Friday 18 August 2023

5 Key Communication Strategies for Successful IT Project Management


IT Project Management


1. Foreword

There are two "hardest" in the course of an IT project. The most difficult thing to meet is customer demand, and the most difficult thing to guarantee is progress.

In fact, these two "most difficult" can be solved by communication. The impact of communication on projects is often subtle, so people often do not feel the important role played by communication in successful projects, but the harm of poor communication can be seen best in the painful reflection of failed projects. 


Without good information communication, there will be constraints on the development of the project and the improvement of interpersonal relationships. 


In IT projects, the biggest threat to the success of the project is the failure of communication.


The three factors for the success of an IT project include: active participation of users, clear expression of requirements, and strong support from management. 


All three rely on good communication skills. Any IT project can fully understand customer needs, according to the estimated schedule time to implement and complete, and achieve the expected design results, is very difficult, as a project manager needs to coordinate and manage customers, team members and many other aspects.


 Understanding customer needs at the start of the project, cost application in the planning stage, progress control in the implementation process, expectation of procurement risks and all other links, not only to have a unified plan, but also a set of applicable communication methods, so that some important project information is controlled by the project manager in real time. 


Incorrect communication channels and methods will result in information not reaching its destination. In real life, cultural background, work background, and technical background can cause a big deviation in the way of expression and understanding of the same event.


2. Customer communication is one of the most important factors affecting the success of the project


Combined with practical work experience, in the early stage of the project, the most important work is to understand the scope of user requirements. Every information point expressed by the user may be the focus of the project, and communication management is particularly important at this time. Here's a personal failure:


According to market feedback, the company learned that a functional department of a municipal government has a demand for an e-government system. After market research, the company decided to launch a software project for a government department in a city. At the beginning of the project, two brainstorming sessions were held within the project team to analyze and summarize the preliminary design requirements. 


After that, through the relationship, a software developer was sent to the department to investigate the user needs and returned to the company after a 2-hour field visit. 


The software developer summarized a 2-word user demand survey report on one page. Based on this report, the project manager quickly developed a practical project design specification, which was expected to be completed within 1 month.


After 1 month of closed development, a potential client came up with a very specific requirement that conflicted with the current project plan. The project manager leads the team to quickly adjust the plan and make changes to the code that has already been written. The development plan was changed to 4 months.


After half a month, the customer proposed a major change to a feature that would result in a partial code rewrite that had already been completed. Since the customer insisted on the change, the project manager had to adjust the plan again and make changes to the code already written again. The development plan is adjusted to 5 months. This article is transferred from the Project Manager Consortium.


Since then, new changes have been proposed. Project Manager Alliance article, deep dive.


After 10 months, the project had to be wrapped up early in order to gain market share. After being introduced onto the market, problems continue to be reported, entering a vicious cycle of trial-change-trial.




The immediate reason for the failure of this project was the lack of good communication with potential customers, resulting in unclear scope.


At the official beginning of the project, a communication plan should be developed.


The project manager should develop a detailed communication plan at the beginning and effectively control the communication plan. Avoid disorderly communication with customers.


Communication management forms should be prepared.


In this project, relevant communication forms, such as user demand questionnaires, should be designed according to the project application unit, and the relevant forms should be effectively managed. Through the filling of the form, the user needs can be effectively summarized and standardized.


A formal list of requirements should be signed. This article is transferred from the Project Manager Consortium.


After sorting out and confirming the user's needs, a detailed list of requirements is listed, and the user's formal signature and seal confirmation is requested, and the list can be retained as an annex to the contract. This avoids disputes between the two parties over the scope of the project.


Lack of vertical and horizontal communication with customers.


In the process of early communication of the project, the project manager sends a software developer to understand the customer needs, which is incomplete. 


As a software developer, you cannot have a complete understanding of the overall requirements of a project. It would be ideal to organize user representatives to communicate with the project team in the form of meetings. 


When the project involves multiple customer departments, only one developer is far from being able to coordinate the needs of multi-department customers, and it is necessary for the project manager or company leader to communicate with the user's supervisor to obtain support and coordination between the various departments involved in the user in the project implementation process.


3. Good communication within the team to ensure the progress of the project Project Manager Alliance article, in-depth discussion.


A good team must have a good communication platform and mechanism. Conversely, a bad team must have problems with communication. In projects, communication cannot be ignored. One of the most important tasks of project managers is communication, and usually the time spent in this area should account for 75%~90% of the total work. 


Good communication is the only way to obtain enough information, identify potential problems, and control all aspects of the project. The team's internal communication will have a direct impact on the success of the project.


In the actual project process, it is often encountered: the programmer describes the module architecture he is responsible for during the design review, but after the software is developed, you find that this is very different from the structure you understand. The project manager asked the project team members to report the progress by email every week, but suddenly one day it was found that the schedule was far from the plan.


In a relatively complete communication management system, the following aspects should be included: communication planning, information distribution, performance reporting and management closure. The communication plan determines the information communication needs of stakeholders: who needs what information, when it is needed, and how it is obtained. Information publishing enables needed information to be sent to stakeholders in a timely manner. 


Performance reports collect and disseminate information on implementation, including status reports, progress reports and projections. After a project or project phase has reached its objectives or terminated for any reason, it needs to be closed, and management closure contains the formation of a document of project results, including the collection of project records, assurance of compliance with final specifications, analysis of the effectiveness of the project (success or lessons learned), and archiving of this information for future use.


The project communication plan is part of the overall project plan, and its role is very important and often overlooked. 


Many projects do not have a complete communication plan, resulting in very chaotic communication. Some project communication is still effective, but it depends entirely on customer relationships or previous project experience, or entirely on the individual competence of the project manager.


