Communication Management using Service Blueprint
Developed by Prasad Jagtap
Communications management is the systematic planning, implementing, monitoring, and revision of all the channels of communication within or between an organization, it also refers to the dissemination of new communication directives connected with an organization, network, or certain technology. In terms of Project Management, Communication Management is grouping processes based on the requirement to meet the information needs of a project and relevant stakeholders. The study revealed that the most crucial success factor in project management is effective communication to all stakeholders. 
Communication and group interaction are commonly cited regarding the quality, effectiveness, and satisfaction of group decision-making. This is where the question arouses, mostly, it is seen that the organization’s effectiveness and efficiency are evaluated high or as referred to as thriving in the market when all the relevant and responsible individuals in the departments work in alignment, have transparency and subtle engagement, considering the certainty of work culture in cross-departments. On the other hand, few of the organizations tend to hardly perform or to refer to the term survive or die slowly in the market, considering the terms as depicted in the efficiency vs effectiveness matrix .
Service Blueprint can be leveraged to understand cross-functional relationships and make front and back-stage processes more aligned. In a retrospect, it also helps visualize the relationships between different service components; people, props (physical or digital evidence), and processes that are directly tied to touchpoints in a specific service lifecycle. For successful overall management, a plan must be developed. It has to be done in such a way that it is closely aligned with organizational strategy, governance management, and portfolio performance management. Part of the process is to select the most effective communication strategy.
In order to manage the flow of information throughout the functional departments, the respective article discusses the concept, scope, and challenges of communications management and its plan whereas, also depicts the applicability, theoretical practices, limitations and existing topology of the Service Blueprint model to disseminate the scope of communications management.
Communications Management in the context of the project focuses on developing a strategy by establishing effective communication between the relevant stakeholders. It employs the process required to ensure timely generation, collection, distribution, storage, retrieval, and disposal of project distribution.
This integral part of the process can therefore be briefly classified into respective parts; 
- Communications planning
- Information distribution
- Performance reporting
- Managing stakeholders
These processes communicate with one another contributing to the success of project communications management, considering each process including certain individuals based on the project requirement. The art of communications is a broad subject and it involves a substantial body of know-how as represented in the respective schematic to the right.
The individual components in the communications model are supposed to be considered primitive when discussing communication on the project level. The corresponding model illustrates ideas or information as sent and/or received between two individuals or a group of individuals.
Planning communication is the process of developing an essence of a legitimate approach. When a controversial project is undergoing, the solution can seldom be strengthening the communications with relevant stakeholders, whereas the project might not even change significantly from its original plan, but communication with stakeholders can often work out as the deal-breaker which embarks the project to succeed. The standard communication needs such as progress updates, circulars must be identified, and their content must be planned out in advance in the form of a Plan .
During the project execution phase, managing communications can stand as a major factor between a successful project and a failed one. Information distribution indulges in making information available to the relevant stakeholders in a certain period. It also involves implementing the Communications Plan, acknowledging the impromptu requests for information. The process of creating, manipulating, and recording the communications is a significant aspect in terms of project management, which thus requires perpetual support from the Project manager .
Referring to other classified concepts, performance reporting constitutes the overall success of a project, whereas a presence of an entity that strongly controls the communication is responsible for monitoring the activities. The performance reporting process associates the assortment of standard data, disposal, or information to the stakeholders. As part of the monitoring & controlling process group, the controlling manager must include control at regular status update points. At the same time, effectiveness analysis, quality control, scope validation, and the other project control items take place, the governing body must ensure that each stakeholder has received the appropriate amount of information .
Stakeholder management deals with managing the communications to gratify the requirements, resolve issues if any with the relevant stakeholders. Adaptive and effective managing stakeholders boosts the chances that the project shall remain on track, improving the ability of individuals to operate in harmony by limiting the interruptions during the project timeline .
Communications Management ensures the flow of information, concerning the project by respecting the assigned time with high priority. Communication is practiced both internally and externally amongst the allocated resources and other relevant stakeholders. However, there is a high degree of complexity and uncertainty while simply practicing communication. The respective sub-sections touch the base in regards to the potential challenges in communications management.
