Crafting a Communication Plan for IT Projects

For every IT project plan, there should be an included communication plan. 

Communication is a crucial piece to the overall implementation and ultimate success of your IT project. According to InfoTech Research Group, an effective communication plan will have 4 elements.  It will help gain support from management at the project proposal phase.  It will create end-user buy-in once the program is set to launch.  It will maintain the presence of the program throughout the business.  And it will instill ownership throughout the business from top-level management to new employees.

The Audience

When I sit down to draft the communication plan, I first consider the audience or the people who will be impacted.  These are typically: 1) internal staff or groups of users on staff, 2) the senior management team, 3) the Board of Directors or other volunteer leadership team, and 4) external members and customers.

The Message

When it comes to crafting the messages themselves, I focus on the 5Ws. 

  1. Who – Who will be affected? Who is responsible? Who needs to be consulted? Who needs to be informed?
  2. What – What is changing? What is the final goal? How will it benefit me? What will be impacted?
  3. Where – Where will the change happen?
  4. When – When will this be happening? When will it impact me?
  5. Why – What problems are you trying to solve?

The Delivery

The timing of the messages can be delivered on an ongoing basis like in the case with a long-term project or with quick targeted messages as needed.  Considering the opportunities to get in front of our intended audience, review key dates for in-person presentation opportunities such as all-staff meetings, senior team meetings, and board meetings, as well as other communication opportunities like e-newsletter delivery dates.  An email or a simple announcement on a web page or collaboration board can also be used, when appropriate or needed for timing.

Lastly, given the message, you need to deliver to the intended audience and the best timing of when to delivery it, then you can find the best communication delivery opportunity.

The Written Plan

Who do you need to tell what, when, and in what format?

That question leads to a 4-column spreadsheet that makes a fine template for a communication plan.

  • Primary Message
  • Intended Audience
  • When
  • Format

For example, if you are working on a software implementation project that already been selected and funded, you can create the communication plan as the project plan is being finalized.  First, factor in regular status updates with key stakeholders such as weekly meetings with the project team, periodic updates for the senior management team, and maybe one or two updates for the board.  Look for the natural project milestones that should trigger a status update to be shared.  Depending on the cadence and culture of the association, these updates can take place at regularly scheduled meetings. 

Then as the project nears completion, you might anticipate a flurry of project-related announcements. Communications should be delivered in short, clear messages. These messages may involve a wider audience of folks, including your members and customers.  You will need to coordinate with the marketing and communication team to reach those external audiences.  These time-sensitive messages might be included in the weekly e-newsletter, a standalone broadcast email, or as messages posted to the association’s homepage.

Ultimate Goal of a Communication Plan

Most people are uncomfortable with change at some level.  Feeling left out of understanding what is happening is stressful and can create unnecessary obstacles to a project’s success.  The goal of a well-crafted communication plan is to let people feel informed about upcoming changes and how and when they may impact them.  As well, keeping everyone up-to-speed has the added benefit of allowing them to feel they are a part of the project, and therefore a part of its success.