How to Develop a Communications Management Plan in Project 2013

By Cynthia Snyder Stackpole

When you’re planning a project in Project 2013, consider what information you (or any other stakeholder) need to track. Frequently, this information is stored in a separate document known as the communications management plan.

The communications management plan can be complex — or as simple as a Word table or an Excel spreadsheet. You enter the name or position of each stakeholder in the leftmost column, and then, across the top, enter the information that’s needed, its method, and frequency of delivery.

It isn’t rocket science, but you still have to determine up front which information you might want to track, when you might want it, and in which form.

The first step in tracking progress on a project is to gather information about what’s been going on. The simpler it is to report progress on a project, the better, because people will do it. The more routine you can make the reporting — such as every Friday, on a specific form turned into the same person — the easier it is to gather data.

You can then input that information into Project 2013 in several ways: Use various views and tables to enter information in sheets of data, enter information in the Task Information dialog box, or use the tracking tools in the Schedule group of the Task tab on the Ribbon.

The amount of data you collect is determined by the information you need to track and the level of detail. For example, some people use Project 2013 only to create a timeline for their activities. Others use resources and track their total work on tasks, just not to the level of detail that scrutinizes hourly work performed.

You have to identify the best tracking method for you, which is determined by the amount and type of information you need to monitor. Microsoft provides four tracking methods in Project 2013:

  • Task – total

  • Task – time phased

  • Assignment – total

  • Assignment – time phased

You can begin to understand these methods by comparing task tracking and assignment tracking. You can track information by task, indicating to the present time (or a status date you select) the total work completed or costs for the task. Or you can track information by assignment, which is a more detailed tracking that shows you the total work completed or costs by each resource.

Project 2013 assumes that resources will split the work equally. Therefore, the time phased variable enters the picture. Time-phased tracking uses specific time increments, whether you choose to track work by task or work completed by individual resources on the task.

If the project or organization doesn’t require detailed assignment or time-phased tracking, you’re better off using the task – total method. Then you can spend less time entering information into Project 2013 and more time managing the team and the stakeholders.