Effective communication throughout an Incentive Compensation Management (ICM) is essential to project success. In my experience, many project issues originate or are amplified by inadequate project communication. By defining a plan early, you are laying a foundation for success.
Creating a project communication plan can help with:
- Increasing awareness about the project and its importance
- Gaining acceptance within the organization
- Preparing recipients for upcoming tasks which they will be involved
- Reacting quickly to issues or challenges
- Providing opportunities for feedback
There are five key elements that comprise a communication plan: audience, content, frequency, distribution method and owner.
Target Audience (Aka stakeholders)
It is essential that the message gets to the right people. This helps to ensure that they are kept aware of role relevant information. There will be stakeholders involved from creation to completion. While other project members maybe only involved after key milestones have been achieved. Lastly, there may also be some key stakeholders who are only involved during very specific project requirements. It’s important to plan and ensure that all stakeholders are aware of progress. These are some of the common stakeholders in a typical ICM project:
- Project Team – Team members are involved in the daily activities of the project and need to be aware of what is going on in the project. They will also contribute much of what is communicated to the other stakeholders.
- Plan Members – These are the primary people for whom the project is for. They will use the system to understand their incentive compensation and how they can further grow sales. Plan members need to be aware of the upcoming plan to replace or update the system. They should also be engaged, regularly, throughout the project to keep aware of how the changes impact them. At times, they are forgotten or left out of the process, but it is essential they are engaged to get their buy-in and acceptance of the new system.
- Plan Administrators – Plan administrators coordinate and manage design, development and the ongoing maintenance process. Ensure that plan administrators are kept informed of any changes being made and when they will be implemented.
- Executives – Including the project sponsor, executives are responsible for the vision, direction and strategy of the sales operation. They create the business and sales strategies to which the incentive compensation system must be aligned.
- Finance – Finance may be responsible for plan costing analysis, target setting and ensuring correct payouts are made on time.
- Downstream systems – Consumers of data from the incentive compensation management system. g. Data warehouse, payroll. Owners of the downstream systems need to be aware of impacts on their system due to changes in the outbound data interfaces.
- Upstream systems – These are the providers of data to the incentive compensation management system E.g. HR, ERP. They need to be aware of expectations to deliver data to the system.
- IT Operations – Tasked with ensuring the system is running correctly and efficiently, as well as addressing any support issues. They may only be involved in the final stages close to system hand over.
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ContentThe content is the message or information that you wish to convey to your recipients. The information should be tailored to the audience. Team members will be interested in the project details and inner workings, while executives will be keen to learn more on high-level timelines, budget and status. Some message content types include:
- Project charter/manifesto – This is what the project is attempting to accomplish. All stakeholders should be aware and clear on the project charter. Defining clear project outcomes early on will aide in reducing confusion throughout each phase.
- Project plan – Communicating the project plan will ensure everyone will know the expectations placed on them. It will also inform stakeholders of goals and milestones.
- Status reports – Regular status reports help keep recipients informed of the state of the project. They are designed to track progress, ensure objectives are being met, and monitor project issues.
- Business requirements – This is what the project will be undertaking. Communicating the requirements will help contain scope creep. It will also keep everyone in agreement and focused on the desired outcome.
- Issue/Defect Log – Issue logs help track the test case execution progress. Communicating the log will inform recipients of progress in testing and any problems with the system.
- Training materials – Before starting to use the new or updated system, the users need to be trained on how to work in it. Training materials need to be developed and communicated in advance, typically in a workshop or training session
- Compensation plan documents – These are legal documents that describe how the payees are compensated. Plan members require the plan documents, so they can understand how their incentive compensation will work. It will also allow for plan members to better plan their sales activities. Plan administrators must be the experts on these, so they can manage plans and respond to questions from other stakeholders. Project team members need this information as they will be implementing these plans in the incentive compensation management system.
- Scope changes – Any changes in scope should be documented and shared with stakeholders whether there is a material impact on the project or not. This will prevent any surprises when changes in budget, timeline, or resources occur due to the scope change.
- Lessons learned – All lessons learned throughout the process should be addressed, gathered, and accumulated. The lessons and any remediation should be shared with the applicable stakeholders to ensure past mistakes are not repeated.
Define when or how often the message should be delivered. It may be on a regular time interval such as daily, weekly or monthly. It also could be on key events or milestones such as:
- Project kick-off
- Large impact change request
- Requirement Sign-off
- Design Completion
- Build Completion
- Start of UAT
- UAT Acceptance
The method of communication can be as important as the message itself. An unsuitable method of communication can lessen the impact and the impression of the message. Determine for each message type what is the best distribution method. It may even be multiple methods for the same message. Some modes to consider are:
- Daily Scrum or Stand up
- Formal communication requiring sign-off
The team member responsible for assembling and distributing the message must be well-defined. The owner must understand the expectations and responsibilities placed on them. Here are some roles that may be designated an owner of a message:
- Project Manager
- Project Sponsor
- Team Lead
- Compensation Administrator
- Operations Manager
Once your plan has been created, all that is left is to execute. The plan must be managed like you would a project plan. It is important to schedule regular reviews during the project to make additions or modifications to address gaps in communication. The effort spent in the beginning to develop the communication plan will benefit your stakeholders while also increasing the project success rate.
If you’re experiencing any difficulties with your current ICM system or are currently trying to learn more on how these software solutions can help strengthen your organization’s ability to compete, we’d love to get in touch. Schedule a meeting with Intangent here.