Top Project Management Communication Tools
Over the course of writing my 2 books on project communications, I get asked continually “What is the minimum set of communication tools I can use on my projects?” Yes, some project managers believe it or not just want to do the minimum and I get that, so I thought I would address it. So what I have done here gives you the minimum set of tools you should use on your projects.
These tools include:
- Project Organization Chart
- Circle of Communications Chart
- Communication Requirements Matrix
- Role Report Matrix
- Project Calendar
- Project Report Creation Calendar
- Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
- Scatter Chart
- Project Newsletter
- Project Risk Register
- Project Risk Matrix
- Project Financial Risk Matrix
- Project Issues
- Project Action Items
Wow, that’s it, that’s all you need? Yes, remember we said a minimum set of tools for your project. I did not say this is the only thing you need, but this will give you a good start. Let’s spend a minute and talk about each tool and why they are important to use on your projects.
Project Organization Chart – Every project manager needs to have some tool to outline who is on the project. You will be asked for this continually and have an org chart to see the who’s who of the project make sense.
Circle of Communications Chart – The Circle of Communications Chart is going to be an amazing replacement for a Project Organization chart if your company won’t accept an org chart with the project manager on the top. Some organizations are fully that way and won’t let you create a project organization chart, so you a Circle of Communications Chart in place of an org chart.
Communication Requirements Matrix – The Communication Requirements Matrix is used to document the conversations that the project manager has between the various roles on the project. For example, when the project manager sits and talks to the customer about the various reports they want to see on the project, the project manager documents that conversation in the Communication Requirements Matrix.
Role Report Matrix- The Role report matrix focuses on who get’s what report and when. This tool is great when you are trying to determine who is getting status reports, financial reports, newsletters…etc. When project managers spend the time and document who gets the information and when it goes a long way to communicating effectively on their projects.
Project Calendar – The project calendar is one of the most important documents on the project and one that I have used for many years. I simply don’t start a project without a calendar and think it is critical to the success of running a project. The project is just like you think, it is a calendar where you document the major events of the project. Kick-off Meetings, major milestones are all major events that go into the project calendar.
Project Report Creation Calendar – One of the advantages of using a Report Generation calendar is to understand when you create your project reports. If you don’t spend the time and document exactly when reports are created and then sent, you will never be able to catch up. Think about all the work you have to run a project, now think about having a tool that documents exactly when reports are needed each week, month, quarter. I use the Role Report Matrix as my starting point, and then I start to create the Project Report Creation Calendar and when used together makes for a very powerful communication tool.
Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) – The WBS is one of the most important communication tools for a project. Project managers should ensure that their projects have one and they are communicating it regularly. The WBS is the best graphical tool to document the scope of the project and if the project task is not on the WBS then it is not in scope for the project. It is that simple.
Scatter Chart – The scatter chart is used for a variety of reasons for projects and should be a tool a project manager turns to when they want to report data. I think the scatter chart is a very powerful tool for project managers. When project managers need to report on paired numerical data, or you a source that has multiple values, then utilize a Scatter Chart for reporting purposes.
Project Newsletter – The project newsletter is one of the tools that seems to be falling by the wayside these days and I believe it is an important tool for every project manager. The value of the project newsletter is that it brings both project status and the people side together in one tool. If you have project status, it goes into the project newsletter, but if Bob tester is having a 15-year work anniversary you also add that to the project newsletter. The Project Newsletter is one of the only communication tools where you can merge work items and personal items into one document. Don’t underestimate the power of this document and start creating these for your projects today!
Project Risk Register – Every project will have risks, and therefore every project needs a risk register. The risk register will be one of the most communicated tools on your project along with the Issue list. Most project managers start their projects by establishing a risk register and therefore a staple in every project manager’s tool box.
Project Risk Matrix – Once you have a risk register, you have what you need to create and communicate your risk matrix. The Risk matrix is a perfect communication tool for your status reports, newsletters, and your executives. The colors and the simplicity of the matrix make it quick to consume, and a favorite communication tool for executives and the leadership team.
Project Financial Risk Matrix – The financial risk matrix looks and feels exactly like the risk matrix, with the biggest difference is that instead of seeing risk id is in the intersection cells, you see budget representing the expected monetary value required if the risk events occur.
Project Issues – Much like the risk register, every project will store some version of an issue list. The Issue list and risk register will be the most communicated tools on your project and ones that both the project manager and team members will spend the most time updating and communicating. One of the trends we see occurring is the combing of these two logs, and I would suggest to keep them separate. The fields are different in both and the limited times that risks moved to issues, the amount of duplicate data entry is limited.
Project Action items – One of the most undervalued but yet critical tools of a project manager is an action log. Every project manager will need an action log, and that will be an essential tool to manage the daily operations of the project.
Did you like those communication tools? Stuck and want more information? Check out all my training courses here!
Here are some articles that you may be interested in:
Check out this article I wrote on this subject for www.projectmanagement.com on implementing PMO’s. https://www.projectmanagement.com/articles/280385/Implementing-a-PMO–Does-it-Have-to-be-So-Hard-
I also wrote this article on project management communication techniques I am sure you will love. Check it out here. 5 Essential Project Management Communications Techniques for 2021
What do you think?
Bill Dow, PMP
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