IntroductionCreating a project communication plan isthe first step in safeguarding a successful operation. A respectable planprepares a project team, whether co-located or virtual, with the essentialsteps on communication which enables them to work successfully and efficiently.Project communications are a synchronized workby all project associates; from the project manager (PM) who is accountable forthe general communication and by what method it is distributed, to specific teammateswho adds to the process. Project communications plans track the essential inquiriesof who will receive information, what information wishes to be communicated,how will it be dispersed and how frequently, and lastly, who on the projectteam will be accountable for distributing the information.
The following sections of this paper willpresent the initial findings on communications related with a project virtualteam. An in-depth examination of transferable knowledge from areas such asproject management and virtual team communication has been explored and willcomplement the results of the paper. The research for this paper was performedusing a qualitative and investigative method. Secondary research written by scholars and academic leaders in the fieldof project communication management and virtual team management were used.
ThePMBOK was also used as a source which provided valuable understanding of projectcommunication. Source material for thispaper was established from an assortment of published sources, which were retrievedonline or by hard copy. Access to onlineproject management resource sites and PMI’s extensively recognized guidelineson project management standards permitted for a comprehensive reach of reliableresources which were used to support the findings of this paper.SummaryIdentifystakeholdersA “stakeholder” is anybody who has aninterest in the project. These are individuals who can influence the outcome ofthe project (PMI, 2017). Stakeholderscan be people within the work who have an interest in the project.
This will compriseof all project team, contractors, vendors, management, and anybody elseinvolved in the success of the project. The project team must recognize all audiencesthat will receive communications. With virtual teams, there can be stakeholdersfrom all over the world. This can poseproblem on identifying who has the assigned task for a job. Therefore, a team charter is important. “As part of a virtual team charter, it isvital that the team organization employ an IT strategy that effectively shrinksthe world and makes interaction and communication as effective as possible.Just having e-mail and a long-distance phone plan is no longer enough.
Instantmessaging programs, teleconferencing equipment and video monitors, if usedproperly, have the ability to trump the distance and time zones between teammembers and make everyone feel, at least temporarily, as if they’re all in thesame room” (Riley, 2008). Plan communicationsA project communication plan is a plan forcommunication methods during a project (PMI, 2017). Due to teams beingscattered on a virtual team, the plan must provide the correct information tothe exact person at the precise time.
Doing this will help set expectations, improve decision making, keep theteam up-to-date with present and future tasks, and plan processes for dealingwith risks and issues.Project teams should have a strongunderstanding of the company’s objectives. To ensure that project teams are focused with company goals, projectmanagers should make those goals clear and communicated often. Since virtual teams sometimes feel that theyare aloof, they need to be reminded often that what they do every daycontributes to the company’s success.
“This is particularly vital for teammembers working virtually. A virtual employee may speak to their boss rarely orin group calls with many other employees. Therefore, it’s easy for theseemployees to begin focusing on their day-to-day tasks and lose track of thebigger picture. In addition, theirissues or questions often go understated because the boss is not in proximity.Employee concerns can’t always wait until a monthly or weekly call.
This canlead to a feeling of disengagement” (Riley, 2008).DistributeinformationWhether communications are dispersed onlyto a co-located or virtual teams, each communication distributed should bearranged for a precise target stakeholder. If many different stakeholders with unlikedesires exist, the content of each communication should also be varied for theintended receivers. An example in information technology (IT) would becommunications of specifications that would be distributed to stakeholdersoverseas.
This same information would not be distributed to other stakeholdersbut to only individuals responsible for the required specs. Though electronic communications such asemail may be the most effective ways of communication with virtual teams,”e-mail should never be used for revealing large-scale problems. A true virtualteam will likely never all be in the same room together; that’s just a given.However, significant information, sensitive information, and surprisinginformation simply can’t be delivered via e-mail. Schedule a conference call,bring everyone together virtually, and deliver such information then” (Riley,2008).The key to distributing communication islearning the team’s needs and, with a virtual team, adjusting communicationsmeans accordingly.
Taking time to understand and implement this approachincreases the likelihood that stakeholders will pay attention to what iscommunicated, leading to more effective results.Manage stakeholderexpectationsAs a project manager (PM), part of theirjob is to align the project team with the company’s goals, vision and scope(PMI, 2017). While this is one of the toughest challenges for a project managerof a virtual team, it’s also critical to the project’s success. If a PM engage stakeholders during theplanning stage, everybody gets a mutual understanding of the scope, the schedule,the economics, and the resource from the beginning. This means no surprises duringthe project lifecycle between stakeholders. As a leader overseeing projects with avirtual team, a PM needs to make sure that the project plan is understood andapproved upon by all stakeholders from the very start. Since part of the teamare on different locations, the PM needs to keep everyone apprised of projectstatus as the project develops and deviations occur.
The best way in handling expectations is byusing a collaborative tool that routinely updates when things changes with theproject. “A server or Web-based project management tool with integrated datacapture and reporting is needed to make a comprehensive master project planavailable, and to enable streamlined reporting at multiple levels of detail”(Pitagorsky, 2007). This means everybodyfrom team members to stakeholders, across time zones, can access and getunderstanding into the project as it evolves and progress throughout theschedule.Report performanceCommunicating the project performance andforecasting the project results is vital to project teams, especially withvirtual teams. The communication can actas a benchmark on how the team is doing during the project lifecycle.
A virtualteam needs to exploit visibility and information accessibility to those importantpeople that needs to know every step of the project.Per Pitagorsky (2007), performancecommunication can be active or passive. Active communication includes e-mails created upon achievement of tasksto notify project managers and stakeholders, status reports and formal progresspresentations. Passive reporting means posting status and progress informationon a shared web site. Dashboards, routinely updated based on data entered, areperfect for virtual team reporting. Involved parties can access data as needed.
AnalysisThere are many common stumbling blocks withvirtual team communications. Thesecomplications can stop the forward progress of any virtual team and derail aproject. Some of the challenges faced by virtual teams that affectstakeholders, communications, expectations, and performance are:? Confusion from poor communication? Incompatible communication preferences? Lack of clarity and direction? Lack of personal connection (Garton et al., 2006, p. 197-198)The inability to communicate efficientlycan make it impossible to achieve anything with virtual and non-virtual teams.
Avirtual work environment, though, will have individuals working from diversephysical locations and in many time zones. It is significant to include the wholeteam while preparing a communication plan. Thebest thing a PM can do for a virtual team is accept collaborative technology.There are countless online tools offered to manage assignment, communicate instantaneouslyas a group, track tasks and improvement, share files, report difficulties, and worktogether as a team. The corecommunication tools like telephone, Internet, video conferencing, online toolsand fax are usually used in establishments today (Managementguide.com, 2010).ConclusionA good communication plays a dynamic rolein determining the success of virtual projects.
An unsuitable communication within a virtual team can make the conditiondisordered and lead to project catastrophes. A PM needs to consider all stakeholderswhile making a communication plan. The right communication media, whetheremail, video conferencing and file sharing needs to be established tosuccessfully report and distribute every aspect of the project. Again, the physical locations and time zonesneed to be considered while designing the plans.