Stakeholder Management – who are your influencers?

10.06.2012 0

Recently I was asked about my experiences for managing stakeholders. The term “Stakeholder” is rather broad and I’ve seen it loosely defined as anyone with an interest in the project. Technically this may be true – but really I believe a more accurate definition is anyone who has influence on the outcome of the project.

Stakeholder Management is a very complex topic because of the people involved and the uncertainty around the situations of their involvement – it deals specifically with “what can be encountered.” A skilled manager is someone that can read the situation, dig into the reasons or rationale behind a stakeholder’s position, and then negotiate a successful outcome to new encounters.

Stakeholders change too during the life of project. Those that were influential on the scope of the work may not necessarily be the ones signing off on it as an example, or discoveries during the execution of the project may result in new stakeholders being identified and they will need to be on-boarded into the project.

So how do you manage them? One of the things to remember is that their influence is greatest at the start of the project or the initiation of a new phase. Key stakeholders also need to be incorporated as needed – especially as the project develops so that they can provide the appropriate input needed for project success.

Balancing Stakeholder Interests:

  1. Get to the why.  Each stakeholder will have a different take on why the project is being done. – Does if fulfil a business need?  Are market conditions at work?  Do processes need to made more efficient?
  2. Find out what should be done.  Viewpoints on this will always be different between stakeholders and understanding their unique views may lead to a greater understanding of any hidden requirements.
  3. What does the project management plan say to address points one and two above?

Balancing interests also means that a formal change control process needs to be established.  Practical thoughts aside - following a good change control methodology will help negotiations with stakeholders.  This helps the manager to listen to what stakeholders want and help identify what cost parameters  or time frames will be needed to meet these needs.  If changes are required and agreed to, then the project management plan can be updated accordingly, reflecting not only the outcomes of the stakeholder’s interests but also the work and costs necessary to make it happen.

 Know your Influencers:

None of this can happen though if you don’t know who has influence on your project and when they might exercise it.  The analysis work has to be done up front at the beginning of the project and periodically as the project rolls out.  Build a Stakeholder Register and schedule both formal and informal meetings, workshops, etc. to get their input.  Also try questionnaires and surveys.  Don’t be afraid to build prototypes to get feedback and ideas.  It can only result in a better chance to complete your project successfully!

 

 

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