The first clue to understanding the importance of stakeholder management is in the term itself. There can be a small amount of people carrying out the daily legwork on your project, but a large amount of people with stakes in its success. For some, these stakes can be very high. Stakeholders determine whether your project is successful, and each one has their own definition. This blog will explain both how to meet and measure these varying definitions of success, and how to keep your stakeholders happy throughout your project.
Stakeholder engagement definitions
As a project manager, you will encounter a wide range of different stakeholders. Here are just some them, and how they each define a successful project:
- General Managers and Program Managers: Project success is based on how much the project contributes towards their organization’s long-term goals.
- Functional Managers: Project success is based on the efficient and cost-effective use of the specialised resources they contribute, such as software or subject matter experts.
- Owner-Users: Project success is based whether on the end result meets their specific needs, as they will utilize the final product or service in their business-as-usual activities.
- Project Sponsors: Project success is based on how well the project team stays on budget, and if the project has fulfilled the end results they have funded.
Ways to measure engagement
In her guide to practical stakeholder management, Petra Kuenkel defines two primary ways a company can engage with stakeholders:
- A ‘consultative’ approach, where the company consults with stakeholders but has the final say on how the project will move forward.
- A ‘co-operative’ approach, in that joint action is taken by both stakeholders and the project team.
No matter what approach you take, you will benefit from these best practice tips for retaining and measuring stakeholder engagement:
Centralize stakeholder information: Think about the biggest project you’ve ever encountered. Then think about how many people must have held a stake in its success, especially if scope creep was involved. It’s easy to lose track of keeping everyone happy when at times all you’re concerned about is keeping the project afloat. Whether it’s a spreadsheet or a physical document, each stakeholder and their needs should be documented and revisited regularly. Along with the names and roles of each stakeholder, keep track of how you plan to reach them. Some stakeholders may prefer to answer engagement surveys over email while others prefer open-ended monthly discussions.
Regularly revisit how you prioritize stakeholders: This is more a question of relevance than importance, although of course each stakeholder feels their needs are the most pressing! As you move through each phase of your project’s lifecycle, return to your knowledge base to determine how the particular phase pertains to certain stakeholders. This ensures you’re focused on meeting the right needs at the right time.
Stay proactive in your stakeholder communication: This is vital to keeping stakeholders engaged. Each time you complete a phase in your project lifecycle, update your stakeholders on the project’s performance. This shows you are considering everybody’s needs. You should certainly be proactive in informing your stakeholders on any major issues or changes to project scope. Remember that bad news doesn’t get better over time.
According to the Project Management Institute [PMI] Pulse of the Profession 2015® report, ‘47% of unsuccessful projects fail to meet their original goals and business intent due to poor requirements management.’ Hopefully this blog has provided some useful advice to balance the needs and requirements of stakeholders with your project end goal.