Let’s be honest: as a Project Manager, keeping track of project information can be difficult during the best of times; let alone when you are responsible for multiple efforts! With several stakeholders requesting different information and team members continually updating you on their progress through their tasks, sometimes finding the time to complete even the most necessary of tasks can be a stretch on your already strained daily and weekly schedules. I would like to offer you a few small tips and tricks that I use while managing projects that may be of some use to you during your project management efforts.
Tip: Communicate effectively with your stakeholders.
Have you ever had a stakeholder that always asks questions about your project at the most inopportune times? How much time have you spent reassuring stakeholders after they hear about your project randomly from a third party? Do you get blindsided in project review meetings by a new stakeholder you had not accounted for? These are fairly common issues for many Project Managers; stakeholders both join and leave organizations effected by your projects and sometimes existing stakeholders are missed during crucial project communications. Here are a few tips and tricks for managing your stakeholders in a more efficient and hopefully, less time consuming manner.
Create a Communication Plan
A communication plan is a necessary tool in any Project Manager’s chest: it not only creates an understanding with your stakeholders about when they will receive information, but also lets the Project Manager know when he or she needs to send out project information. By capturing the deliverables necessary in a calendar and delivering them consistently it will allow you less uncertainty and ultimately better informed stakeholders.
Create Reporting Templates for Communications
Communicating with your stakeholders can be a time consuming process; especially when you are managing more than one project or if your project has a large and varied stakeholder group. A solid recommendation for communicating with different groups is to create a consistent template that you can use; this may be an email, a presentation, or another type of deliverable that was agreed to in the communications plan. Using the same reporting template can help you take a laborious task and reduce it down to a few minutes for each communication. This can hopefully help everyone reclaim some precious time during the day.
Automate Communication Where Possible
Now that we have created some reports and (hopefully) saved you some time, I recommend looking for opportunities to automate your communications. Why? Because ultimately, if you can save time creating templates imagine how much more you can save if you have a mechanism established to automatically create a report, or even better, a dashboard that is automatically updated with project information that stakeholders can check at their leisure. While this may not be readily possible due to technological constraints or organizational capability, it is the best possible case and tools like Project Server and PPMX can help you proliferate this information to your stakeholders much more easily.
Reassess the Project’s Stakeholders Occasionally
Depending on the length of a project, it may be necessary to check back with your stakeholders to see if there are any new contacts or if any need to be dropped from your communications plan for various reasons. This very well might prevent some future issues where people are left out of communications and head off some questions they might come forward with before they become issues. I would recommend reassessing the communication plan at any major phase or stage completion milestone, or whenever there is a significant change to the project or organizational leadership. These events might significantly change the audience of your project reporting and new stakeholders may change the course of your project.
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