Communication Plans & Strategies for IT Projects

The outcome of computer network, database design and software development projects not only affects every aspect of your business, but it also affects long-term survival rates. Despite this, IT projects are often difficult to manage successfully. For one thing, IT project managers are often responsible for coordinating the activities of multiple teams, as well as coordinating communications within and between teams and reporting to project stakeholders. For these reasons, a disciplined approach and a well-developed communication plan are vital to effective IT project management.

Communication Strategy Goals

  1. A good IT project communication strategy creates an environment that makes it easy for team members to work together to achieve the expected outcome. Good communications not only guarantee teams understand their specific tasks and responsibilities, but they also make sure each team member understands how even the smallest task contributes -- and is vital to -- a successful outcome. In addition, a clear strategy is vital to identifying and resolving problems before they become significant issues, and for keeping project stakeholders in the project loop.

Communication Channels

  1. The key to a successful communication strategy is a plan in which information consistently flows in the right direction. For a small business with no external stakeholders, an effective plan often separates communications into upward and downward channels. The upward channel, used for reporting to the business owner, typically identifies issues the teams are dealing with and includes high-level progress, scheduling and deployment reports. The downward channel establishes patterns and methods for communicating between and within teams. For example, the downward channels in a software development project typically define how team members tell others about issues such as coding exceptions, communicate software testing results, and pass completed software modules along the project development route.

Significance of Constant Communications

  1. Compartmentalized processes, critical deadlines and the progressive workflows characteristic of IT projects underscore the significance of daily communications. While weekly updates are often enough to discuss issues and assess progress in most types of business projects, IT projects require almost constant communications within and between teams. To provide for these special communication needs, an IT project communication plan should address reporting patterns, clearly identify who reports to whom and provide a variety of communication methods.

Common Communications Tools

  1. A good plan allows for multiple ways an IT project manager can communicate with stakeholders and teams, as well as multiple ways teams can communicate with the project manager and with each other. Among the most common communication tools are face-to-face meetings, emails, instant messaging and written documentation such as issue documentation and testing logs. Formal meetings start with an agenda and finish with published meeting minutes. In addition, a Web-based dashboard is a communication tool many IT project managers use to facilitate communications and give teams a constant visual snapshot of the overall status of a project.