Like other elements of a project, a communications plan should evolve over time to remain vital and effective.
Project managers should conduct informal reviews of project communication on a routine basis. Not only does regular review underscore the importance of formal communication, it encourages team members to remain focused and professional when communicating through various layers of project participants. Ongoing attention to the quality of outbound communication helps team members tasked with creating content feel more accountable about their contribution.
Surveys offer an effective way to measure the impact and the quality of formal communication. In some cases, a survey about a project newsletter may prompt stakeholders to read a newsletter for the first time. Project managers can also use surveys to uncover the preferred communication styles of stakeholders. For example, if an email newsletter enjoys more readers than a more frequently updated weblog, a project manager may elect to merge the two outlets and emphasize the newsletter. On the other hand, the opposite feedback might cause a project manager to put resources into the blog and to automate the regular newsletter by using blog entries as content.
Especially for companies impacted by HIPAA or SOX compliance issues, routine audits can help ensure that all valuable communication is being archived as well as distributed. Project managers can review aggregate email traffic to determine the overall volume of project information captured to archival systems. Web traffic data tools can determine the number of visitors to project blogs and wikis, as well as the open rate for email newsletters. Audits can also uncover potential holes in project information plans, such as team members that neglect to journal casual conversations or stakeholders that use personal email accounts for work discussions.
Maintaining flexibility about a communications plan is one of the best ways to stay focused on a project’s goals instead of the process. Rigid adherence to one particular style of communication can frustrate project managers and team members alike. With today’s technology, systems can automate the repurposing and distribution of project information into a variety of formats and methods. Stakeholders that prefer podcasts to newsletters can use tools that convert text to speech. Likewise, bulletin boards and other discussion tools can often be converted to e-mail for the benefit of participants who like to organize their entire worlds inside of Outlook. Broadcasting changes to the communications plan as they are made can underscore a highly performing team’s ability to evolve while maintaining productivity.