Help Files

Communication Plan

Detailed Methodology

Stakeholder engagement, building robust and useful relationships can only be achieved through effective communication. In this respect ‘communication’ is far more than project reports, it includes informal discussions over coffee, emails, blogs and every other transfer of information from the project team to a stakeholder. The challenge is to keep the communication workload manageable and the communication effective.

The Stakeholder Circle visualization tool charts a project’s key stakeholders according to their ability to influence the project’s success or failure. Categorization and charting of stakeholders holds the key to targeting the rightstakeholders at the right time in the life of the project and providing them with the right level of engagement, information and communication.

Defining appropriate responses requires an understanding of each stakeholder’s levels of support and receptiveness to messages about the project: this is the engagement phase and the precursor to a targeted communication plan. Data available in the tool and collected from earlier phases in this process are inputs to creating the communications strategy.

Knowing the category (upwards, downwards, sidewards, outwards) of a stakeholder will provide the key to how the message should be developed and delivered:

  • Communication to a senior manager will need to contain only relevant information, in the format necessary, to provide management will essential data about the project
  • Messages to team members will need more detail and different language.

Knowing the expectations of the stakeholder in the form of ‘what each stakeholder requires from the project’ will help the project team deliver information that should assure the stakeholder that what they expect to gain from successful delivery of the project will be achieved and help in the negotiations with unsupportive stakeholders.

The current levels of support and receptiveness for the stakeholder are shown in a 5 x 5 matrix, the S/H Profile together with their optimal status. Changes over time (based on changes in the version number) for an individual stakeholder can be seen from the ‘show history’ button. Aggregate data is displayed in the Engagement Profile (see Stakeholder Engagement Profile)

Having assessed the stakeholder’s current level of engagement and the optimal level, a communication plan needs to be developed to:

  • Maintain levels of support and receptiveness where the current levels are equal to or better than the target.
  • Enhance levels of support and receptiveness where the current levels are lower than the target.

Messages

The communication plan defines the messages (reports) the stakeholder will receive and the messenger. The project manager is not limited to delivering messages him / her self, other members of the project team and / or other supportive managers may receive a better ‘hearing’ from the stakeholder.

  • The message may be a pre-defined standard report (eg a monthly progress report). These messages are defined once and used for ‘many’ stakeholders (see Create and Edit Standard Reports).
  • Alternatively, a ‘one-off’ special or ‘ad hoc’ message may be needed.

Many stakeholders will receive more than one report; the art is to avoid sending too many reports to one person.

Messages should be fully defined including the:

  • Message Name (unique)
  • Messenger
  • Format (Formal/Informal and Oral/Written)
  • Frequency (the Stakeholder Circle does not specify the actual date(s) a report should be sent, this is the role of the project’s communications management system)
  • The report contents and any special comments.

This data can be exported for import to a communication management system. If a message is found to be ineffective, ie, not achieving the required result, it should be cancelled.

Communication Plan

After the initial development of the ‘Engagement Strategy’, and subsequently after each update, the communication plan should be printed and implemented, or the data exported to the communication management system used by the organization or the project.

The communication plan can be grouped for printing by:

  • Team – the reports and their recipients (stakeholders) each team member (messenger) is responsible for delivering, sorted by Messenger
  • Stakeholder – a list of all reports received by each stakeholder sorted by stakeholder
  • Message (default) – a list of all stakeholders receiving each report sorted by report / message.

The Stakeholder Circle has been designed to determine the rightcommunication to send to the right stakeholders at the right time; this information is contained in its communication plan. The Stakeholder Circle is not a communication management tool; information from the StakeholderCircle’s report plus other pertinent data (eg the date of critical meetings) is needed to define the overall project communication management plan.

Some techniques that can be used by the project team to ensure the communication management plan is implemented include:

  • Including communication points in the project schedule
  • Reporting on the progress and effectiveness of communication at team meetings
  • Including specific communication activities in people’s personal diaries, and/or
  • Including an agenda item focusing on stakeholders and stakeholder issues in the monthly project meeting

Monitoring Comms and Identifying Issues

The effectiveness of the communication plan should be tracked at regular intervals (see Tracking Trends and Changes)

The communication process is also likely to identify issues that will need recording and managing (see Managing Issues)

Notes:

Not all of the above features are available in the SWS Excel Spreadsheet or SoaP Word Template. For a summary of the features in each tool see: Tools Description

Management of the communication plan is facilitated in our CommPlan Spreadsheet, to download a free sample see: CommPlan Sales.