Strictly speaking, however, an efficient system should not exist only in the brain, nor should it rely solely on oral transmission, and it is necessary to implement it in normative planning. Therefore, a communication plan should also be included in the initial phase of the project.


When a project manager receives a new project, what exactly should be the first thing to do? Is it to hold a project team meeting, meet with customers, and check the progress of the project? 


In fact, the first thing to do is to check the communication plan of the entire project, because the communication plan describes the collection and archiving structure of project information, the way information is published, the content of the information, the schedule generated by each type of communication, the agreed communication method, and so on. 


Only by understanding these thoroughly can we grasp the communication and familiarize yourself with other situations of the project on this basis.


When preparing a project communication plan, it is important to understand the organizational structure and do a good stakeholder analysis. 


The organizational structure of the project manager usually has a greater impact on communication needs, such as the organization requires the project manager to make regular progress analysis reports to the project management department, then this must be included in the communication plan. The interests of project stakeholders are affected by the success or failure of the project, so their needs must be considered. 


The most typical and important stakeholder is the customer, and the project team member, the project manager, and his supervisor are also the more important stakeholders. 


What information all these people need, whether the information required at each stage is different, and what preferences are in the way information is delivered, all need to be carefully analyzed. 


For example, some customers want to submit progress reports every week, some customers want to have telephone communication in addition to weekly reports, and some customers want to regularly check the project results, all kinds of situations must be taken into account, the results of the analysis should be reflected in the communication plan and can meet the information needs of different personnel, so that the established communication system will be comprehensive and effective.


Project Manager Consortium


In the project, many people also know how to communicate, but the effect is not obvious, it seems that it is always not in place, and the problems caused by this are endless. In fact, there are many points and principles to master to achieve effective communication, and early communication and active communication are two of the principles, and practice has proved that they are very critical.


I once met a project manager, checked the work of the team members loose and tight, the construction period was almost to communicate with everyone, only to find that the progress was much slower than expected, and the future work was naturally very passive.


Early communication requires project managers to be forward-looking, and regularly establish communication with project members, not only easy to find current problems, but also many potential problems can be exposed. It's not scary to have problems in the project, it's scary that the problems go undetected. The later you communicate, the later you expose yourself and the greater the loss.


Communication is the way people communicate with each other. Active communication is ultimately an attitude towards communication. In our projects, we strongly advocate proactive communication, especially when it is clear that communication is necessary. 


When communication is that the project manager faces the user or superior, and the team members face the project manager, active communication can not only establish a close connection, but also show that you attach importance to and participate in the project, which will greatly improve the satisfaction of the other party of the communication, which is very beneficial to the entire project.


Communication must be two-way, and the message must be received by the recipient. All communication methods must have a feedback mechanism. 


For example, when communicating using Mail, the recipient must be asked to simply reply "received" in order to respond. Once the information is received, it must also be understood correctly. 


A lot of information is conveyed, but it is misunderstood, resulting in a lot of. In communication management, the project manager requires secondary expression of important notices, changes, and other information through Mail. This expression is to refine or paraphrase while the recipient confirms that he understands, rather than repeating it. 


To put it bluntly, it is to ask the recipient of the information to explain what they understand and how they plan to do it, and use Mail to transmit the relevant ideas or measures to the sender for confirmation.


4. Horizontal communication between departments can save costs


A reasonable organization is conducive to information communication and can also promote the good progress of the project. 


If the project involves too many relevant functional departments, and there is a lack of communication, coordination, and coordination between them, it will inevitably affect the overall process of project implementation and delay the progress of the project. 


Therefore, it is necessary to increase the communication management between functional departments.


If the organizational structure is bloated, the institutional setup is unreasonable, the responsibilities between various departments are not clear, the division of labor is not clear, multiple leaders are formed, or people are floating because of people, it will cause certain psychological pressure on both sides of the communication and affect the progress of communication. Poor communication between departments will increase the cost of project implementation.


The high cost of interdepartmental coordination is not only within large organizations, but also plagues small and medium-sized companies in the middle of the world. 


First, functions fail to effectively integrate their goals under organizational goals—despite the clarity and nuance. Second, the shortage of resources within the organization and the pressure of the competitive environment have led to the increasing cost of communication between departments. 


In the company, employees and middle managers spend about 40%~50% of their working time on internal communication, and for senior managers, this ratio will be higher.


Horizontal communication channels refer to the transfer and exchange of information between individuals and groups at a similar level in the organizational system. Across the company, horizontal communication can be divided into three types. First, information communication between the company's decision-making level and functional departments. The second is information communication between senior managers. 


The third is the information communication between functional departments and the information communication between middle managers. Horizontal communication can also take the form of formal communication or informal communication. 


The latter is often the case, especially when formal or pre-developed communication plans are difficult to achieve, and informal communication is often an extremely effective remedy. Horizontal communication has many advantages: 


First, it can simplify procedures and procedures, save time, and improve work efficiency. Second, it can enable the various departments of the enterprise to understand each other, help to cultivate a holistic concept and spirit of cooperation, and overcome the tendency to be logistical.


5. Summary This article is transferred from the Project Manager Alliance


For projects, communication is the lubricant that guarantees the organization, command, coordination, and control of the smooth implementation of the project. 


Combined with the project, the project manager should clarify the mutually agreed communication channels according to the actual situation of the project in the communication management plan, such as formal report communication with users, email communication with project members, and effective form communication with other functional departments. 


Establish a communication feedback mechanism, any communication must be in place, no deviation, and regularly check the project communication and constantly adjust. This way, smooth, effective communication is no longer a problem.


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