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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chapter 71: Distributing Information

One of the important responsibilities of a project manager is to share information with his team and other project stakeholders. You, as the project manager is the communication channel between your team, your management and the customer. Throughout the project lifecycle, you need to continually distribute relevant information to the right stakeholders at the right time by using appropriate methods. The information is distributed according to the communication management plan developed during the planning stage and by using the Distribute Information process.

The picture below explains this process:

Input to Information Distribution

The information distribution process is used to distribute information according to the communication management plan. Therefore, the information to be distributed and the communication management plan are the obvious input items to the information distribution process.

The distributed information includes performance reports, which contain items such as the following:
• Performance information, including cost and schedule
• Status information
• Results from risk analysis and risk monitoring
• Any other useful information
• Current forecasts

The performance reports are generated by using a monitoring and controlling process called Report Performance. In addition to the communication management plan and performance reports, the following organizational process assets can also affect the information distribution process:
• Information and lessons learned from past projects
• Organizational policies, procedures, and guidelines for distributing information
• Templates to facilitate information distribution

Tools and Techniques for Information Distribution

The tools & techniques that the project manager must use for this process are:
Communication skills - Communication is the exchange of information, so communication skills are a necessary requirement for information distribution. Communication skills, an essential part of general management skills, are used to ensure the following:
• The right stakeholders get the right information at the right time.
• The communication requirements and expectations of stakeholders are properly managed.
Any communication line has two ends. There is a sender on one end and a receiver on the other. Both the sender and the receiver need to have communication skills. The sender has the following responsibilities:
• Ensure that the information is clear and complete.
• Confirm that the information is received and properly understood.
The receiver has the following responsibilities:
• The information is received in its entirety.
• The information is correctly understood.
So, the success of information distribution depends on both the sender and the receiver.

Communication has two flavors in each of the following dimensions:
Media - These flavors are writing and speaking on the sender’s end and reading and listening on the receiver’s end.
Place - These flavors are internal to the project; that is, within the project; and external to the project; that is, communicated to entities external to the project, such as the customer, the media, and the public.
Format - These flavors are formal, such as reports and briefings, and informal, such as memos and ad-hoc conversation.
Hierarchy - A horizontal hierarchy means communication among peers, whereas vertical means communication between different levels of the organizational hierarchy; for example, a manager communicating to the team that reports to the manager.

The information that needs to be communicated also needs to be gathered, stored, and retrieved.
Information distribution methods - The information can be distributed in a number of ways that fall into the following two categories:
Synchronous - Both the sender and the receiver have to be present at the same time, such as at face-to-face project meetings and telephone calls.
Asynchronous - The sender and receiver don’t have to be present at the same time, such as with written paper or electronic documents, online bulletin boards, e-mail etc.

Information distribution tools - You can use one or more appropriate tools to distribute information. These sets of tools include the following:
Document format - Hard copy or electronic.
Messages - E-mail, fax, voicemail, Internet bulletin boards, blogs.
Meetings - Face-to-face meetings, video conferences, and teleconferences.
Management tools - Project scheduling tools.
You use these tools and techniques to generate the output of the information distribution process.

Output of Information Distribution

The output of the information distribution process is, well, the distribution of information to all stakeholders. This distribution of information falls into two categories:
Formal distribution - This distribution refers to communicating the information as planned, such as regular status and progress information updates at scheduled times, such as once a week every Wednesday.
Informal distribution - This refers to the communication of information on an as-and-when-you-need basis. For example, the project sponsor can ask you for information that is not part of the regular schedule of distributing information. You don't have a choice but to provide him with this report.

The process of distributing information will create some items that can be added as a record to the organizational process assets. Some of them are:
• Project reports and status reports
• Stakeholder notifications about resolved issues and approved changes
• Project presentations
• Project records, such as memos, meeting minutes, and project files, such as plans and schedules
• Feedback from stakeholders
• Lessons learned

Prev: Managing Stakeholder Expectations

Next: Summary - Managing Stakeholders

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