Passing the #PMP Exam: Tools & Techniques—Communications Knowledge Area


 1. Introduction

In this next series of posts, we move onto step 5, which is memorizing the TOOLS & TECHNIQUES associated with each process. In order to breakdown the memorizing into more bite-size chunks, I am going to break down this topic into at least 9 posts, one for each knowledge area. (There may be some knowledge areas that require more than one post.)

This post covers chapter 10 of the PMBOK® Guide, which covers the Communications Knowledge Area. This knowledge area contains 5 processes which are located in all process groups except the Closing Process Group.

Here’s a description of the four processes that are included in the Human Resources Knowledge Area, together with a listing of the Tools & Techniques used in those processes.

Process
Number & Name
Process Description Tools & Techniques
10.1 Identify Stakeholders Identifying project stakeholders, that is, people impacted by the project, and documenting their interests, involvement, and impact on the project.

1. Stakeholder analysis

2. Expert judgment10.2 Plan CommunicationsDetermining the needs of project stakeholders for information and defining a communication approach.1. Communication requirements analysis

2. Communication technology

3. Communication models

4. Communication methods

10.3 Distribute InformationMaking relevant information available to project stakeholders.1. Communication methods

2. Information distribution tools

10.4 Manage Stakeholder ExpectationsCommunicating with project stakeholders to meet their needs and address issues as they occur.1. Communication methods

2. Interpersonal skills

3. Management skills

10.5 Report PerformanceCollecting and distributing performance information (status reports, progress measurements, forecasts) to project stakeholders.1. Variance analysis

2. Forecasting methods

3. Communication methods

4. Reporting systems

Let’s take a look at the tools & techniques for the 4 processes 9.1 through 9.4 in the Human Resources Knowledge Area.

10.1 IDENTIFY STAKEHOLDERS

10.1.1. Stakeholder analysis

The stakeholders need to be identified, not just with organizational information such as their roles and departments, but also the following

  • Knowledge and/or experience levels
  • Expectations regarding the project (interest level)
  • Levels of influence the project (power level)

These factors can be compared in a grid, an example of which is below. In this grid, the horizontal axis is the interest level, and the vertical axis is the power level. This results in four quadrants with the various combinations of levels, and a strategy for dealing with each combination.

10.1.2. Expert judgment

This is to be consulted in identifying and classifying stakeholders. Those with a special knowledge of the key stakeholders, including the stakeholders themselves, can be consulted as experts with regards to this question.

10.2 PLAN COMMUNICATIONS

10.2.1. Communication requirements analysis

Using the formula n(n-1)/2, you can calculate the number of possible communication channels among a group of n stakeholders. How the stakeholders communicate is the focus of this tool and technique, including the requirements for how often communication is required, and in what form (e-mail, telephone call, face-to-face meeting, etc.).

10.2.2. Communication technology

This is a matter of using the appropriate technology for communication, from simple written documents to virtual meetings.

10.2.3. Communication models

The basic model of information is that information that person A wants to send to person B is encoded by being put into some sort of language. This output is the message which is transmitted through some medium to the other person who then decodes it. Any noise that occurs during the transmission process can distort the message, but the message can also get distorted in the encoding and decoding phases, if person A puts the message into an ambiguous form which is then understood erroneously by person B.

10.2.4. Communication methods

These different methods are used when there is a different level of interactivity and/or engagement between the two parties.

  • Interactive communication (between two or more parties), such as face-to-face meetings or phone calls
  • Push communication (from one to multiple parties), such as e-mail or memos
  • Pull communication (for multiple parties), such as intranet sites, pre-recorded lectures or seminars

10.3 DISTRIBUTE INFORMATION

10.3.1 Communication methods

Group meetings, video conferences or audio conferences (via telephone) are ways to disseminate information about the project to a wide audience.

10.3.2 Information distribution tools

These can exist in physical form (memos, press releases), electronic form (voice mail, e-mail, video conferences) or software (project management software such as Microsoft Project or Primavera).

10.4 MANAGE STAKEHOLDER EXPECTATIONS

10.4.1. Communication methods

This is obtained from the communications management plan.

10.4.2. Interpersonal skills

These are the soft skills that today are often referred to as “emotional intelligence.”

10.4.3. Management skills

This deals not with project management per se, but people management skills, including skills at public speaking, doing effective presentations, and negotiating.

10.5 REPORT PERFORMANCE

10.5.1. Variance analysis

This is the analysis of the difference between the actual performance and the performance measurement baseline. A comparison of the current variance with the previous variances can yield a trend.

10.5.2. Forecasting methods

These are methods of showing, based on the trends found in the last tool & technique 10.5.1 Variance Analysis, what the future project performance will be.

10.5.3. Communication methods

The results of the trend analysis and forecasting done in the last two tools & techniques is then communication to those interest parties through status review meetings (a form of push communication which is a one-to-many type of communication).

10.5.4. Reporting systems

This is usual some standard reporting tool such as a spreadsheet or other graphical analysis of the data to demonstrate at the status review meetings mentioned in the tool & technique 10.5.3 Communication methods, the conclusions reached with the first two tools & techniques 10.5.1 Variance Analysis and 10.5.2 Forecasting methods.

The next post will be on the Tools & Techniques associated with chapter 11 of the PMBOK® Guide dealing with the Risk Knowledge Area.

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