IT Project Communication: An Investigation of Its Dimensions and Relationship to Project Success

IT Project Communication: An Investigation of Its Dimensions and Relationship to Project Success

Jo Ann Starkweather Bigbee (Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, USA) and Deborah H. Stevenson (Northeastern State University, Tahlequah, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJITPM.2019070104
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The critical nature of information flow as a precursor to project success has been affirmed by both scholars and project management professionals. The data analyzed in this study represent the perceptions of 91 IT project professionals regarding the importance of 18 different aspects of project communication to project success. The relationship of these data vis-a-vis project manager demographics and project/organizational characteristics is explored. Despite a relatively high level of agreement across the respondents regarding which communications are perceived critical to project success, there are clear project and stakeholder circumstances that warrant consideration. The data reveal both statistical and practical dimensions of communication that attribute importance to project success differently for internal as compared to external communication. Furthermore, the emergence of average project duration as a consistently strong correlate of perceived importance of communication to project success is an area of research deserving greater attention.
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Communication Viewed Through A Theoretical Lens

Visually, a single act of communication is often depicted by silhouettes of two “talking heads” facing each other (sender and receiver), and a line (channel and message) connecting the heads. This familiar visual illustrates key assumptions often made regarding communication. i.e., communication is direct, between equals, and is without interference.

Another way to visualize acts of communication taking into account the assumptions of the three major theoretical perspectives mentioned previously is depicted in Figure 1. The circle on the left depicts a functionalist perspective in that the horizontal, linear arrows suggest information exchanges between persons of equal power, i.e., on the same line. The middle circle represents a critical perspective in that it indicates a power differential between sender and receiver (left and right arrow heads) with the inclusion of a north-south trajectory for the lines, i.e., the height differential indicates a disparity in power between sender and receiver. Finally, the circle on the right is intended to represent a symbolic interaction perspective, where the wavy lines acknowledge possible power differentials and a negotiated meaning attached to the message. There are no assumptions that agreement will be reached regarding the meaning of the message in this final scenario, rather there is an assumption that sender and receiver independently attach meaning to a given message and this meaning will be shaped by both the environment of the respective party in the communication and his/her experience.

Project managers operating within a “functional” organizational environment, would commit and confine themselves to the goal of being on time, within budget, and to spec. Thus, communications would be limited to enforcing/ensuring adherence to schedules, vigilant cost accounting, and producing the desired outcome. Timelines and spreadsheets incorporated into weekly reports could fulfill the bulk of the communication that results from taking a functional perspective.

Figure 1.

Assumptions of communication power: equal power (functional), disparate power (critical), complex/situational power (symbolic interaction)


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