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What matters is the communication mean you stated into your communication plan. No more than that. For example, in my case where I am working in highly distributed teams around the world from the last 30 years imagine if we do not use email.
Fully agree with Sergio, the communication channels and periodicity shall be included in the Communication Management Plan. That being said, it is convenient to ensure f2f or virtual meetings with suitable project stakeholders and not rely solely on emails.
However the context of question is slightly different.
Whether E-Mail shall be considered as Formal communication or not ?
Why are you asking? Because you are preparing for the certification exam?. If that is not the case, I will say it does not matter. To be considering formal you have to state it inside your communication plan (or any other place where you will stablish all related to communication). If you need to state it in the context of a contract then you have to make a question to your attorney.
It sounds as if you're asking whether emails are admissible as legal evidence.
The answers differs from country to country, but in India it appears emails (and other electronic records) are legally admissible.
Whether communication is formal or informal is determined by the message and the format, not by the medium.
For example, if you are standing in front of a governing board and giving a project status report in a prescribed format, you are giving a formal presentation. If you are talking to one of those board members after the meeting adjourns and getting her impressions about your project, you're having an informal discussion. In both cases, you're talking to a person, but one is formal and another is not.
In the same way, email can be formal or informal. A key distinction of email from other mediums is that, as a digital medium, it can be easily distributed and stored. In some cases, the law may require that you keep email correspondence for a prescribed period of time. Due to these reasons, as well as the lack of signals you get from face-to-face communication, it may not be the best way to communicate if you need to have an uncomfortable or sensitive conversation.
Whilst I won't get into whether emails can be admitted as formal evidence, PMI is clear that they are classed as informal.
What I have seen in practice is that day-to-day communications are the normal method of communication but if a company wishes to place a contract, make a claim or provide a decision then usually this is done by sending a formal letter, even if the client & contractor are co-located in the same building.
From my experience in managing construction projects, e-mails are usually considered informal communication and in order for anything to be considered formal if it is going out to the client, if should go out through an official transmittal or signed memo.
As for e-mails being admissible in the court of law or not, it depends on the situation and circumstances and it also depends on the contracts and contractual documents. There is always a clause under the general conditions for the type & order of priority of documents to be considered in case of any dispute between both parties.
I love PMP questions splitting hair. Who cares what I or another person think - what do you want them to be?
1. In a project setting: Your communication plan should specify if email communication is acceptable, preferred, or maybe even the chosen platform (paperless environment).
2. In a contractual relation: you have to specify in the contract if email correspondence is acceptable and considered formal communication (formal = binding). If the contract does not specify, then No 3.
3. The law of the land will be what establish if email communication is considered legal correspondence and can be used in a court of law. I think most countries are moving in this direction if not already there.
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