Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Using Collaboration and Communication to Ensure Project Success

Using Collaboration and Communication to Ensure Project Success

In my opinion - and I believe many project professionals' opinions - the number one key to project success is effective and efficient communication. I don't mean sending emails every hour on the hour. That's neither effective nor efficient. That is a waste of time. Information overload is not really helpful for anyone and your project resources will come to resent you - the project manager - for filling up their days with useful reading. In fact, they'll learn to tune your verbal and written communications out if you are an ineffective communicator. Why? Because they'll feel they have better things to do and that you're not really adding any useful information to their efforts.

Along with effective and efficient communication on projects is the concept of collaboration. Collaboration can have many meanings in the project management world. In general, the best way to solve the project collaboration issue is by utilizing a solid project management tool like Project Drive's web-based project management and collaboration tool.

Let's look at and discuss four keys to effective communication and project collaboration:

Creating a project communication plan

One item that is critical, but often overlooked, is the project communication plan. When the project manager puts a detailed, official project communication plan together at the beginning of the project he is telling everyone that this is how information will be processed and delivered on the project. It sets an expectation with the project team and the customer, it can be another paid deliverable on the project if planned right - thus increasing revenue, and it adds to customer satisfaction and confidence because they know there's a plan in place that they can hold you to.

Producing timely project status information

Of course, once a communication plan is in place, you MUST follow it. And one of the key areas of project information dissemination is through the detailed weekly status report. Produce and deliver a detailed status report and revised project schedule at least one day in advance of the project status meeting with the customer and don't deviate from the schedule. Likewise, be diligent about delivering updated relevant project status information through effective emails throughout the week - don't wait for weekly status call to get important information out to everyone. And always follow-up the status meeting by sending out notes to all participants to ensure that everyone understood what was discussed and that all parties are on the same page.

Conducting regularly scheduled informational meetings

As mentioned above, plan to hold regular weekly official status calls with the customer. It's your chance to check up on the customer's progress on any assigned tasks, provide the customer with detailed updates on your team's progress, and review and discuss any outstanding issues and risks. Just as important, though, are weekly informal status meetings with the entire project team. This is the project manager's chance to get all status information from the team, discuss decisions that need to be made and any concerns team members might have, and to discuss newly assigned tasks and give proper direction. Use this time to prepare much of the discussion that will take place during the official formal weekly call or meeting with the customer.

Using an effective scheduling and collaboration tool

Finally, choose and effective tool to both manage your project schedule and allow for team collaboration on the project. Choosing a good web-based collaboration tool like Project Drive is often a good idea and can drive effective and efficient communication and information-sharing on the project, as well as making your project team members responsible for providing their project task updates to you with no excuses.