Project Communication Requirements Analysis

Instructor: Sally Cornett
This lesson will tie the process of communication requirement analysis in to overall communications planning. It will also recommend components to consider including in a communications plan and suggest ways to perform communication requirements analysis.

Data shows that a project manager spends roughly 90% of his time communicating. If this is true, in order to be successful and effective in their job, a project manager will want to be clear on what the communication requirements are for the project he is leading.

Of course, the project manager isn't the only one with responsibility for effective communications. A project team is comprised of team members that have come together from previous experiences where they all used different communication techniques and had responsibilities for different communications. It makes sense to invest time early in the project to get a new project team on the same song sheet about how communications should be handled throughout the life of a new project.

Can you think of a scenario where having a documented communications plan would be helpful? Imagine a team member who is new to the project wondering Who needs to know about the new requirement the customer just added?or Who is authorized to make the final decision between option 1 and option 2 of this design revision? Quickly glancing at the project communication plan is a more productive way to get these answers than taking time to make several phone calls or interrupt co-workers in search of the answer.

Analyzing communication requirements is a part of overall project communications planning. A communications plan is typically one of a project's first deliverables. It involves collecting and summarizing important information about how communications will be managed throughout the life of the project. Once assembled, the project's communication plan should be reviewed and approved by the project manager and project team.

Components of a Communication Plan

  • Communication Plan Scope:
    • What is in and what is out of scope of this communication plan? Does the plan intend to comprehend communications that are internal and external to the team?
  • Stakeholders Impacted by the Communication Plan:
    • Who needs to be aware of the communication plan, what is their role on the project, and what responsibility do they have for communications?
  • Communication Plan Assumptions
    • What might everyone be assuming about communications that should be noted? (An example might be: It is assumed that team members will ensure any issues, risks or problems encountered are added to the agenda of the monthly project status meeting for discussion. This is to ensure any related email communication is not overlooked.)
  • Communication Plan Risks
    • Known communication risks may be logged in the communication plan or there may be a simple statement in this section that notes all risks will be managed in the project risk log.
  • Communication Logistics:
    • What communications will be retained? For how long? Where?
  • Requirements for each communication:
    • Event: What types of events will trigger a need to communicate?
    • Frequency: Does the frequency of communications about this type of event need to be defined?
    • Audience: Who needs to be informed about such events?
    • Content: What information should be included in the communication?
    • Communicator: Who has responsibility for delivering the communication and confirming receipt and comprehension?
    • Format/Tool: What mechanism will be used to communicate? Should a template be used?
    • Verification: How will effectiveness of communication be verified?
    • Communication accountability: Who has responsibility for any follow-up required on each communication? The original communicator? A process owner?
  • Resource Requirements:
    • Are there any costs or additional resources required to sustain this plan?
  • Communication Plan Accountability:
    • Who owns the plan? How will it be maintained over time? Are there any legal or ethical requirements for communication storage, security and retention?

How to determine communication requirements

Typically communication requirements are determined by assembling a representative group of project stakeholders and soliciting input and feedback about what types of communications are required and important for each stakeholder to be able to do their job as they need to. This group should be encouraged to identify what attributes of each type of communication is important, and which are superfluous. It can be extremely valuable to leverage lessons learned from team members that have both positive and negative communication experiences from previous assignments. It is also sensible to specifically review what types of communications are not important and should be limited, since most experienced professionals have a good bit of experience managing nuisance communications.

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