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I recently had the opportunity to step outside IT for a few months and work in some other areas of the company. Once I was no longer living in the daily chatter of the department, it became clear that as a department, we were not doing a good enough job communicating with the rest of the organization. We were sending out “just-in-time” communications, like upgrade announcements, outage alerts, and security bulletins. But we never thought to communicate much beyond that. So I began compiling a formal IT communications plan.

Note: This article is based on “Getting the word out: An IT communication plan that works,” which appears on TechRepublic’s premium sister site, Tech Pro Research. For access to the complete article and sample email templates — along with other exclusive content and hundreds of downloadable tools, IT policies, ebooks, and research reports — subscribe to Tech Pro Research. You can sign up for a free seven-day trial and get full access to all articles, plus the download of your choice.

Four big wins

Regular communication serves so many purposes, its importance can’t be overemphasized. Here are four key benefits of building an IT communications plan:

  • Informing users about events that may affect them. (These are the just-in-time communications mentioned above).
  • Publicizing IT wins. The more you do this, the more capital you have to effect change down the road.
  • Justifying your costs. IT is a major cost center. Don’t leave the corporate executives wondering what they are spending that money on. Give them transparency.
  • Keeping your eyes on the prize. The biggest wins are usually the result of a complex, long-term initiative. These are transformational efforts where the real ROI comes only after a whole series of less exciting projects. Reminding the business of the long-term benefit helps keep everyone focused.

Reactive, proactive

An IT communication plan needs to be both reactive and proactive. Reactive communications are event-based — those just-in-time notifications and things like alerting stakeholders when a project hits a significant milestone.

Proactive communications are sent out on a regular schedule. They include messages such as uptime reports, service desk recaps, the IT roadmap, and user tips and advice. These communications should be scheduled on a staggered basis, as shown in Table A.

Style and substance

The content of all these communications is important. They need to be informative and as brief as possible. The style of the communication is also critical and is frequently overlooked. These should be professional-looking communications (spelling, grammar, proofreading; you will be judged by these or the lack thereof). Remember that they are, in part, marketing pieces. Treat the style much like you would for a website: intuitive and clean.

Your take

Does your organization have a formal IT communications plan in place? If so, how well is it working? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.