If you do research into why projects fail, poor communication is often listed as a leading factor. Business projects often consist of numerous deliverables, lots of variables, involve many stakeholders and feature multiple communication channels. Managing all of these elements carefully using a comprehensive communication strategy can mean the difference between project failure and success.
Well-managed communication is particularly important in IT projects, particularly if delivery is being outsourced to a managed service provider. Modern IT projects also routinely involve work that’s carried out remotely, making effective use of digital communication channels particularly important.
As a leading provider of IT support, managed services and connectivity solutions to businesses across Reading, Berkshire and beyond, SolCo helps organisations achieve harmony between people, processes and business goals using the best IT solutions. We’re well-practised at delivering successful, on-time and on-budget IT projects that achieve their stated aims, so we understand the vital role effective communication plays in achieving the best possible outcomes. To help you avoid major setbacks in your next IT project, here’s our guide to effective communication, outlining 5 key tips for successful and smooth IT projects.
Make Your Project Goals Clear from the Outset
Your IT provider should be driven to solve your business problems using technology that’s tailored around your challenges and business ambitions. Ideally, they should have taken the lead in enquiring about what you want your project to achieve, but in case they haven’t, here are some of the things you should let them know.
Explain the pain points you want to address. For example, if your current data management solution is slow, clunky and unreliable, explain that you need your new one to offer fast, dependable, unencumbered access to the files you and your team need. If your website crashes frequently, emphasise that you want uptime to be prioritised in your new web hosting solution. Leave no room for doubt, and make reference to the key performance metrics that you want the new solution to improve.
Communicate your future growth plans or goals to your provider. If you’re planning a network expansion that will eventually incorporate additional sites for example, explain these ambitions in detail so that your provider can incorporate the necessary provisions into your project. Similarly, express the return on investment you envisage the project achieving, outlining the strategic value you expect it to provide and your expectations in terms of both project delivery costs and ongoing maintenance overheads.
You should also consider issues that your clients face when interacting with your IT. Disclose these to your IT provider so that they can develop a solution that provides a better user experience for your customers.
Adapt Communications to Each Audience
When undertaking a complex IT project, it’s important to keep project stakeholders updated with information that’s relevant to them on an ongoing basis. In this context, a ‘stakeholder’ is any individual or party that stands to be affected by the outcome of the project. Stakeholders might include those deeply invested in the success of the project, like business partners or employees, or those for whom the outcome will have no real, material impact, such as the wider public.
These varying levels of project interest mean it’s necessary to tailor communications in a way that reflects the involvement of each group.
Rank stakeholders according to their influence and impact. Those instrumental in the project’s delivery, and those with a keen vested interest in its outcome, should be prioritised for frequent, detail-focussed communication. This naturally means making your IT provider the top priority for regular engagement, with directors and business managers following closely behind.
Then, identify stakeholders who aren’t involved directly in the project, but who might benefit from passive, regular updates. Stakeholders who might fall into this category include existing customers, suppliers and company employees not directly affected by the changes being implemented. Set an update frequency appropriate to keep this group informed, and moderate the level of detail provided to convey just enough information without being exhaustive.
Decide on Communication Methods and Stick with Them
At the start of the project, discuss which communication methods you’ll use with your IT provider and other key stakeholders, and ensure all project communications remain strictly within these sanctioned channels.
A collaboration platform like Microsoft Teams is a great choice for keeping affected employees, key stakeholders and your project delivery team connected. Instant messaging allows questions to be raised in a quick, informal manner, the platform’s video-meeting capabilities make it easy to schedule daily discussions and SharePoint integration provides a single-source-of-truth for sharing important documents and communicating project metrics.
For external stakeholders, such as suppliers and customers, email newsletters can be used to deliver progress insights at key milestones. Social media channels can also be leveraged to reach a wider audience: particularly helpful in the case of any planned IT outages that might impact on service delivery.
Once you have decided which communication channels you’ll be using, stick to them religiously! This prevents sensitive documents going astray, ensures key details are conveyed to the right people, at the right time, and avoids miscommunications which can cause delays, error and overspend.
IT concepts can be complex, and while a good IT provider will try to convey ideas in a way that’s meaningful and understandable to all involved, some jargon will likely make an appearance. If you or your team are struggling to understand the ‘why, ‘how’ or ‘what’ of a particular change, seek clarification from your provider. They’ll more than likely enjoy explaining the reason and process behind a proposed change, and the engagement will help foster further trust between your IT partner and your business.
By seeking clarification, you stand a better chance of spotting potential issues early on, and prevent misunderstandings that could compromise project outcomes or cause delays.
Create a Communication Plan and Share it with Your Project Team
So, you’ve identified your project’s stakeholders, selected the communication channels you intend to use, and decided on a messaging strategy that considers each audience’s involvement and impact. Now it’s time to combine all of these considerations in a structured communication plan.
Using a tabular format that assigns a channel, frequency, audience and owner to each communication type, provides a point of reference for your project team and stakeholders, ensuring everyone is on the same page when it comes to project collaboration. ‘Owner’ refers to the person with designated responsibility for that particular communication type.
Below is an example of how your communication plan might be formatted.
Once your communication plan has been created, store it somewhere that’s accessible to key project delivery players, such as a Microsoft Teams or SharePoint site.
A dynamic and driven IT support provider will want to see your business thrive using technology as a platform for growth and success. However, even with the best will in the world, your IT projects will fall short of expectations without a clear, effective communication plan designed to create synergy between project stakeholders and your IT project team. By following these 5 simple tips, you’ll facilitate constructive communication in your next IT project and ensure the best possible outcome for all involved.
SolCo IT Support Reading
Based in Reading, Solution Consultants provides IT Support, Telecoms, and Cloud solutions for SMEs across Berkshire and the Thames Valley. We get to know your business, challenges, and goals and deploy scalable and agile technology solutions that make a real difference.
We specialise in simplifying IT, making valuable technology more accessible than ever before. We believe technology has the power to transform your business and open access to new markets. Contact us today!