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A Sample EMF Communications Plan

The following is a sample EMF communications plan. It provides an example of the focus of communications for each of the five project phases. Once again, it is based on the QUOTE System.

Question Phase (Planning)

The Question Phase

Communications activities

  • Name the project
  • Design the project logo
  • Identify the project philosophy
  • Prepare initial communications
  • Create template documents
  • Form committees
  • Conduct a user survey
  • Create a project introduction manual

Messages

  • Project objectives
  • Project structure
  • Project status
  • Project activities

Mechanisms

  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Meetings
  • Technical training
  • E-mail messages
  • Word documents
  • Excel spreadsheets

This is the planning phase for the project. Here, the communications plan must focus on project planning activities and begin preparing the user base for the changes to come.

Activities during this phase should include the following:

  • Name the project. The project name should be short and catchy, and it should form an acronym if possible. For example, the acronym "BIOS" could stand for "Better Information, Organization, and Structure," outlining the objectives for the project in its very name. It is easy to recognize because BIOS is also a well-known computer term.4

  • Design the project logo. The project logo's design should enable audiences to quickly and easily identify every project intervention. This logo should reflect the nature of the project and its impacts on the user base. Because technology projects are often migration projects, the use of migratory birds in the logo is often very representative.

    The Project Logo

    The project logo is a key component of the communications strategy. It should be simple and easy to identify. The following image presents an example of such a logo.

    Sidebar Image 2

    This logo includes the following features:

    • The project name, making it easily recognizable

    • An image of a person, which indicates the user

    • A globe to indicate the global nature of the organization

    • A subtitle, PC Standardization, which is a secondary focus of the project

    • The corporate logo (in this case, a portion of Resolution's logo) to identify the corporation-wide nature of the project

  • Identify the project philosophy. The project philosophy must include information such as new capabilities based on new technologies, problems to be solved by the project, and the driving factors of the EMF.

  • Prepare initial communications. The initial communication to the user base should be in the form of bulletins including information about project scope, project objectives, advantages for users, changes brought about by the project, user responsibilities, and so on. This series of bulletins must begin at the very start of the project and last until the very end of the project.

  • Create project templates. The project will require templates for architectural and configuration documents, presentations to committees, bulletins, spreadsheets, and project plans. Each should include the project name and logo.

  • Form project committees. The implementation of project committees that can serve as two-way communications vehicles between the project and specific audiences.

  • Conduct a user survey. A user survey focusing on user needs, current issues, and general user comments (more on this later).

  • Conduct a series of presentations demonstrating the coming changes to the user base. These presentations should be delivered to every committee at first. This should form the basis of regular meetings with the committees in order to collect comments and suggestions.

  • Create a project introduction manual. The project introduction manual should be designed at this stage. This manual will be modified throughout the project phases to reflect the changing objectives for each phase.

  • Identify project activities. These activities should be identified and communicated to all team members.

  • Design and implement the structure of project status meetings. Internal project communications are crucial at this stage, so a mechanism should be designed for regular project status updates as well as an escalation method for specific project issues.

User Population Sampling

When you define the user population sample, it is important to identify user categories within the organization. This is best done with the job categories that already exist within the organization. The human resources department is the best source for this information.

Proceed as follows to identify user categories:

  1. Identify the five major employee categories. These should include management, administration personnel, operations personnel, technical personnel, and planning personnel.

  2. Identify the percentage of population covered by each category.

  3. Select the appropriate number of people in each category to represent the user population. For example, if 5 percent of the staff is in management, 5 percent of your sample should be managers.

The User Analysis Survey

One of the major objectives of the EMF is to increase user productivity, not only through user knowledge but also through the implementation of systems that truly meet user requirements. The starting point of this intervention is a user analysis survey.

Organizations using the EMF must understand user needs and requirements at all times. Thus, the communications plan for this implementation must perform an analysis of user habits and activities.

This survey should cover a significant sample of the user base—between 5 and 10 percent of the user population.

Surveys often have very little success5 because people are not necessarily interested in the survey. Your project should use a different approach. The best way to have valid and correct response to a survey is to identify survey officers within your organization. These are often members of the user or change management committees. You should select enough committee members to ensure that each member will not be responsible for more than 20 questionnaires.