One important factor about communication being an utmost priority is that oftentimes, the communication medium is not considered prior, which raises the chances of complexity in communicating among the cross-functional departments. Another important factor raising complexity while communicating is improper time management of resources. Considering the scope of the project, ‘n’ number of resources must be allotted to a certain timeframe, if these resources are unaware of project meetings, their cumulative milestones would reflect to less productive outcome. Some areas of communication may need encouragement, whilst others may be excessive. Having an unrealistic count of meetings can sometimes result in nothing, which ultimately reflects in decreasing the productivity of the resources. Lack of knowledge transfer shall increase complexity in understanding and can lead to the waste of time if important information is not perceived by responsible stakeholders.
One of the important factors that could be discussed is that many issues lie due to the technological gap in the hierarchy, which naturally shall create a void due to technological intricacy. In order to confront such a scenario, the responsible resources shall be mandated to get trained and acquainted with the applicability and practicality of the corresponding tool or platform.
Uncertainty is a state of limited knowledge, where it is impossible to exactly describe the existing state, a future outcome, or more than one possible outcome. Considering challenges in uncertainty shall help create a vast list, however, it can be handled by thoroughly encountering the challenges. Potential challenges could be identified; one of them being, an unclear idea about cross-functional departments and/or transparency issues with the internal or external departments.
Uncertainty should be at its peak when a few departments, working on the same project shall have a communication void. This communication gap generally helps build an unclear decision gate for a few relevant stakeholders, leading to uncertainty considering timeline and promised deliverables. This mainly hampers the alignment on inter-department level work due to its non-monitored work culture. Another important factor that could lead to a higher degree of uncertainty is having an unclear idea or opinion about the workload of different stakeholders (internal or external) considering the designated task shall be done within a scope which reciprocates the unclear scope clarification.
Good governance is at the heart of any successful business. An organization needs to achieve its objectives and drive improvement, as well as maintain legal and ethical standing in the eyes of internal & external stakeholders, regulators, and the wider community. However, the service blueprint is one of the innovative tools which helps organization govern the processes appropriately. Its applications help diagnose problems with operational efficiency. The service blueprint model shall be tailor-made as suitable to the operational delicacy, and its vast scope of application makes it usable for any scale of organizations, ranging from small to larger-scale. The modeling of business processes has become a central aspect in how businesses understand, support, and communicate about their processes. Service blueprinting shall support processes by understanding a firm’s processes with a focus on how information and communications platform supports processes.
The process can be viewed as a chain or constellation of activities that allow the service to function effectively. Service blueprinting is a flexible approach that helps with the challenges of process design and analysis. It is a powerful technique and tool that can facilitate the detailed refinement of a single step in the customer process as well as the creation of a comprehensive, visual overview of an entire process by emphasizing the cross-departmental flow of information. 
In order to overcome all the challenges from the complexity and uncertainty perspectives as highlighted in the above sub-sections of the article, the service blueprint model can be leveraged by an organization or a project controlling board that is struggling with the essential communications management or can be practiced by the governing body which is responsible to manage the scope of the project, in a retrospect, considering an effective and efficient flow of information as an outcome.
Service processes are believed to be fluid, dynamic, and frequently co-produced in real-time by customers, employees, and technology, often labeled as relevant stakeholders. In the case of a service blueprint, the fundamental premise is the importance of performance management, where research shows meaningful experiences and the resulting emotional bonds between the internal and external stakeholders being more important than rational motivations in creating stability and coherence. In comparison to other process-oriented designs, the service blueprint is foremost stakeholder-focused, allowing firms to visualize the processes and the physical evidence associated with their services from their client’s perspective by actually connecting their back-stage operations with the front-stage operations. The blueprint helps connect the underlying support processes throughout the organization that drives and supports external stakeholder-focused communication . When building a blueprint, the first step is to clearly articulate the processes or sub-process. The organization often shall modify processes to fit the needs of which segment of customers is the focus of the blueprint.
The application of the model is quite simple but could get complex if perceived otherwise. To start with, there are key elements of a typical service blueprint.
- External actions (Customer/Client actions)
- Frontstage/Visible actions
- Backstage/Invisible actions
External actions includes all the steps that the client takes as part of the delivery process. Customer actions deal with the external part of the communication workflow which stands chronologically across the top of the blueprint. These actions are depicted so that all other activities shall support the value proposition as offered. The actions could also be labeled as part of the processes, choices, and interactions that clients perform while interacting to reach a certain goal.  The actions should be depicted first because this serves as the foundation for all other elements of the blueprint. Blueprints are ideally developed by cross-functional teams, however, the contact actions between both frontstage and backstage resources can be delineated, followed by support processes.
