Communication, rather the lack of it, is the biggest barrier to the success of any initiative within an organization. Regular, clear communication is not always effective in overcoming the “information silos” and “department silos” that exist within the organization. Moreover, in large organizations, there are multiple communication channels, methods, and micro-cultures that make the dissemination of information difficult.
That’s why organizations need a robust communication plan. This has become even more vital now that businesses allow remote work and rely overwhelmingly on digital communication. In this blog post, we talk about creating a communication plan, its importance, and tips for creating an effective IT communication plan.
What Is A Communication Plan?
A communication plan is a document that provides directions for the effective flow of information to drive a positive business result. The plan formally identifies the needs, audiences, and delivery methods and defines to whom, when, and how key communications will be delivered. The purpose of a communication plan is to inform, educate and engage the internal as well as external stakeholders and to ensure a smooth and seamless information flow among them.
For example, when an organization updates its IT policy, it needs to be conveyed to all the staff. Certain people within your organization will need to know about this update earlier than the others - the engineers, managers, and directors will probably need to be consulted before the policy updates happen, while the rest of the staff can be informed later. In such situations, the communication plan provides a framework that ensures a clear and specific message is delivered to the right group of stakeholders at the right time.
Why Is An IT Communication Plan Important?
Information Technology is the backbone of any modern business. A workplace without technology is unimaginable. Therefore, the IT department plays a vital role in the efficient functioning of an organization. Sadly, IT doesn’t always draw attention for the right reasons. The IT department is only remembered when things don’t work as expected.
An IT communication plan helps ameliorate this sad state of affairs by helping you increase awareness of the IT department’s role within the organization. It allows you to effectively communicate with the stakeholders about projects, initiatives, or other technology-related issues and engage them to increase their participation, ensuring the success of your projects and initiatives.
An effective IT communication plan is not only beneficial for the IT department but also for the entire organization. Here are some of its key benefits:
Managing expectations during maintenance, upgrades, and unplanned outages.
Sharing updates about IT projects and initiatives.
Educating employees on IT security and IT policies.
Crisis management during cyberattacks such as ransomware attacks.
Sharing tips, tricks, and best practices that help reduce helpdesk workload.
Demonstrating the value of investments in IT projects.
Facilitating digital transformation.
7 Steps For Creating An Effective IT Communication Plan
The process of creating an IT communication plan is similar to that of any strategic business communications plan. However, technology-related initiatives tend to have an immediate and significant impact on end-users, so they need greater engagement and buy-in. Here are seven steps that will help you create an effective IT communication plan for your organization:
1. Know Who Your Audience Is
Within every organization, there are different audience types. The audience is usually segmented based on departments, teams, software users, hierarchy, geographical location, etc. Every piece of information that you intend to send out won’t be relevant to all of the different segments. For example, if there is an outage impacting an application, which only 10% of your employees use, there is no need to send it to the other 90%.
Knowing your audience helps you keep your information relevant so that it resonates and is useful. It helps ensure that the right message reaches the right audience at the right time. It is also key to ensuring that users do not tune out of your communication. Too many irrelevant communications can put off your audience leading them to ignore communications in the future that may be critical for them. Knowing your audience also helps you craft your communications so that they relate closely to each of the audience segments.
2. Involve Your Stakeholders From The Beginning
Any new IT initiatives or changes usually face some stiff resistance. In fact, it is a common occurrence whenever there is any change in an organization. The changes resulting from IT-related projects or initiatives are even more difficult to manage as they usually impact a large number of users.
But it isn’t an insurmountable challenge. Getting your stakeholders on the same page from the beginning facilitates communication and improves engagement, which is necessary for the success of projects and initiatives. The communications flow much better when the stakeholders know their roles, understand the importance of the initiatives and give their buy-in. Involving the stakeholders and getting their inputs from the beginning will also help you understand their motivations and challenges, helping you craft better communication messages that truly resonate with your audience.
3. Mold The Plan To Your Communication Culture
Now that you know who your audience is and when you should communicate with them, you need to decide how to communicate those messages. Different audiences likely communicate in different ways. For example, your IT department probably lives in the ticketing system, the operations department may prefer Slack, and senior management may communicate only via emails.
In addition to the tools, the language and frequency of your communication also depend on the culture of communication of your audiences. One of the biggest challenges is getting your message through to the senior leaders, who are usually very busy. To draft a message that reaches everyone, you need to answer the following questions:
What are the communication tools used in the organization?
Which audience prefers which communication tool?
What physical communication tools such as bulletin boards, digital signage, etc. are available?
Are there opportunities for face-to-face communication such as presentations?
How can you get your message to the senior leaders?
4. Open Two-Way Communication
“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished.”
— George Bernard Shaw
You should never assume that communication has taken place unless you can verify it. A piece of communication can be deemed successful only after it is understood and acknowledged. Therefore, after you send out the message, you need to get feedback from the audience. In the most simple case, it can be an acknowledgment that the message is received and in other cases, you may need to conduct surveys, polls, face-to-face meetings, workshops, etc.
For certain types of communication, such as those involving policies, you can follow up with tests or quizzes to test if they have truly understood it. In addition to two-way communication, you also need to be open and transparent. Communications, especially those relating to outages must be accurate and honest. Users will be upset about outages, but lying or giving fuzzy responses will make matters worse.
5. Get Help From Your Organization’s Key Influencers
Just like in Social Media, in your organization too, there are influencers. These influencers usually communicate outside the formal reporting structure of your organization. They are either subject matter experts or individuals who hold sway over other employees. You need to know who these influencers are and what their sphere of influence is.
Try to get these individuals to support and amplify your communications as they can be your biggest allies in getting your message across quickly and effectively. Moreover, your employees are more likely to listen to and adopt new processes that come from their peers. Therefore, using these influencers within your organization as advocates of your projects and initiatives can help your cause immensely.
6. Document The Plan
To formalize your communication plan, you must document it. Documentation not only formalizes the plan but also serves as a quick reference. You should create formal policies and procedures describing exactly who will communicate, what message, when, to whom, and how. This ensures that each person knows their roles and responsibilities. This is extremely important, especially in times of crisis.
7. Evaluate The Success Of Your Plan And Update
Like any other strategy or policy document, your IT communication plan will also not be a static document. You should gather quantitative data such as email open rates and click rates to measure the effectiveness of your communications. In addition, you also need qualitative data such as feedback from surveys and interviews to gauge the success of your communications.
You can then use these qualitative and quantitative data to seek improvement opportunities. Changes in your hierarchy, tools, and culture will also impact your communication plan. So it is a good idea to periodically review and update your communication plan.
An IT communication plan will help effectively deliver your messages related to IT projects and initiatives to your stakeholders. Receiving relevant communications from a trusted source is especially useful in times of crisis, such as cyber-attacks or unplanned outages. A good IT communication plan identifies the relevant message, the right channel, and the right timing for key messages. This ensures that users are kept engaged and do not tune off from important messages.
The role of communication in IT has grown, especially in light of the growing adoption of remote work. Good communication is essential for building and maintaining relationships with the various stakeholders within an organization. An effective IT communication plan helps everyone within the organization to better understand the role of IT in the organization.
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By: Hari Subedi
Title: How To Create An Effective IT Communication Plan
Sourced From: www.itjones.com/blogs/2021/8/15/how-to-create-an-effective-it-communication-plan
Published Date: Sun, 15 Aug 2021 08:00:00 +0000