10.3 Control Communications – A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), Fifth Edition

10.3 Control Communications

Control Communications is the process of monitoring and controlling communications throughout the entire project life cycle to ensure the information needs of the project stakeholders are met. The key benefit of this process is that it ensures an optimal information flow among all communication participants, at any moment in time. The inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs of this process are depicted in Figure 10-7. Figure 10-8 depicts the data flow diagram of the Control Communications process.

The Control Communications process can trigger an iteration of the Plan Communications Management and/or Manage Communications processes. This iteration illustrates the continuous nature of the Project Communications Management processes. Specific communication elements, such as issues or key performance indicators (e.g., actual vs. planned schedule, cost, and quality), may trigger an immediate revision, while others may not. The impact and repercussions of project communications should be carefully evaluated and controlled to ensure that the right message is delivered to the right audience at the right time.

10.3.1. Control Communications: Inputs

10.3.1.1 Project Management Plan

Described in Section 4.2.3.1. The project management plan describes how the project will be executed, monitored, controlled, and closed. It provides valuable information for the Control Communications process such as, but not limited to:

  • Stakeholder communication requirements,
  • Reason for the distribution of the information,
  • Timeframe and frequency for the distribution of required information,
  • Individual or group responsible for communication of the information, and
  • Individual or group receiving the information.

10.3.1.2 Project Communications

Described in Section 10.2.3.1. The Control Communications process involves the activities that are required for information and communications to be monitored, acted upon, and released to stakeholders. Project communications come from multiple sources and may vary significantly in their format, level of detail, degree of formality and confidentiality. Project communications may include but are not limited to:

  • Deliverables status,
  • Schedule progress, and
  • Costs incurred.

10.3.1.3 Issue Log

Described in Section 13.3.3.1. An issue log is used to document and monitor the resolution of issues. It may be used to facilitate communication and ensure a common understanding of issues. A written log documents and helps to monitor who is responsible for resolving specific issues by a target date. Issue resolution addresses obstacles that can block the team from achieving its goals. This information is important to the Control Communications process as it provides both a repository for what has already happened in the project and a platform for subsequent communications to be delivered.

10.3.1.4 Work Performance Data

Described in Section 4.3.3.2. Work performance data can include details about which communications have actually been distributed, feedback on communications, survey results on communication effectiveness, or other raw observations identified during communication activities.

10.3.1.5 Organizational Process Assets

Described in Section 2.1.4. The organizational process assets that may influence the Control Communications process include, but are not limited to:

  • Report templates;
  • Policies, standards, and procedures that define communications;
  • Specific communication technologies available;
  • Allowed communication media;
  • Record retention policies; and
  • Security requirements.

10.3.2. Control Communications: Tools and Techniques

10.3.2.1 Information Management Systems

An information management system provides a set of standard tools for the project manager to capture, store, and distribute information to stakeholders about the project's costs, schedule progress, and performance. Some software packages allow the project manager to consolidate reports from several systems and facilitate report distribution to the project stakeholders. Examples of distribution formats may include table reporting, spreadsheet analysis, and presentations. Graphic capabilities can be used to create visual representations of project performance information.

10.3.2.2 Expert Judgment

Expert judgment is often relied upon by the project team to assess the impact of the project communications, need for action or intervention, actions that should be taken, responsibility for taking such actions, and the timeframe for taking action. Expert judgment may need to be applied to technical and/or management details and may be provided by any group or individual with specialized knowledge or training, such as:

  • Other units within the organization,
  • Consultants,
  • Stakeholders, including customers or sponsors,
  • Professional and technical associations,
  • Industry groups,
  • Subject matter experts, and
  • Project management office (PMO).

The project manager, in collaboration with the project team, then determines the actions required to ensure that the right message is communicated to the right audience at the right time.

10.3.2.3 Meetings

The Control Communications process requires discussion and dialogue with the project team to determine the most appropriate way to update and communicate project performance, and to respond to requests from stakeholders for information. These discussions and dialogues are commonly facilitated through meetings, which may be conducted face to face or online and in different locations, such as the project site or the client's site. Project meetings also include discussions and dialog with suppliers, vendors, and other project stakeholders.

10.3.3. Control Communications: Outputs

10.3.3.1 Work Performance Information

Described in Section 4.4.1.5. Work performance information organizes and summarizes the performance data gathered. This performance data typically provides status and progress information on the project at the level of detail required by the various stakeholders. This information is then communicated to the appropriate stakeholders.

10.3.3.2 Change Requests

Described in Section 4.3.3.3. The Control Communications process often results in the need for adjustment, action, and intervention. As a result, change requests will be generated as an output. These change requests are processed through the Perform Integrated Change Control process (Section 4.5) and may result in:

  • New or revised cost estimates, activity sequences, schedule dates, resource requirements, and analysis of risk response alternatives;
  • Adjustments to the project management plan and documents;
  • Recommendations of corrective actions that may bring the expected future performance of the project back in line with the project management plan; and
  • Recommendations of preventive actions that may reduce the probability of incurring future negative project performance.

10.3.3.3 Project Management Plan Updates

Control Communications process may trigger updates to the communications management plan as well as other components of the project management plan (e.g. stakeholders and human resource management plans).

10.3.3.4 Project Documents Updates

Project documents may be updated as a result of the Control Communications process. These updates may include, but are not limited to:

  • Forecasts,
  • Performance reports, and
  • Issue log.

10.3.3.5 Organizational Process Assets Updates

The organizational process assets that may be updated include, but are not limited to, report formats and lessons learned documentation. This documentation may become part of the historical database for both this project and the performing organization and may include the causes of issues, reasons behind the corrective action chosen, and other types of lessons learned during the project.