Front-stage/visible actions are separated from the external actions by the line of interaction. Every time the line of interaction is crossed via a link from the external end to contact front-end resource a moment of truth occurs. These actions could be person-to-person or person-to-interface contact.  This shall probably be the next step after managing external resources, where the moment of truth happens, shall manage to overcome the challenges considering miscommunications within internal & external resources and shall map every stakeholder at one place.
Backstage/invisible actions are separated from the visible actions by a line of visibility. Everything that appears above the line of visibility can be tracked and monitored by external stakeholders, while everything below this line is invisible. Below the line of visibility, all other resource actions are featured, those indulge invisible interaction with external stakeholders as well as any other part of processes that resources perform in order to serve the clients or that are part of their responsibilities in the respective line of work considering performance management. 
Processes are separated from the internal resources by the internal line of interaction. These are the activities that are carried out by an individual, or different units within the organization who are not essentially assigned resources but that need to happen for a particular service to be delivered.  The level of detail depicted in the blueprint is a function of the purpose for which it is being created.
Vertical lines from the support area connecting with other areas of the blueprint show the inter-functional connections and support that are essential to delivering the service. These lines connecting different departments shall help overcome the challenges by making a clear idea about cross-functional departments.
There are honorary/secondary components that drive the context and business goals by introducing the additional elements as needed by the governing board. These secondary elements can be determined based on the needs i.e could be tailor-made as suitable to the respective project or program. For example, the below components are considered crucial;
Metrics is one of the honorary components that gradually helps record the success in terms of data, considering the type of metric is the time spent on various processes or the financial costs associated with the resources. These numbers shall help the governing body identify where time or money has been highly utilized due to miscommunication or inefficiencies. . This component shall help overcome the challenges like unrealistic count of meetings, decreasing the productivity of the resources, and shall help strengthen scope clarification.
For each external activity, and every moment of truth, the evidence that stakeholders come in contact with is described at the start of the blueprint. These are all the tangibles that relevant stakeholders are introduced to, which can help influence their quality perceptions. . This element shall help considerately overcome the challenges in lack of knowledge transfer by performing knowledge transfer based on technical as well as on Business level.
Time is considered as a primary component in the service processes to channelize an estimated duration for each activity, which should be essentially represented in the blueprint. This component shall help resolve the complexity in communications management, considering proper time management of resources. 
Policies determine a complete set of activities, this decision gate shall help stakeholders understand the essentiality of the model while performing cross-communication in between different key elements by understanding what can and cannot be changed as they proceed. 
Emotions is an underlying and hidden aspect that can be practiced by understanding how internal and external resources are feeling throughout the process, it is recommended to start identifying pain points.
In order to manage the dynamics, a common standard shall be considered. Setting a standard or regulating certain policies shall strengthen the legacy method of the communication pattern, which shall help improve the reporting structure for projects that are a part of the program. However, service process management is an iterative process that shall be adaptable to encounter the needs of the relevant stakeholders over time as the project emerges with secondary components such as time, emotions, and evidence.
Once the process is signified and managed as mentioned in the key components part of the Service model, cross-departmental acknowledgment i.e moment of truth is required, based on which, honorary elements shall be optimized per need, as determined by the governing body. However, sometimes, the manager has to deal with multiple sub-issues which can also be referred to as symptoms of the key problem. It is quite evident that no model is competent to manage the outcome to its fullest by being highly effective. There could possibly be a scenario where a particular respondent from any of the departments shall express frustration with obtaining organizational commitment, support, and resources for their initiatives. Thereby, stating a few potential problems which could be not encountered by the respective innovation tool. The limitations may rank as a decider, considering a project to be a success or a failure.
- Finding relevant associates and expectations management
Finding relevant stakeholders, and forming an alliance is an integral part of the service process. While carefully implementing the service blueprint model, the manager seems to miss the identification of these specific allies. It is prominent to establish a core team of allies that shall support the initiative and campaign the process, from start to the end of a lifecycle. The initial step of service blueprinting is finding the support team and perform a brief expectations management with the individuals, which, if stays informed, shall ensure project outcome and closely monitor the communication.
