What is needed to obtain active support and avoid negative impact from those having a stake in the project. The essence of stakeholder management is to have an overview of stakeholders, know their positions and to communicate, engage and involve them in the project. Having stakeholders on your side or at least knowing what to deal with is a huge advantage. By not prioritizing stakeholder management you may on the other side not get possible support, experience negative impact and be exposed to unexpected interventions.

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Who are the stakeholders – There is a huge variation in the complexity of stakeholder landscapes and in the effort that shall be used to manage stakeholders.  Identifying stakeholders is a good way to start. The  list can be long and include internal stakeholders like: Various user groups, resource owners, QA functions, managers, subject matter experts and support functions (e.g., legal, procurement). The external list of stakeholders can include customers, vendors, unions, authorities and press. Stakeholders can both be single persons, functions and organizations. 

Assess stakes and impact – Understanding the stake of each stakeholder is a central task. What interest do the stakeholder have in the project and how can the stakeholder impact the project. In many cases it may be very obvious but pay attention to the task. Stakeholders can represent a source of support nobody  thought of but also represent unexpected challenges. Obviously focus must be directed towards those stakeholders with high impact, with special spotlight put on those with high impact and negative approach to the project

Allow stakeholders to contribute“We did not know about the big project you are conducting, so it is hard for us to support you”. This statement from an infrastructure vendor is a good learning point. The vendor was becoming a bottleneck in the project. Traditional channels for starting tasks were not meeting project requirements. Providing the vendor with info about the project allowed the vendor to appoint a SPOC who could coordinate and process requests. In many cases a project simply just needs to inform about its existence  and needs in order to get support. Communication does not need to be polished or sophisticated.

Listen and use the input – Stakeholder management is not just about communicating from the project to the stakeholders. There is often a lot of good input to be collected from stakeholders representing various perspectives around the project.  It may be worth allowing time to both collect and incorporate input from stakeholders. When stakeholders are sceptical or negative towards the project it is often with a reason. Understanding and addressing arguments may be a way to move stakeholders to become supportive. 

Define communication plan and activities  – There can be used a variety of tools and methods to manage stakeholders. Some main activities include general communication activities like articles, newsletters,  information meetings, 1:1 meetings, involvement in project activities, setting up sounding boards and reference groups. Timing is often highly relevant. Some stakeholders must be heavily involved throughout the project while others shall be involved at specific phases of the project.

Put it on the agenda and define roles  – With high delivery pressure) there can be a risk that stakeholder management is not being prioritized. To make sure it happens it can be a good idea to assign a change manager who ensures that the stakeholder analysis and communication plan is kept alive and activities are being executed as planned.  In addition to the change manager it can a good idea to divide stakeholder management on more shoulders including involving the project owner and other key persons in stakeholder management.

Make initial stakeholder assessment
Estimate effort for stakeholder management
Define roles for stakeholder management
Involve management in stakeholder management
Define stakeholders and create communication plan
Establish stakeholder overview
Create communication plan
There is no overview of stakeholders

Problem: The project does not know important stakeholders who can contribute to project execution and are not aware of stakeholders with concerns and ability to influence the project negatively.

Consequence: The project lacks an important input for execution and is exposed to the risk of bumping into stakeholder challenges. Both aspects can impact business value and time and budget.

Stakeholder management is not being prioritized

Problem: Important stakeholder management tasks are not carried out (identifying and working with stakeholders)

Consequence: The project may lack important input from stakeholders, required support for the project may be missed and stakeholders may not be prepared for change