The survey officer role then becomes one of direct intervention with users. Survey officers will be involved in

  • The preparation and validation of the user survey questionnaire

  • The selection of a number of users (up to 20) according to the user population sample parameters set by the project

  • The distribution of the survey questionnaire

  • The collection of the survey questionnaire

  • The validation of the survey with the user before its return to the projectThe validation of survey results once the questionnaire is returned

  • The validation of the solutions outlined in response to survey results

The user survey questionnaire itself must focus on the following elements:

  • Current software usage patterns

  • Current issues and problems in the use of IT

  • Workflow patterns

  • User communication patterns

  • Documentation and output patterns

  • Support methods and patterns

  • Personal knowledge levels for specific applications

  • General user comments

The information gathered from the user survey will provide the foundation for the customized solutions you will design when implementing your EMF.

In addition, the results of this survey will form the basis for new communication patterns between IT and the user base. Specifically, this aspect of the project should result in

  • Improved user satisfaction because users will feel they have some say in the design of the new system

  • Improved relationships because it fosters a spirit of partnership between IT and users

  • Better solutions because the needs of users are specifically identified

  • Additional functionalities because their requirements are clearly identified

  • Better automation because documentation patterns are identified

  • Direct implication of the client in the solutions process

The user survey is worth its weight in gold during an EMF implementation. Users especially appreciate it because it enables them to vent their frustrations with current systems and hope that these frustrations will not be carried over into new systems.

The results of this survey should influence architectural and configuration decisions. For example, application usage patterns help determine the layout of the most common toolset icons in the Presentation layer of the SPA object. The survey results should also influence communication patterns because they may identify immediate problems.

Understand Phase (Preparation)

The Understand Phase

Communications activities

  • Design project escalation method
  • Design project intranet site
  • Prepare demonstration room
  • Create user guides
  • Prepare training solution
  • Prepare support solution

Messages

  • Project philosophy
  • User survey results
  • Project status
  • Project activities

Mechanisms

  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Meetings
  • Bulletins
  • Technical training
  • E-mail messages
  • Word documents
  • Intranet site

Understand Phase (Preparation)

During the preparation phase there is little on project status that must be communicated to users. Because the bulk of the work at this phase is preparation and acceptance of the solutions, most of the communications process deals with internal project communications. Communications must focus on preparation activities while continuing to identify the upcoming benefits to users.

Communications at this phase should include

  • Project status: It is crucial at this stage that the entire project team is kept abreast of all project activities. The project manager must hold regular update meetings with all key project personnel. These people must, in turn, keep their own teams up-to-date. This communication must flow in both directions.

  • Project escalation method: Any issues must be escalated and dealt with rapidly. The communicator must ensure that there is a proper issue escalation method. The resolution methods are the responsibility of the project manager.

  • Project intranet site: The intranet site can be created at this stage. It should include such elements as project objectives, project status, results of the user survey, and other general project information. The Web site address should be communicated to users through a global e-mail message. It should then be included in all communications.

  • Project philosophy: This is the ideal time to begin the communication of all major changes to users. These communications must focus on user and organizational benefits, especially if a "locked" system is on its way. The focus should be on showing users what is personal on the computer and what is corporate property. Several mechanisms can be used at this stage:

    • Bulletins with a series of articles on the changing nature of computing needs within the organization, a day in the life of a user using the new system, management and administration examples featuring user configuration management, and so on.

    • A demonstration room or rooms including the new tool set. This room should be open to users so that they may judge for themselves the impact of the change. This room should also be staffed with a project representative that can help users understand the scope of the change. This room should be available until the deployment of the solution.

  • In addition, the communications program should focus on the following project activities:

    • System preparation and testing

    • Preparation of the training solution

    • Preparation of the support solution

    • Preparation of the deployment methods

    • Preparation of the user guides required during deployment

    • Preparation of the various teams affected by the deployment

All of the activities listed previously will be in their initial stages. They will be finalized during the next phase of the project.

The Proof of Concept

Proof of concepts (POCs) can serve several purposes during a project. Some organizations may also require a POC at the Understand Phase. For them, the POC serves to validate that a specific technical idea works. Others may want a POC at the Organize Phase. At that stage, it can serve as a test with a smaller scope of all of the pilot project's activities.

Organize Phase (Pilot)

This phase deals with the finalization of all preparatory activities and the initial testing of all of the solutions through a pilot deployment. It may be necessary to perform a pre-pilot program or a proof of concept (POC) to validate that the project is moving in the right direction. If this is the case, the activities should include

  • Finalization of all approaches

  • POC (pre-pilot)

  • Pilot program

  • Pilot program evaluation

  • Modification of the approaches (if required)

Both the POC and the pilot are deployments to controlled user populations. The major difference between the two is the scope of the population (about 1 percent for the POC and about 10 percent for the pilot). Both are defined as a complete delivery to a limited group of users who represent as many aspects of the organization's diverse user populations as possible. At the end of both tests, participants provide their comments on the overall delivery process.

