Step 4: Communication Plan

Establish a Communication Plan:

With your fancy Exec on-board, it’s time to put them to work!  (ok… it’s time to politely ask them to help you).   You want to begin to build a formal Communication Plan to get information about your portal project out to the masses.   You want users to pay attention, participate in exercises, give feedback, and just, plain “be informed”.

If you want your busy Executive to do your bidding here, it’s best that you have a solid plan in place for communication and stick to it.   They may not have time to craft a juicy email to the masses about your end-user survey, or elaborate on the Taxonomy process (discussed later).  You may even need to write the communications yourself and just have the Executive send them out behalf of you and the Portal Committee.  No matter the case, you should formally document your Communication Plan.   There are a variety of ways to do this and a variety of resources available online (I will post a sample template on The SharePoint Dude Downloads page later).   No matter your format, the Communication Plan should contain the following elements, at a minimum:

Introduce your Portal Committee – Start with the top-line Executive and work your way down the food chain.   This may have your name on the bottom (even though you are likely the driving force behind this whole project), but that’s ok.   You’ll get your recognition when everyone sees how awesome your portal is and that you are the only one who can answer specifics on how the heck you “pulled it off”.

Determine who the communications will come from – We discussed this already, but if your Exec is going to do the communicating, you want to make sure they clearly understand the vision, the techy-talk, and what is “actually” happening when the Executive isn’t looking.   Make sure his communications express this as well.  You don’t want to seem disconnected here, as your users will be able to tell right away.

Establish a consistent communication schedule – Let users know when they can expect to receive updates on your portal’s progress.   If you have an old portal in place – use it to disseminate the message.

  • Send out a weekly update to the Portal Committee (they may not all be involved in every step).
  • Depending on your timeline for completion, you can send weekly or monthly updates to the masses.

Set proper expectations – Since this is an ongoing project, people’s interest will grow as it goes along.   Make sure you’re meeting your deadlines, because people will inquire about the status of your project.    They won’t always want to be helpful, but they’ll always know if it’s behind!

  • Send a “head’s up” notice to the next group you’re going to meet with.  Let them know what time commitment may be required of them, and how they can come to the table prepared.
  • Communicate your timeline for deliverables – If you expect to finish the Information Architecture by March 1 (and that seems realistic), for example – let the people know!
  • If you fall behind, you can let them know that, too.   Good or bad, transparency is usually a good thing.   Keep honest and true, no matter what!  We all hit snags now and then – it happens.  As the late biker, Indian Larry, used to say, “Tell the truth.  There’s less to remember.”

Advertise your successes – Go ahead… Toot your own horn now and then!  Let everyone know what awesome results came from a previous exercise.  Tell them you finished the server builds 3 days ahead of schedule.  Whatever the win – advertise it!  Good vibes spread fast and each small win does wonders for progress and morale.

Now that we know how we will communicate to the masses, it’s time to get the pulse of the people.  Step 5:  Survey your End Users.

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