Creating a project communication plan is
the first step in safeguarding a successful operation. A respectable plan
prepares a project team, whether co-located or virtual, with the essential
steps on communication which enables them to work successfully and efficiently.
Project communications are a synchronized work
by all project associates; from the project manager (PM) who is accountable for
the general communication and by what method it is distributed, to specific teammates
who adds to the process. Project communications plans track the essential inquiries
of who will receive information, what information wishes to be communicated,
how will it be dispersed and how frequently, and lastly, who on the project
team will be accountable for distributing the information.
The following sections of this paper will
present the initial findings on communications related with a project virtual
team. An in-depth examination of transferable knowledge from areas such as
project management and virtual team communication has been explored and will
complement the results of the paper.
The research for this paper was performed
using a qualitative and investigative method.
Secondary research written by scholars and academic leaders in the field
of project communication management and virtual team management were used. The
PMBOK was also used as a source which provided valuable understanding of project
communication. Source material for this
paper was established from an assortment of published sources, which were retrieved
online or by hard copy. Access to online
project management resource sites and PMI’s extensively recognized guidelines
on project management standards permitted for a comprehensive reach of reliable
resources which were used to support the findings of this paper.
A “stakeholder” is anybody who has an
interest in the project. These are individuals who can influence the outcome of
the project (PMI, 2017). Stakeholders
can be people within the work who have an interest in the project. This will comprise
of all project team, contractors, vendors, management, and anybody else
involved in the success of the project.
The project team must recognize all audiences
that will receive communications. With virtual teams, there can be stakeholders
from all over the world. This can pose
problem on identifying who has the assigned task for a job. Therefore, a team charter is important. “As part of a virtual team charter, it is
vital that the team organization employ an IT strategy that effectively shrinks
the world and makes interaction and communication as effective as possible.
Just having e-mail and a long-distance phone plan is no longer enough. Instant
messaging programs, teleconferencing equipment and video monitors, if used
properly, have the ability to trump the distance and time zones between team
members and make everyone feel, at least temporarily, as if they’re all in the
same room” (Riley, 2008).
A project communication plan is a plan for
communication methods during a project (PMI, 2017). Due to teams being
scattered on a virtual team, the plan must provide the correct information to
the exact person at the precise time.
Doing this will help set expectations, improve decision making, keep the
team up-to-date with present and future tasks, and plan processes for dealing
with risks and issues.
Project teams should have a strong
understanding of the company’s objectives.
To ensure that project teams are focused with company goals, project
managers should make those goals clear and communicated often. Since virtual teams sometimes feel that they
are aloof, they need to be reminded often that what they do every day
contributes to the company’s success. “This is particularly vital for team
members working virtually. A virtual employee may speak to their boss rarely or
in group calls with many other employees. Therefore, it’s easy for these
employees to begin focusing on their day-to-day tasks and lose track of the
bigger picture. In addition, their
issues 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 can
lead to a feeling of disengagement” (Riley, 2008).
Whether communications are dispersed only
to a co-located or virtual teams, each communication distributed should be
arranged for a precise target stakeholder. If many different stakeholders with unlike
desires exist, the content of each communication should also be varied for the
intended receivers. An example in information technology (IT) would be
communications of specifications that would be distributed to stakeholders
overseas. This same information would not be distributed to other stakeholders
but to only individuals responsible for the required specs.
Though electronic communications such as
email may be the most effective ways of communication with virtual teams,
“e-mail should never be used for revealing large-scale problems. A true virtual
team will likely never all be in the same room together; that’s just a given.
However, significant information, sensitive information, and surprising
information simply can’t be delivered via e-mail. Schedule a conference call,
bring everyone together virtually, and deliver such information then” (Riley,
The key to distributing communication is
learning the team’s needs and, with a virtual team, adjusting communications
means accordingly. Taking time to understand and implement this approach
increases the likelihood that stakeholders will pay attention to what is
communicated, leading to more effective results.
As a project manager (PM), part of their
job 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 manager
of a virtual team, it’s also critical to the project’s success. If a PM engage stakeholders during the
planning stage, everybody gets a mutual understanding of the scope, the schedule,
the economics, and the resource from the beginning. This means no surprises during
the project lifecycle between stakeholders.
As a leader overseeing projects with a
virtual team, a PM needs to make sure that the project plan is understood and
approved upon by all stakeholders from the very start. Since part of the team
are on different locations, the PM needs to keep everyone apprised of project
status as the project develops and deviations occur.
The best way in handling expectations is by
using a collaborative tool that routinely updates when things changes with the
project. “A server or Web-based project management tool with integrated data
capture and reporting is needed to make a comprehensive master project plan
available, and to enable streamlined reporting at multiple levels of detail”
(Pitagorsky, 2007). This means everybody
from team members to stakeholders, across time zones, can access and get
understanding into the project as it evolves and progress throughout the
Communicating the project performance and
forecasting the project results is vital to project teams, especially with
virtual teams. The communication can act
as a benchmark on how the team is doing during the project lifecycle. A virtual
team needs to exploit visibility and information accessibility to those important
people that needs to know every step of the project.
Per Pitagorsky (2007), performance
communication can be active or passive.
Active communication includes e-mails created upon achievement of tasks
to notify project managers and stakeholders, status reports and formal progress
presentations. Passive reporting means posting status and progress information
on a shared web site. Dashboards, routinely updated based on data entered, are
perfect for virtual team reporting. Involved parties can access data as needed.
There are many common stumbling blocks with
virtual team communications. These
complications can stop the forward progress of any virtual team and derail a
project. Some of the challenges faced by virtual teams that affect
stakeholders, 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 efficiently
can make it impossible to achieve anything with virtual and non-virtual teams. A
virtual work environment, though, will have individuals working from diverse
physical locations and in many time zones. It is significant to include the whole
team while preparing a communication plan.
best thing a PM can do for a virtual team is accept collaborative technology.
There are countless online tools offered to manage assignment, communicate instantaneously
as a group, track tasks and improvement, share files, report difficulties, and work
together as a team. The core
communication tools like telephone, Internet, video conferencing, online tools
and fax are usually used in establishments today (Managementguide.com, 2010).
A good communication plays a dynamic role
in determining the success of virtual projects.
An unsuitable communication within a virtual team can make the condition
disordered and lead to project catastrophes. A PM needs to consider all stakeholders
while making a communication plan. The right communication media, whether
email, video conferencing and file sharing needs to be established to
successfully report and distribute every aspect of the project. Again, the physical locations and time zones
need to be considered while designing the plans.