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Cost of quality can be a good number to check whether your project is doing well or having trouble. Say your company tracks cost of quality on all of its projects. Then you could tell if you were spending more or less than they are to get your project up to quality standards.

Once you have your quality plan, you know your guidelines for managing quality on your project. Your strategies for monitoring your project quality should be included in the plan, as well as the reasons for all the steps you are taking. It’s important that everyone on the team understand the rationale behind the metrics being used to judge success or failure of the project.

Communication planning

Communications management is about keeping everybody in the loop. Have you ever tried talking to someone in a really loud, crowded room? That’s what running a project is like if you don’t get a handle on communications. The communications planning process concerns defining the types of information you’re going to deliver, to whom, the format for communicating the information and when. It turns out that 90% of a project manager’s job is spent on communication so it’s important to make sure everybody gets the right message at the right time.

The first step in defining your communication plan is figuring out what kind of communication your stakeholders need from the project so that they can make good decisions. This is called the communications requirements analysis . Your project will produce a lot of information; you don’t want to overwhelm your stakeholders with all of it. Your job here is to figure out what they feel is valuable. Communicating valuable information doesn’t mean you always paint a rosy picture. Communications to stakeholders may consist of either good news or bad news- the point is that you don’t want to bury stakeholders in too much information but give them enough so that they’re informed and can make appropriate decisions.

Communications technology has a major impact on how you can keep people in the loop. This examines the methods (or technology) used to communicate the information to, from and among the stakeholders. Methods of communicating can take many forms, such as written, spoken, e-mail, formal status reports, meetings, online databases, online schedules, project websites and so forth. You should consider several factors before deciding what methods you’ll choose to transfer information. The timing of the information exchange or need for updates is the first factor. It’s a lot easier for people to get information on their projects if it’s accessible through a web site, than if all your information is passed around by paper memos. Do you need to procure new technology or systems, or are there systems already in place that will work? The technologies available to you will definitely figure into your plan of how you will keep everyone notified of project status and issues. Staff experience with the technology is another factor. Are there project team members and stakeholders experienced at using this technology, or will you need to train them? Finally, consider the duration of the project and the project environment. Will the technology you’re choosing work throughout the life of the project or will it have to be upgraded or updated at some point? And how does the project team function? Are they located together or spread out across several campuses or locations? The answers to these questions should be documented in the communication plan.

All projects require sound communication plans, but not all projects will have the same types of communication or the same methods for distributing the information. The communication plan documents the types of information needs the stakeholders have, when the information should be distributed and how the information will be delivered.

The type of information you will typically communicate includes project status, project scope statements, and scope statement updates, project baseline information, risks, action items, performance measures, project acceptance and so on. What’s important to know now is that the information needs of the stakeholders should be determined as early in the planning phase of the project management lifecycle as possible so that as you and your team develop project planning documents, you already know who should receive copies of them and how they should be delivered.

Bringing it all together

Believe it or not, we have officially completed the planning phase of the project management lifecycle. The project plan is the approved, formal, documented plan that’s used to guide you throughout the project execution phase . The plan is made up of all the processes of the planning phase. It is the map that tells you where you’re going and how to perform the activities of the project plan during the project execution phase. It serves several purposes; the most important of which is tracking and measuring project performance. The project plan is critical in all communications you’ll have from here forward with the stakeholders, management, and customers. The project plan encompasses everything we talked about up to now and is represented in a formal document or collection of documents. This document contains the project scope, deliverables, assumptions, risks, WBS, milestones, project schedule, resources, communication plan, the project budget and any procurement needs. It becomes the baseline you’ll use to measure and track progress against. It is also used to help you control the components that tend to stray away from the original plan so you can get them back on track.

The project plan is used as a communication and information tool for stakeholders, team members and the management team. They will use the project plan to review and gauge progress as well. Your last step in the planning phase is obtaining sign-off of the project plan from stakeholders, the sponsor and the management team. If they’ve been an integral part of the planning processes all along (and I know you know how important this is), obtaining sign-off of the project plan should simply be a formality.


  • J. Green and A. Stellman, Head First PMP , O’Reilly Media, CA (2007).

Questions & Answers

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