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A 4-Step Stakeholder Management Process

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com

For a long time stakeholder management has focused on the need to identify your stakeholders so you can surface their requirements for the project. The rationale behind this was that requirements that spring up late in a project cost many times what they would cost early in the planning process. But the new focus adds to that “requirements orientation” and provides tools for building and maintaining support from your stakeholders. This involves engaging them in the project management process itself. It also includes identifying their project expectations early and managing those expectations so they align with the project’s deliverables. Stakeholder Main Page

Those of us who manage projects in the “real world” know that strong executive stakeholder support for your project is critical in several areas. First, broad support for your project helps you keep your project team together rather than having them be pulled off for other projects. In a very real sense, every project is battling the other projects in the organization for priority on resources. If your project to loses priority because of poor stakeholder support and unmet expectations, you’ll find your team members being reassigned to higher priority projects.

Second, most projects involve implementing changes, whether it’s following new procedures, using new software, or installing new hardware. Those changes have to happen in operating/user departments and they always cause pain and take time. If you have lost stakeholder support for your project, the implementation of those changes in the operating departments will fall behind schedule, at best, or will be ignored, at worst. The impact on your ability to deliver your project’s scope is enormous if those changes are not implemented.

Third, engaging your stakeholders in the project and the project management process yields significant benefits. As an example, stakeholders who are involved in your risk management process are more likely to support and participate in your risk responses. Engaging your stakeholders also helps you gain support with operational areas that are lending you team members. As I mentioned above, borrowing those resources faces competition from other projects. You are also competing with their “real jobs” and projects that may be launched in their home departments. Engaging the operational area boss in your projects helps ensure that those resources are available when you need them.stakeholder management

For all these reasons, we recommend this four-step stakeholder management process.

First, during initiation you identify the people and organizational units who will be affected positively or negatively by the project. These stakeholders can come from outside the organization as well as the internal players. You’re identifying not only who they are but what interest they have in the project, what their “hot button” issues or project requirements are and their potential influence over the project.

Second, during the project planning phase you also plan how you will manage your stakeholders. You identify what techniques you will use to meet the needs of each stakeholder and to keep them engaged in the process.

Third, during your execution of the project, you implement the stakeholder management plan and the communications strategies required to engage the stakeholders in the project and build their ongoing support.

Fourth, as you execute and control the project, you’re also monitoring the stakeholders and identifying problems/issues to which you must respond to maintain their support. Those issues would include things like new requirements or requirements that are not being met.

This four-step process may take an hour on a small project or weeks on a large one, depending on the size of the stakeholder group. But it’s a proven fact that active stakeholder management builds a foundation for your project success.