effective stakeholder management

Boardroom Metrics provides IT Consulting and IT RFP, Bid Response Writing expertise to clients in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Europe.

Effective stakeholder management was critical to every IT project success in every organization I have ever worked with. Stakeholder management is an important discipline that successful project managers use to win support from others. It helps them ensure that their projects succeed where others may fail. Let’s first define what a stakeholder is before getting into how to effectively manage the project stakeholders to achieve project success.

“Individuals within the organization with specific interests, expectations, and demands as to what the project should provide to improve their current product, service, or business process”.

As the saying goes, “Projects don’t fail at the end. They fail at the beginning.” That is why it is important to interview the project sponsor (the most important stakeholder), the individual who will ultimately declare victory (or failure). Never, ever accept someone else’s interpretation of what the sponsor is looking for. In many cases, the sponsor doesn’t know what he or she really wants even when they think they do. In my experience, the definition of success and what is wanted evolves throughout the project life cycle based on external and internal changes.

An effective stakeholder management plan starts with creating the sponsor’s vision of the project and your role in its success. To gain the insight needed to be able to effectively manage the project stakeholders, especially the project sponsor, you need to ask business oriented questions:

  • Effective Stakeholder ManagementFor whose benefit is the project being undertaken?
  • What customer group or department is the project intended to impact?
  • Who is likely to feel threatened by this project or have strong opinions against it?
  • Who do we need to talk to that has to be happy with the results?
  • What is the most important payoff you are looking to achieve?
    • Increased revenue?
    • Better customer service?
    • Greater market share?
    • Decreased cost of doing business?
    • Short-term profits?
  • How would you quantify the dollar payoff are you targeting?
    • ROI?
    • Reduced cost?
  • What will determine that the business benefits have been achieved?
  • Under what conditions would we shut down the project?

Only after analysing the answers to these questions can you create a stakeholder communication plan. Stakeholder analysis is the most often used technique to identify the key people, their interest, and their needs. The stakeholder analysis will determine the style, content and method of delivery of the stakeholder communication plan. The resulting communication plan will build the support that helps you and your project team deliver successful IT projects.

The plan is based on the information gathered in the project initialization phase via stakeholder interviews as part of the stakeholder’s analysis. Using this information, you will have the necessary data to develop the stakeholder communication and reporting plan. At minimum, the plan needs to cover the following for each stakeholder:

  • It Project Successthe information requirements
  • frequency of communication
  • communication provider
  • channel of communication for each stakeholder
  • Work out what you want from each stakeholder
  • Identify the messages you need to convey
  • Identify actions and communications

To achieve maximum impact it is important to use ALL available forms of communication and current technology like: webinar, internet, intranet, video conferencing, etc. In addition to the technical tools, I found using existing company communications such as the company magazine or newsletter will give your project a higher profile and acceptance.

An effective stakeholder management plan helps you to navigate the political minefields that often come with major projects. It helps you win support for your projects and eliminates a major source of project and work stress.

In my previous blog, I wrote about how an effective project communication plan drives IT project success.Including this blog, I have explored the ten (10) most common activities related to IT project success/failure.

In my future blogs, I will address some of the many other activities or reasons why an IT project or any project may fail and how to mitigate the negative effect.