Communication infrastructure is the set of tools, techniques and principles that provide the foundation for the effective transfer of information between people. Tools include groupware, e-mail, project management software, fax, phone, teleconferencing systems, document management systems and word processors. Techniques include meeting ground rules and procedures, problem solving, decision making, conflict resolution and negotiation techniques, reporting guidelines and templates, escalation procedures, and so forth. Critical communication principles include the concepts of “straight talk,” dialogue vs. debate, and process planning, review and refinement.
Complex projects with participants from multiple companies, divisions or other organization units represent a communications challenge. With the current interest in business partnering and the need to integrate complex technologies and services into geographically dispersed systems, it is becoming increasingly common for people from several technical disciplines and organizations to collaborate on relatively short-term, high-impact projects.
We must combine automation with a set of protocols and principles to ensure that the right information is received by the right people, in the right form, at the right time, and that it is understood in the way it was meant to be understood.
In some industries—defense and aerospace, among others—large prime contractors have traditionally established a project management infrastructure that includes a formal communication plan and techniques that support project communications. But other complex projects (for example, in Information Systems and Business Process Reengineering) may be performed in organizations in which such projects are exceptions. These organizations are often not prepared to handle the complexities of such efforts. Commonly, subcontractors to these projects are more experienced than the principals but they are often not in a position to influence infrastructure development.