Communication is the crucial factor that can lead to success or failure in collaborative projects, like H2020 and Horizon Europe. So, how do you turn routine project management from updates, tracking, and requests into communication that informs, inspires, and meets the needs of your teams, partners, and stakeholders?
First of all, ensure that all partners and teams are aligned on project goals and expectations, as well as identify and target key project management areas that require communication management. These can include:
- Internal exchange: Decision making, discussions about tasks, meetings, etc.
- Information management: Sharing updates, reports, and relevant information about the project to appropriate team members and partners
- Project dissemination and exploitation: Publicly disclosing the project results, using project results in further research activities, etc.
Develop successful strategies for managing the flow of information throughout the project life-cycle
Project teams are in constant communication with each other throughout the project. The chances of achieving project goals in every project phase increase when a project manager has a successful strategy for managing the flow of information. The role of project managers is to have and implement a strategy for routinely sharing information and communicating the needs of the project to team members. A communication strategy should be developed during the planning stages of a project.
The most important questions to ask yourself when creating your communication strategy are:
- Who needs to communicate with whom? (team members, partners, etc.)
- How frequently do these people need to communicate? (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)
- What kind of communication would work best for these people/situations? (calls, meetings, reports, etc.)
The answers to these questions will be key in helping you to develop a general communication plan. Once in place, your general communication plan can be further updated and adjusted to meet any upcoming project needs.
A successful project manager is above all an excellent communicator. Developing a strategy is only part of the road to success. It’s also important to be present, readily available, and engaged with everyone on the project. Understanding the teams’ roles, challenges, and achievements will allow you to set the proper tone of communication for the entire project team; including various partners. Here’s our tips and tricks on how to lead and mobilise a project effectively.
Top communication skills and habits used by successful project managers
Set transparent project expectations
Successful project leadership requires clear communication with teams and partners about goals, responsibilities, deliverables, milestones, etc. By communicating in a clear, concise, and transparent manner you’ll save time for everyone (including yourself) and avoid redundancy.
The best way to do this is to make sure your team and your partners fully understand the goals and objectives of the project from the outset. Before diving into the project have a preliminary meeting to establish a common project vision, timeline, and objectives. This will make it easier to then break down the project with every team member and partner so they can understand what part they play.
Stick to conducting only necessary meetings
While meetings can be highly effective, they can also be a waste of time if they’re giving the wrong information to the wrong people. It’s vital to plan your meetings in accordance with your project needs. Consider if your project really needs daily/weekly status meetings – switching to only need based meetings may benefit your project workflow.
Tip: Prepare an agenda for each meeting and ask people to be prepared to discuss agenda items. Carefully consider who really needs to be involved and encourage the participants to voice their ideas and concerns in order to achieve effective and productive dialogue.
Ask relevant questions and listen attentively
Miscommunication and misunderstandings can negatively affect the performance of your project. Don’t be afraid to ask relevant questions and for clarification. Successful project managers are inquisitive. The more you know about the workflow within your project, the easier it is for you to successfully manage it and deliver quality results on time.
Show everyone respect
All project members bring intrinsic value to the project regardless of their role, position in the organisation, or their status in EU partnerships. It’s vital that all participants are given the space and freedom to communicate their thoughts, opinions, and concerns without having to fear consequences or ridicule. This same respect needs to be considered when scheduling project activities. It’s important to consider the time pressures and sometimes competing responsibilities of team members. Project teams will only remain strong if they have mutual respect for each other.
Keep everyone in the loop
As a project manager it can be easy to forget that not everyone has the same knowledge about what’s happening in the project. Sending monthly, weekly, or even daily project updates will ensure that all project members are informed and up-to-date. In this case, the medium is as important as the message. Choosing the right communication and collaboration tools will assist you in creating efficient communication loops that support the information flow within your project teams.
Get everyone on the same page by using effective communication tools
Face-to-face communication wasn’t always possible with collaborative projects, even prior to COVID-19. With so many different forms of communication like: email, phone calls, Google Docs, Skype, Zoom, etc. it’s easy to miss out on vital information, forget logins, and have difficulties remembering what was shared where. Having information spread across so many platforms leads to a loss of project efficiency and distracted partners.
