Hello and welcome back to our PMP Series. In the previous posts, we discussed project scope management, project time management, project cost management, project quality management, and project human resource management. In this article, we will explore another project management knowledge area – Project Communication Management.

Project Communication Management is the knowledge area that involves ensuring timely and appropriate planning, collection, creation, distribution, storage, retrieval, management, control, monitoring, and the ultimate disposition of project information. As a project manager, the goal here is to ensure that there is effective communication among stakeholders of the project despite their different backgrounds, levels of expertise, etc.

As a project manager, you will spend a great deal of time communicating with stakeholders. Research has shown that project managers spend the greatest part of their time communicating with team members and stakeholders. There are various dimensions of communication that you should consider as a project manager. Some of them include:

  1. Internal (within the project) versus external (outside the project) communication
  2. Formal (e.g. reports) versus informal (e.g. ad-hoc discussions) communication
  3. Vertical (to superiors or subordinates) versus horizontal (to peers) communication
  4. Official versus unofficial communication
  5. Written versus oral communication
  6. Verbal versus non-verbal communication

There are three (3) project communication management processes:

  1. Plan communications management
  2. Manage communications
  3. Control communications

Note: The project communications management knowledge area is one of the knowledge areas that changed a bit with the new version of the PMP exam. Essentially, this knowledge area was split into two new knowledge areas (Project communication management and Project stakeholder management. The processes were renamed and became more focused around communications rather than stakeholder management. We will explore project stakeholder management in a different article later.

Plan Communications Management

This is the process that deals with developing an appropriate plan for communications based on stakeholder needs and organizational assets. The goal of this process is to create a communication management plan that serves as a guide for all communications that would occur on the project. Project communication planning should occur early on in the project because communication would begin to occur right from the very start of the project until its end.

The inputs to the plan communications process are the project management plan, the stakeholder register, enterprise environmental factors (e.g. organizational structure) and organization process assets (historical information and lessons learned from past projects).

The tools and techniques for the plan communications process include:

  1. Communication Requirement Analysis: This determines the information needs of the stakeholders. The goal here is to ensure that project resources are only expended on communicating information that affects the success (or failure) of the project.

    As part of communication requirement analysis, the project manager should determine the potential number of communication channels because it shows the complexity of the project team. As more stakeholders are added to a project, the number of communication channels also increases. You can calculate the number of communication channels using the formula, n (n-1)/2, where n is the number of stakeholders on the project.

    Although this number is usually large, it is the project manager’s duty to determine and limit who would communicate with whom on the project.

  2. Communication Technology: This is the method or means used to transfer information between stakeholders. This can vary from simple conversations to complex project collaboration software. The choice of communication technology depends on various factors. Some of the factors include urgency of information, availability of technology, ease of use, project environment and confidentiality or sensitivity of information.
  3. Communication Model: The model used for communication between stakeholders can be simple or complex depending on the nature of the project and the current stage of the project. Elements of a communication model include:
    1. Encode: Thoughts and ideas are transferred into language by the sender.
    2. Message: This is the output of the encoding, that is, the information sent out to the receiver via the communication medium.
    3. Decode: This is the translation of the message received into meaningful ideas.
    4. Acknowledgement: This is a message by the receiver sent to confirm receipt of the sender’s message.
    5. Feedback/response: This is a message sent as a result of the initial message of the sender. Unlike acknowledgements, response messages contain information or ideas.
    6. Noise: This is anything that interferes with communication or the understanding of the message sent. Examples include distance, unfamiliar technology, etc.

    An example of a basic communication model is shown below:

    Basic Communication Model

  4. Communication Methods: Communication methods can be broadly classified into three categories:
    1. Push communication: These are messages that are sent (pushed) to specific stakeholders who need the information. This method of communication guarantees that the right people receive the information (even though it does not guarantee that they would understand it). Examples include letters, emails, memos, etc.
    2. Pull communication: This method of communication places the information in a repository so that interested recipients can access it as they desire. This is usually used when the information is too large or if the recipients are too many. Examples of this method include knowledge databases or website information.
    3. Interactive communication: As the name implies, the goal of this method is bidirectional communication between the sender and receiver. This method of communication ensures that there is a common understanding among all parties in the communication. Examples include phone calls, meetings, etc.
  5. Meetings: Meetings allow issues to be discussed and conclusions to be reached within a finite time. As a project manager, you should ensure that ground rules are observed during meetings and that they are generally productive.

The major output of the plan communications process is a communication management plan that details the communication requirements of the stakeholders, the person responsible for the communication and the communication methods and technologies that would be employed.

Manage Communications

Manage Communications is the process of creating, collecting, distributing, storing, retrieving, and the ultimate disposition of project information in accordance to the communications management plan.

From the definition, one obvious input of the manage communications process is the communications management plan. Other inputs include work performance reports, enterprise environment factors and organizational process assets.

We have already examined most of the tools and techniques for this process (since most of them are the same with those in plan communications). They include:

  1. Communication Technology
  2. Communication Models
  3. Communication Methods
  4. Information Management System: This deals with the tools that are used to manage and distribute project information. They include:
    1. Hardcopy document management
    2. Electronic communications management
    3. Project management tools and software
  5. Performance Reporting: This focuses on an important part of project communications. It involves communicating forecasts, work performance information, progress reports, etc., to stakeholders on the project. As a project manager, you need to ensure that you provide the right detail of information to the stakeholders concerned. Simple status reports (such as project dashboards) can be useful to communicate a great deal of information within a short time.

The main output of the manage communications process is the project communications. This includes status and progress reports, performance reports, etc. Other outputs include updates to the project management plan and the project documents. Sometimes, you might need to update the organizational process assets based on feedback received from stakeholders during communication.

Control Communications

This is the monitoring and controlling process that is focused on ensuring that the information needs of the stakeholders are met on a project. The process usually triggers an adjustment in the other communication management processes. For instance, while trying to ensure optimal communication, a project manager might change the communication technology or method that was previously defined in order to increase the efficiency of communication.

The inputs of the process include the project management plan, project communications, issue logs, work performance data and organizational process assets.

The tools and techniques employed include the information management system, expert judgment and project meetings.

The outputs of the process include work performance information, change requests and updates to the project management plan and project documents. As with the manage communications process, there might be cases where you need to update the organizational process assets (such as lessons learned) based on feedback received from stakeholders during communication.

Tip: A common output to most monitoring/control processes are change requests. This is because most control processes lead to a change in the original plan and changes must be properly documented using change requests.

There you have it, the four processes that form the project communication management knowledge area. As usual, we have a summary diagram of the processes from the PMBOK shown below:

Thank you for reading. Don’t forget to drop your thoughts and questions in the comments section. In our next article in this series, we will explore project risk management. See you soon!

References and further reading

  1. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: PMBOK Guide. Project Management Institute.