Identify Your Stakeholders: Before the Ship Sinks

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Let’s discuss a scenario of a company where no formal project management processes is in place. A company which believes more on manpower rather than processes. For example, it is a construction company and recently won a tender to construct a flyover in a busy road in the city.

That’s a great news for the company, the company grabs the work order from the mouths of its competitors and jumped to start making the flyover. They informed the architects, engineers and the workers to start the work. Everyone planned their work as usual. The architects draw their diagrams, and the engineers made their plan. So finally the work begins and in few days some of the pillars of the flyover were stood. So everything was going well and as expected.

Suddenly, a person filed a lawsuit in the local court to stop the work. And the work stops as per the court order. What!! Why? Why it happened? And what will happen, if the work wont starts again, a lot of money already spent on it?

So, what happened here? While planning everything in the beginning, the company missed to take consent of a person whose balcony is coming on the way of the flyover.

This is a simple example of managing the project without following the project management processes. And the simple solution to this problems is, If an organization honestly follows all the processes, and practice each steps and phases religiously then this type of thing will never happen in the first place.

Does the project Management processes helps here? Yes, of course it helps. One of the important aspects of project initiation is identification of stakeholders. All the stakeholders should be identified and taken into consideration while preparing the charter.

At the beginnings, when the project is about to start, the first and foremost job is to prepare the Project Charter. And one of the important parts of project charter is the identification of stakeholders. For any successful business, it is important to identify and manage our stakeholders. We initiate the project for them, plan accordingly as per their requirements, execute and implement as per their needs and finally delivers it for their use.

Who are our Stakeholders?

So, who are those stakeholders? For any standard software projects, we generally think that the client is the sole stakeholder. But that is not true, the stakeholders are the people, groups and organizations who could impact or be impacted by the outcome of the products. They can influence the project in either way. For a constructions project, even the local people in and around the construction site are also the stakeholders including the government agencies, builder, contractor, laborer etc. Because initially it may look like they are not related, but in a given day, if they impacted in any way they can halt your construction or demand something which can derail your plan.

How to Manage your Stakeholders?

For every project, the stakeholders take an important role. They can influence the project either in a positive or negative way. Some of the stakeholders have limited ability to influence the project while some has the ability to derail the project in a given day. So, managing the stakeholders based on their influencing ability can result in the success or failure of the project. That is the job of the Project Manager to correctly identify all the stakeholders and then effectively manage them through out the project.

To manage our stakeholders in a better way, we need to put our energy and attention mostly on four processes:

Identify your Stakeholders

Never ever miss or ignore a stakeholder based on his/her current position or impact on your project. Who knows when the table turned on other way and he becomes an important decision maker which can affect your project. Most important here is document the requirements from all your stakeholders. Later you can decide what can be taken and what not, based on your engagement with them. The identification of the Stakeholders is a continuous process through out the project life cycle.

Prepare the list of the stakeholders by conducting discussions and meetings with Sponsors, Senior Managements. Take input from the project managers who had worked in the same type of projects earlier by conducting meetings with them; or from the lesson learned documents archived in organization repository. Also, do not forget to take the view of SME (Subject Matter Expert).

Plan to Manage them

Develop an appropriate strategy to manage your stakeholders throughout your project life cycle. In order to support the project’s interest, a clear and actionable plan should be at hand. The main motive is to maintain a relationship between the team and the stakeholders to fulfill their needs for the betterment of the project.

Manage and Communicate with them

To keep your stakeholders satisfied, to minimize the resistance, you need to work on effective communications with your stakeholders. They should be informed of the project statuses, any changes and issues. The important thing is that, do not hide, be honest and keep informed them. The project Managers may found some of the Stakeholders are resistant to change and may not be supported at times, that times the Managers convincing skills can play a effective role to engage those Stakeholders.

Control the Engagement with Stakeholders

Please don’t read it as you can control your stakeholder in any other way, it should be read as engage with them with proper strategies. Keep monitoring the relationship and adjust the strategies as per the current needs.

It is important to manage your stakeholders through out the project by keeping an eye on their needs and fulfill those requirements efficiently. As per PMBOK, a very handy and useful grid chart is called Power/Interest Grid.

Just Monitor the Stakeholders who has low power and low interest in the project

In case of, the Stakeholders has high power but low interest in the project, we need to keep them satisfied by sending them regular status updates. Normally they are senior management people and their main interest is to know the project health and profit margins

While, the Stakeholders with low power but high interest, we need to keep them informed regularly with project progress status.

The top in the grid are the Stakeholders who are high in both power and interest, take supreme care to them. For example, the senior customer representative having power to influence the project, we need to manage him carefully by fulfilling his needs.

It is important for the success of our project is to identify the stakeholders as early as possible and then manage them throughout the project life cycle.

So, once we identified the stakeholders by applying the required process and techniques, those information are one of the important input to our Project Charter. Similarly, another important input to the project charter is the information we retrieved from the statement of work (SOW).

In our next article, we will discuss the usage, template and other important aspects of SOW.

Updated on 22-Jan-2020 07:50:09