Project Communication

flickr photo by loop_oh

flickr photo by loop_oh

Effective project managers communicate about 90% of their time. There are no misunderstandings; there are only failures to communicate. Project managers communicate by using different mediums to convey a message. The message might be to an individual, a selective meeting with team leads, project sponsors, or the whole team collectively. It is truly critical for project managers to get the message across right the first time to avoid failures in the communication process.

There are three key components in projects known as the triple constraints, scope, schedule, and budget. During the planning process, it is the project manager?s primary responsibility to define the project scope using the work breakdown structure (WBS) to do so. The WBS consists of a hierarchical numbering system that accompanies a brief node description. The WBS is an aid to facilitate stakeholder communication. The WBS dictionary communicates the full details (inputs, outputs, assumptions) of each WBS work package at the level of which technical scope is controlled and delivered. Project managers and their teams decompose or subdividing the major project deliverables and project work into smaller, more manageable components. The technical scope baseline is fully communicated and configuration managed after completing the Project Plan, WBS, and WBS dictionary.

The detailed schedule proceeds semi-concurrently with the WBS dictionary activity. A detailed schedule reflects the technical scope and is created through a series of iterative processes that progressively elaborates the WBS into lower level sub-activities. Control accounts are established at the reporting level 3 of the WBS. Cost accounts are established at WBS level 4 of which technical scope is controlled and delivered as defined in the WBS dictionary. The schedule development processes are 1) activity definition, 2) activity duration estimation, 3) activity dependencies, 4) activity resource assignments, 5) critical path review, 6) resource loaded network (RLN) acceptance. These processes are conducted by the project technical experts in conjunction with project controls to ensure a bought into, agreeable, realistic, and formal plan. The project manager must accept the RLN before establishing the schedule baseline.

The RLN is fed into the earned value budget application such as, Deltek Cobra, to achieve costing and performance metrics. Up to this point, scope has been defined, communicated, progressively elaborated, and logically assigned resources to achieve results. During this process is when the WBS level 4 basis of estimating (BOE) rationale is captured of which technical scope is controlled and delivered. The primary function of a BOE is to capture the rationale behind the development of the WBS level 4 estimates e.g. specific tools and techniques used during the development of the time and cost estimates to produce the deliverables defined in the WBS dictionary. Cost metrics are collected by project controls and then applied to the time estimates provided by the technical experts in the RLN. Earned value performance measurement techniques encompass the RLN using 1) 0/100 for 160hrs or less sub-activities, 2) 50/50 for 160+hrs to max 320hrs sub-activities, 3) interim milestones for 320+hrs using ?steps? and corresponding finish dates to compute weighted % complete of sub-activities, 4) % complete for agile sprints that are substantiated by the overall deliverable requirements complete, and 5) LOE for level of effort sub-activates. Concluding these activities produces the initial project costs. Contingency reserve is then applied by technical experts and the project manager to critical path activities therefore producing the project budget and the cost baseline. Management reserve encompasses the cost baseline for high probability ? high impact risk events.

The project manager combines the technical baseline, schedule baseline, and cost baseline into one performance measurement baseline (PMB). The project manager uses the PMB to communicate project performance and acceptable baseline variance to all stakeholders. The PMB may demonstrate the way to project completion, but it is the project manager?s ability to understand that there are no misunderstandings; there are only failures to communicate that keep the project on track.