural differences, as well as variances in knowledge, background, and experience. Advises the Project Management Institute: Project managers spend most of their time communicating with team members and other project stakeholders, both internal (at all organizational levels) and external to the organization. Effective communication builds a bridge between diverse stakeholders who may have different cultural and organizational backgrounds as well as different levels of expertise, perspectives, and interests.”
  • Take into consideration that some stakeholders may be more confident and familiar with technology-based communication tools (e.g. videoconferencing, channel-based platforms, etc.) than others.

The Final Word on Project Management Communication Planning

Effective communication in project management is both an art and a science: the latter because it is rooted in concepts, standards and strategies, and the former because it can be improved through practice and experience. A robust project management communication plan plays a pivotal role in making connections — and avoiding chaos!


What are you waiting for?

Learn why Clarizen is the right choice to engage your workforce and accelerate your business.

Become a Project Management Expert and Help Your Team Grow. Get the Full Buyer’s Guide
Preview: Buyer’s guide to project management software
1/3
If you like the preview and want the FULL PDF file, please provide your information and you can download it
Buyer’s guide to project management software
1/2