Choosing the right set of communication tools can enrich a project and prevent team members from drowning in a flow of endless (and sometimes irrelevant) information.
Tip: Consider the organisational and geographical diversity of project teams and partners when choosing communication tools and pick one that allows you, your partners, and teams to have and store important conversations and documents in a single location.
Improve communication within your project teams and partners in 4 simple steps
1. Create an open, simple, and intuitive collaborative environment by choosing all-in-one communication solutions
The most common problem, in all phases of a project life-cycle, is a lack of effective communication. Successful project managers remove boundaries and employ methods that make it easy for teams and partners to access and share relevant information.
Using proven project management software, such as EMDESK, allows project managers to give their teams and partners a central hub for communication and information. EMDESK’s intuitive features and tools offer essential communication mediums, such as chat, audio/video calls, an access leveled document repository, screen sharing, direct commenting, etc. in a single location.
This centralized real-time project management platform allows everyone to immediately get up to speed regardless of their location and without unnecessary conversations. It stops the cycle of endless emails and irrelevant updates; giving leveled access to key information and creating seamless communication that’ll keep your project track.
Bonus: With EMDESK, you and/or other project members can reference project data, view/browse chat history, or catch up on what happened in the project during holidays, etc. with just a few clicks. Everything is saved in one place and you can easily access the previous data, giving you and your partners and team members peace of mind.
2. Provide project updates and activities summaries with due dates in real-time to your teams
One of the greatest things that slows progress is inaccurately or poorly communicated success criterias, activity status, and/or member responsibilities. As a project manager it’s paramount that you deliver this information in a clear, constant, and precise manner. That being said, it’s impossible to always check in with everyone and share their progress with the rest of the team.
Project management software solutions, like EMDESK, help do this job for you; allowing you to focus on what’s important. EMDESK provides your project teams with shared real-time overviews, timelines, and schedules, so everyone has a clear idea of the overall project plan and can visualise the end result. This allows project teams to understand which stage the project is in at any given moment and what needs to happen for it to progress.
Having a single, shared workspace keeps everyone on the same page throughout the whole project lifecycle, enabling a more efficient workflow.
3. Ensure that everyone is aware of their personal responsibilities so you can help them focus only on what’s relevant
Projects are full of updates, notifications and summaries. This can lead to information overload and important messages being lost or ignored. Effective project management is facilitating communication in a manner that delivers information in accordance with the needs of the audience.
Since it would be impossible for a project manager to always keep track of who needs to be updated and tailor every update to meet their needs, powerful project management tools, like EMDESK, play a vital role in filling this need.
EMDESK gives everyone involved in the project the freedom to choose what topics and how frequently they want to be informed about. Automated, personalised updates and smart notifications are an easy and effective way to remind project participants (including yourself), about tasks, and personal and project deadlines; letting everyone know what they need to do and when to do it.
Large project consortiums present even greater communication challenges. The EMDESK project management tool will allow you to resolve difficulties with the flow of information and access to data by being able to manage groups and provide them with communication opportunities.
4. Save time and share safely with a secure online document editor
A great deal of project communication is centered around writing. Group discussions and writing for project proposals, reports, deliverables, internal documents, etc. are a large part of the project. Emailing various versions of these is extremely time consuming, and Google Docs isn’t secure enough to offer a solution.
That’s why it’s important to have a single secure document editor that’s been designed specifically for collaborative teams. Project management tools, like EMDESK can reduce redundancy by allowing your project teams to share and edit files together in real time. EMDESK’s document repository and EMDocs, our online file editor, provide a secure location that’s accessible to each participant on all their digital devices. Using a project management tool with a secure document repository will save time, guarantee data security, prevent the loss of files, and increase your project’s workflow.
Successful and meaningful communication flows require the use of processes and tools. Project management software alone can’t ensure open and productive team communication. It’s the people that matter. This is why success is only achieved when communication strategies are employed and tools are smartly managed.
Stefan Detschew, Chief Technology Officer at EMDESK