Visit the Methodology Page to read a summary of the overall Stakeholder Circle methodology.

SIMS dB Data Entry / Data Management

Stakeholder Engagement List Navigation

Select ‘SH Engagement’ from the Main Menu to see a list of all Active stakeholders.

List Navigation: the primary options are:

  • Main Menu – returns to the Main Menu
  • Overall Profile – Goes to the Stakeholder Engagement Profile (for more information see Stakeholder Engagement Profile)
  • Help – opens the help screen (pop-up), close the help pop-up to continue working (Note, the database help screen links to additional information on the Stakeholder Circle web site)
  • Show Change History – Opens a window showing all of the changes made to the selected stakeholder. To select a stakeholder, click anywhere on the record and a black bar will appear next to the name (left hand side – see View Change History for more information)
  • Show Active – (Default) shows all active stakeholders (does not show inactive)
  • Show Inactive – shows any stakeholders that have been marked as ‘Inactive’
  • Use the up / down arrows to move between records.

The secondary options are:

  • Sorts – The list may be sorted by:
    • Number – this is a sequential number created by the system
    • Name – a simple character based alphabetical sort
    • Direction – U, O, S, D o Internal External
    • Priority #
  • Print – Takes to a print option based on the current selection and sort order (see Print Reports) A summary or full report can be printed.

Entering and Editing Stakeholder Data

All data is entered via the ‘Edit Stakeholder’ screen.

  • Select ‘Edit Stakeholder’ or ‘Manage Messages’ to edit the specific stakeholder (these go to the same pop-up)
  • Select ‘Manage Issues’ to log or close an issue relating to this stakeholder (see Manage Issues for more information)

Data Entry – Previously Entered Data

Data entered during the Identification and Prioritization phases are carried forward, but cannot be edited on this pop-up. To edit this data, select ‘Edit Stakeholder Priority’ this returns you to the Stakeholder Prioritization pop-up to make changes.

Data Entry – Mandatory Engagement Data

The Engagement data required for each stakeholder is:

  • Receptiveness (rating of 1 to 5) – defines the stakeholder’s willingness to receive messages from the project, the descriptions for each level are:
    • 1 = Completely Uninterested – Refuses to accept reports
    • 2 = Not Interested – On mail list but unlikely to read reports
    • 3 = Neutral – Receives Reports
    • 4 = Medium – Indirect personal access
    • 5 = High – Direct personal contacts
  • Level of Support (rating of 1 to 5) – defines how supportive of the project objectives the stakeholder is. The descriptions for each level are:
    • 1 = Active Opposition
    • 2 = Passive opposition
    • 3 = Neutral
    • 4 = Passive support
    • 5 = Active support

Benchmarking can be used to make the assessment process relatively objective. First, identify a person who is ‘just within’ each of the categories (eg someone who is just in the ‘Passive support’ category) then by comparing the level of support of another stakeholder to the ‘minimum benchmark’ stakeholder it is easier to determine if the level of support is about the same or better in which case the stakeholder will score the same as the benchmark stakeholder (or higher if they are deemed equal or more supportive than the next categories benchmark). If the level of support is lower, the stakeholder would score lower.

If the team cannot agree on a value for any of these parameters, set the value to 3 (this is the neutral rating) the value can be edited at a later date when more information is available.

Data Entry – Messages

There is no requirement for every stakeholder to receive a ‘message’ from the project; messages should only be used to communicate with stakeholders the project team determines appropriate. However, when a decision is made not to communicate with a particular stakeholder, it is helpful to record the decision and reasons in the note field to inform future considerations.

Standard reports can be created and used for multiple stakeholders as well as special and one-off ad hoc reports.

Adding a Standard Report

Before a standard report can be added to a stakeholder, the report needs to be defined by the ‘Manage Reports’ process accessed from the Main Menu (see Create and Edit Standard Reports)

To add a Standard Report:

  • There is always a ‘blank’ message at the bottom of the Messages list for each stakeholder. This ‘record’ is available to add a new report
  • Click in the box under ‘Select A Standard Report’:
    • A list of standard report names appears
    • Click on the standard report you wish to select
    • Or click anywhere else to deselect the list and not choose a report
    • The information contained in the standard report definition is copied into the adjacent cells.
  • Add the messenger
    • The messenger defaults to ‘Undefined’
    • All previously allocated messengers appear in a pop-down list as soon as you click in the ‘Messenger’ field. To select an existing messenger, simply click on the desired person’s name
    • If the planned messenger is a different person:
      • Click in the same field a second time
      • The pop-down list disappears and you can type directly into the field
      • Delete ‘Undefined’ and type in the messenger’s name

