An insight into coordination and communication issues in Project Management

Three characteristics of modern software – scale, uncertainty and interoperability are facts to be dealt with. The scale of software development is a big challenge. It leads to complexity, confusion, ambiguity and difficulties in communication to stakeholders. Uncertainty is prevalent and results in constant changes with respect to timeframes, resources and specifications. Interoperability refers to the ability of diverse systems to work together taking into account social, political and organizational factors.

To deal with them effectively, a software engineering team must establish and maintain effective methods of coordination and communication with all the stakeholders. Breakdown in communication are unacceptable reasons for delay in projects when a little planning upfront could have eliminated this problem and help the project to run smoothly.

Communication keeps all the stakeholders up to date on the progress, facilitates ownership of major project milestones, and creates awareness on goals and expectations. There are two kinds of communication to be established. Formal communication is facilitated through writings, structured meetings, bulletins and through impersonal and other formal channels. Informal communication is done on an ad hoc basis due to individual needs such as asking for help during problems or interacting with one another on a friendly basis.

Kraul and Streeter [KRA95] studied a collection of project coordination techniques on software projects. The project coordination techniques studies were Formal and Impersonal approaches, Formal and Interpersonal approaches, Informal and Interpersonal approaches, Electronic communication and Interpersonal networking.


Formal, Impersonal approach focuses on software engineering documents and deliverables like technical memos, schedules, change requests etc. Formal, Interpersonal approach focuses on quality assurance and includes status review meetings and inspection activities. Informal, interpersonal approach focuses on group meetings for information propagation, problem analysis and discussion.

 

Electronic communication focuses on electronic mail, video based conferencing etc. Interpersonal networking includes informal discussions with team members and others who may have imminent suggestions. It is interesting to note that interpersonal networking was rated as the most valuable technique with highest coordination and communication standard.

 

A well planned project has a well planned communication strategy by a project communication plan. The Princeton Project Methodology suggests guidelines and options when creating a Project Communication Plan. Some of the guidelines are given here. During the Project Initiation meeting information should be gathered from all stakeholders for incorporating the Initiation Plan.

 

During the Project Kick Off meeting, plans and stakeholders roles and responsibilities should be communicated to all stakeholders. Stakeholders should be updated on the progress of the project on a regular basis. Regular meetings should be conducted to review detailed plans with the entire project team. Project Advisory Groups and Sponsors should be updated on a regular basis on status and critical issues discussed with them.

 

Approval for changes to Project Plan should also be sought from Sponsors. Status reports, issues and risks that may affect schedule, budget or deliverables should be reviewed on audit meetings as scheduled by Project Office for selected stakeholders. Post Project Review meetings should be conducted to identify improvement plans and lessons learned to all key stakeholders. The overall health of the project should be reviewed on quarterly project review meetings by inclusion of Project Office and stakeholders. External groups such as leadership group should be created awareness of project interdependencies by presentations.

 

In general, internal communication with the project teams should be done to meet four major communication needs. To ensure responsibility of each resource for the task assigned to them, to enable coordination of information for team members to work together efficiently, to enable team members to take corrective action by circulation of status information and to keep all project decisions synchronized by circulation of authorization information like decisions made by stakeholders and senior management.

 

Every stakeholder of the project is important. Even the minor role players can affect the success of the project when they fall behind due to lack of communication. A manager has to be pro active and provide all concerned with timely information and acknowledge their contribution and if possible establish rapport. A proper escalation procedure is to be set up with senior management for rapid communication of issues. Key project documents have to be given enough visibility for easy reference by all stakeholders.

 

Sharing knowledge empowers every stakeholder. As a team comprises of members with different traits it is important to recognize human differences and communicate all information required to do the job, appropriately in a rational and controlled manner.

| An insight into coordination and communication issues in Project Management | An Insight into Project Closure Activities | An Insight into Risk Breakdown Structure | An Insight into Work Breakdown Structure | Overview of Resource Management Techniques | Project Management Tools (PERT, Gantt, Run Charts) | Project Manager’s Perspective on Document Management System | Understanding Critical Practices in Project Management |



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