How to understand a project step one: read stuff!

About the author

Ann is a co-founder of PR Academy. Her special areas of interest are internal communication, change management and project communication. MSc, Dip CAM, MCIPR

For communication professionals working on projects one of the biggest challenges can be working out what the project is actually doing. In the first of this series of blogs, I draw on what I discuss in the book, first up – what documentation shouldl you be reading?

All projects will have documentation that can help the communicator. When you arrive on a project, it can pay to spend some quiet time reading key documents. This will help you to then ask the right questions and seem well informed. Depending on the size of the project and the project methodology being used, documents may vary in name and nature, but here are some valuable ones to review:

  • The business case: this should set out the rationale for the project and the benefits to be gained.
  • The vision and blueprint: used in change projects, this will tell you what the project wants to achieve and what the organisation will be like when the project completes.
  • Project initiation document (PID): this should set out things like the objectives for the project, the scope, assumptions, deliverables, resources and risks.
  • The risks and issues register: communication should be contributing to this either in terms of raising risks or providing mitigation of risks. Reviewing the register is a quick way to understand any problems that the project may face.
  • Project plans and roadmaps: these are useful in that they set out what will be achieved by when and the communication plan should of course be aligned with them. But they rarely help you to really understand what is being done and why.
  • Lessons learned: has a similar project been done before? If so, review the lessons learned document.

Next time, I will be looking at how to make sure you are speaking to the right people and asking the right questions.


This is a summary of an article that first appeared in Simply Communicate.