The Organize Phase

Communications activities

  • Finalize intranet site
  • Design project approaches
  • Prepare POC and pilot evaluation forms
  • Finalize user guides
  • Finalize training solution
  • Finalize support solution

Messages

  • Project philosophy
  • Project status
  • Project activities
  • Activities for users
  • Project training
  • POC results
  • Pilot results

Mechanisms

  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Meetings
  • Bulletins
  • Technical and end-user training
  • E-mail messages
  • Word documents
  • Intranet site
  • Infoline
  • Coaches

It is at this stage that the communications team begins direct activities with targeted users. It is also important for this team to communicate to the entire user base any positive comments provided by test participants.

  • Project status: Project status communications within the project team must continue at all times.

  • Project intranet site: The effective use of the Web site during deployment is tested here. This means that the intranet site should begin to include information specific to users targeted by the deployment. Users will want to know when their systems will be deployed, when they should take training, what they need to do beforehand, what they need to do afterward, and so on. They will also want to find their own names on the lists.

  • Project philosophy: The project philosophy information should continue to be disseminated. It is at this stage that the project can begin to use posters to create a positive change atmosphere within the organization.

  • Preparatory activities: In addition, the communications program should focus on the finalization of all project preparatory activities:

    • System preparation and testing

    • Training solution

    • Support solution

    • Deployment methods

    • User guides required during deployment (activities before, activities after, and training guides)

    • Preparation of the user representatives for direct interaction with their user base

    • Testing and finalization of the coaching team

    All of these processes will be thoroughly tested during both the POC and the pilot. The communications team will have to prepare POC and pilot evaluation forms and ensure that they are collected at the end of each test.

  • POC and pilot evaluations: Finally, the communications team will be responsible for summarizing all of the results of the POC and pilot evaluations and communicating results to all audiences.

Using Onsite Coaches

One of the resources you should consider during a massive migration project is the onsite coach. These people are project personnel whose purpose is to assist users during their activities before and after the migration.

During migration projects, especially projects that migrate from one operating system to another, users are required to perform certain project activities. Validating their inventory is one such activity. Cleaning up their PC files is another. They may even have to move all of their documents to a special directory if the project has determined that only information in this special directory will be conserved.

After the migration, users finalize the personalization of their system, validate that their old files were transferred to the new system, and start using the new technologies.

For many users, these tasks are a challenge. Onsite coaches can greatly facilitate the process by moving through the deployment along with the project and providing before and after assistance.

The communications team has to ensure that all of its processes are completely tested and ready for moving on to the next phase: the massive deployment.

Using an Infoline

One of the most successful communications tools for migration projects is the infoline, a help line that is specific to the project. The infoline serves to directly provide information to users about the migration process. It can help them find their training and/or migration dates. It can assist them by directing them to other sources of help and assistance.

The infoline relieves the pressure of project coordination communications with users from normal help desk staff. It provides comfort to the user base because it shows that the project team cares to hear them.

Transfer Phase (Deployment)

During the massive deployment phase, communications move to full production mode. Communications at this phase should focus on:

  • Repetitive communication with targeted user populations

  • Success story publication (any positive comments on the solution or the deployment methods should be regularly conveyed to the user base)

  • Project progress information (communicated to all audiences)

The communications process should be simpler to manage at this stage because it becomes very repetitive. Communications help support users during this process, as illustrated in Figure 8.6.

FIGURE 8.6 Message Delivery Mechanisms. User activities during the migration include, for example, attending training in the morning, and then using the new system in the afternoon. Various communication mechanisms should be used to support this process.

Evaluate Phase (Project Review)

The final project phase is the project review. The communications team must review and identify project successes, such as project milestones at the proper dates, objectives set and met by the project, budget results, and overall project performance.

The results of this review must be identified and communicated to all interested parties.

Recurring Communications

Because the implementation of a project-based communications program is a significant undertaking, the organization should ensure that this new mechanism between users and IT be maintained on a recurring basis. Thus, communicators should endeavor to identify information that can be broadcast to the user base on a regular basis. This can include information such as upcoming software and hardware evolution, new function introductions, and so on. It is important to ensure that this kind of information is translated in a manner that is understandable and significant to users.

The Evaluate Phase

Communications activities

  • Perform project review
  • Identify project strengths and weaknesses

Messages

  • Project review
  • Success stories

Mechanisms

  • PowerPoint presentations
  • Meetings
  • Bulletins
  • Word documents
  • Intranet site
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