- Aligning on practicing goals, determining process and process ownership
In order to initiate aligning goals, determining the process and its ownership, owners shall concern the involved stakeholders, a lack of a brief tutorial based on competence and influence mapping could be experienced. In such scenarios, respective resources and linked stakeholders are reluctant towards practicing the task management and understand the process, where, identifying opportunities for optimizing the mode of communication and bridging the void between cross-functional departments shall channelize the processes.
Conclusion and reflection
To summarize, it can be evident that there are multiple types of projects involving distinct stakeholders. However, legitimate communications practices are nearly impossible to draw up enough to consolidate all types of limitations in a perspective of complexity and uncertainty, yet enough relevant to a particular project. Planning the project and perform communications mapping by involving stakeholders beforehand is supposed to be the amongst crucial part of the processes, which shall be considered and treated as an important KPI. As described in the schematic (to the right) of an effective project communication plan, a few KPIs could be found relevant and responsible to drive the plan.
- Communication models & methods are one of the important factors which shall help channelize effective communication between individuals and departments.
- Practicing communication strategy by performing requirement analysis shall help manage effectively communicate, which shall help determine the productivity of each contributor to the project, considering an individual or a group of individuals.
- Expectations management is importantly determining the project to be a success or failure, which shall be considered as another important KPI to drive efficient plan, the medium of communication and technology using the model shall help efficiently and effectively communicate within external to frontstage and backstage resources.
Only practicing any of the innovation or business tool shall not help improve existing processes, however, a project manager who shall be responsible for stakeholder management shall make sure that the outcome from the tool is being utilized and benefitting the project to drive success. If and only if, the respective processes are carefully adhered to, it could be depicted that the organization shall be thriving in the market, considering communications management as the most important Key Performance Indicator.
- Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Fifth Edition, 2013 ; The book describes all relevant topics and aspects of project management from a certain point of view. Part of the book refers to the essential role of effective communication. The respective book also illuminates the current ideal topology based on communications management and its evident plan. Relevant sections and sub-sections of the book help understand the applicability of the communications management plan in detail, considering its needs, expectations for the project. The plan is introduced considering the formal or informal, detailed or broadly framed level of information on the relevant stakeholders. The communication management plan is showcased considering its inputs, outputs, tools, and techniques.
- Essentials of Contemporary Management, McGraw-Hill Co. 2015 ; The respective book embarks to concisely saturate the concept of effective management in total. The book focuses on providing the most recent account of changes taking place in the area of management practices while maintaining an emphasis on the challenges and opportunities facing organizations of any scale and deals with models of how to tackle the respective challenges. The relevant reference helps depicts the idea behind effectiveness and efficiency based on the overall performance of an organization. Certain sub-section of the book helps understand the essentiality and applicability of the models and depicts a clear picture of the current and future state for an organization while managing projects.
- Guidance on Project Management, ISO 21500:2012 ; Project Management concepts are studied in-depth, the plan communications sub-section of the respective ISO standard book delivers a strong hypothesis based on efficiently managing communications and effectively planning them. The book argues and discusses strong points considering the information and communication needs of the stakeholders. It also discusses the methods, action plan, and factors for project success assessing the identification of information needs. The respective section of the book helps determine the typical topology and classification based on the idea of the communications plan. It helps optimize the process by laying out the essentials of the plan as classified in the original plan.
- Service Blueprinting, Mary Jo Bitner, Amy L. Ostrom, Felicia N. Morgan, 2007  ; Service blueprinting helps visualize the organizational processes in order to optimize deliverables as a user experience. It gives a standpoint in a perspective to use the model in a customized way, apparently not only in the service industry but helps tailor-make the potential use of the model. An analysis of a co-creation process is showcased with underlying aspects as essential to manage the chain of activities. The theory concerning many of the essential activities that support the service is invisible to the client, understanding the fact and method of these activities as linked to the client is essential to ensure the value proposition.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Project Management Institute, A Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMI, 2013),
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Gareth R.Jones, Jennifer M. Jones, Essentials of Contemporary Management, (McGraw-Hill Co. 2015),
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Guidance on Project Management, (Dansk Standard ISO 21500:2012),
- ↑ Service Blueprinting Overview, (W. P. Carey School of Business, 2015)
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Service Blueprinting, Mary Jo Bitner, Amy L. Ostrom, Felicia N. Morgan, 2007
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Service Blueprints: Definition, https://www.nngroup.com/articles/service-blueprints-definition/, (Accessed on 20th of February 2021),