Adding a Special or Ad Hoc Report:

Ad hoc messages are used for ‘one-off’ communication. Where possible use Standard Reports to facilitate the management of the communication plan and the communication plan data. To create an Ad Hoc report:

  • There is always a ‘blank’ message at the bottom of the Messages list for each stakeholder. This ‘record’ is available to add a new report
  • Click in the box next to the ‘Message Name’ and type in the name of the message (eg Coffee meeting with Fred)
  • Select the appropriate format options:
    • Formal = A preplanned communication with a predefined structure and purpose (eg, a presentation to a senior management committee). When written, the communication is typically signed.
    • Informal = All other communication
    • Oral = Spoken communication (face to face, telephone, video conference)
    • Written = All other communication including electronic text (eg emails).
  • Add the messenger
    • The messenger defaults to ‘Undefined’
    • All previously allocated messengers appear in a pop-down list as soon as you click in the ‘Messenger’ field. To select an existing messenger, simply click on the desired person’s name
    • If the planned messenger is a different person:
      • Click in the same field a second time
      • The pop-down list disappears and you can type directly into the field
      • Delete ‘Undefined’ and type in the messenger’s name
  • Add information on the message’s contents
  • Add any appropriate comments

Canceling a Message

To Cancel a Message:

  • Type the name of the person canceling the message in the ‘Message cancelled by’ field
  • Click on the ‘Cancel Message’ button
    • The date of cancellation is automatically entered and the message is marked as ‘Cancelled’

Data Entry – Other

    • Notes & Comments – many of the decisions made during this and other processes will be subjective, the notes field should be used to annotate and record decisions to assist in further analysis and review at a later date
    • Stakeholder Active – this defaults to ‘Active’:
      • If the stakeholder was involved with the project and has since ceased to be involved (eg a manager who has left the organization) set this field to ‘Inactive’. Inactive stakeholders are retained in the system for reference purposes but are excluded from all current reports.
      • You cannot ‘delete’ a stakeholder, its data may form part of an ‘old’ stakeholder circle or by used for comparative purposes in an ‘Engagement Profile’.

Data Entry – Navigation

On completion of the data entry/editing for one stakeholder, you may choose:

  • Return Stakeholder List – This returns you to the Stakeholder Engagement List
    • There is a check to see all mandatory data is present.
    • If you cannot determine the input needed for one of the fields either enter 3 as a ‘neutral’ value (it is easily changed later) or make the stakeholder ‘Inactive’
  • Previous / Next – Steps through he stakeholders in sequence.
    • There is a check to see all mandatory data is present
    • If you cannot determine the input needed for one of the fields either enter 3 as a ‘neutral’ value (it is easily changed later) or make the stakeholder ‘Inactive’.
  • Edit Stakeholder Priority – this takes you back to the Stakeholder Prioritization list and opens the Edit pop-up to allow edits to the stakeholder’s data. All of the stakeholder’s data fields can be edited except the ‘Receptiveness’ and ‘Level of Support’
  • Help – Engagement – this option is available at all times and opens the help screen (pop-up): close the help pop-up to continue working (Note, the database help screen links to additional information on the Stakeholder Circle web site).

Printing the Communication Plan (Main Menu)

The Communication Plan can be exported as data (see Export Data) or printed (see Print Reports).

  • The Stakeholder Circle is designed to print / export the complete Communication Plan to avoid potential problems with incomplete data.
  • Only messages that are current (ie, have not been cancelled) for active stakeholders are included in the Communication Plan.
  • To print a Communication Plan, select ‘Comm Plan’ from the Main Menu. You will be asked to specify the format to print; the communication plan can be grouped for printing by:
    • Team – the reports and their recipients (stakeholders) each team member (messenger) is responsible for delivering, sorted by Messenger.
    • Stakeholder – a list of all reports received by each stakeholder sorted by stakeholder
    • Message (default) – a list of all stakeholders receiving each report sorted by report / message.
  • Select the required option.

Help (email only – 24 Hrs)

Help is available to all Stakeholder Circle users – we will attempt to answer your questions within a 24 hr period. To access help in the first instance email your question to: help@stakeholder-management.com

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