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Everyone knows, in theory at least, that effective project communication is essential. Almost any project manager, if asked to list the factors which are important for project success, would put communication near the top of the list.

Effective project communicationUnfortunately, communication is often taken for granted. Even when project managers put an early emphasis on communication, it can fall by the wayside when managers and team members find themselves dealing with unexpected challenges or intense workloads. Those situations, of course, are the ones in which communication is even more critically important.

Project managers who overlook the importance of communication are putting their projects at serious risk. In fact, according to the Project Management Institute, 40% of all project failures can be directly attributed to a lack of effective communication. Understanding the value of communication in every phase of a project can help managers and team members keep information flowing, even during difficult periods.

Project Planning and Setting Expectations

Effective communication at the beginning of a project will pay dividends from the first planning meeting to the final wrap-up. In order to get their work done, project team members must have as much information as possible about the goal of the project, its timelines and deliverables and what is expected from each participant. Project managers should also be sure to provide details on the collaboration software and other project management tools to be used, the timing and format of recurring meetings and the procedures to be followed for changes in scope.

Status Updates and Timeline Changes

Communication in project management often begins to break down in the middle phases of a project, when team members are immersed in their work and liable to lose sight of what others are doing. Important details such as changes to a deadline might be communicated to only those team members who are directly affected, leaving others in the dark.

This is especially likely to happen on large or decentralized teams, where work is being done in several different time zones or on multiple continents. In these situations, it can be next to impossible to gather an entire team, in person or virtually, for daily or weekly status meetings. Project communication management tools like Clarizen can help managers keep the entire team on the same page by providing a centralized resource for project plans, documentation, Gantt charts and other essential information.

Closeout and Lessons Learned

It’s important not to lose focus on communication as a project winds down. Executive sponsors and other high-level stakeholders are typically more engaged as a project nears completion, and inadequate communication at this phase can create unfounded concerns about the team’s quality of work or degree of preparation. Project managers should be sure to review the initial project requirements with the entire team to ensure that each requirement has been addressed.

Communication should continue even after the work is done. Upon completion of a project, organizations should take the opportunity to hold a “lessons learned” meeting to identify areas for improvement, as well as success factors and innovations than can improve the outcomes of other projects in the future.

Want to learn how Clarizen’s collaborative work management solution can enable better project communication by connecting discussions, work content and powerful project management in a single solution?  Check out a product tour.

Jen Howard
Jen is responsible for Clarizen's corporate positioning, market awareness and global events. She is a marketing professional with a proven track record of executing comprehensive marketing strategies to support business goals and objectives for technology start-ups. Most recently, Jen was corporate marketing manager at Marketo (NASDAQ: MKTO), where she was responsible for media coverage, analyst relations, the CEO’s social media profile and corporate events. Previously, Jen was the marketing and events manager at Autonet Mobile, the first internet-based telematics company and wireless internet service provider designed for vehicles (now part of Lear Corporation (NYSE: LEA). Jen holds a B.A. in art history from the University of California, Santa Barbara.