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Identify Stakeholders on Your Project – Why Bother?


Stakeholder identification, a new PMBOK® Guide project management process, is most important for establishing an early foundation toward subsequent planning, executing and monitoring and control of your project communication information and achieving project success. This process should be done early in in the initiation phase of your project so that key outputs of a stakeholder register and stakeholder strategy will be used associatively in the associated project management process, also within the Project Communications Management, which is Manage Stakeholder Expectations.

First, let’s review some basic facts to understanding stakeholder management:

– Stakeholders are those parties who may be positively or negatively impacted by the completion of the project

– Stakeholders stand to gain or lose through the success or failure of the project

– Stakeholders may possess different authority levels which will affect how they exert their influence over the project and its deliverables

– Stakeholders are affected by the outcome of the project

It is imperative to identify all people and organizations impacted by the project and subsequently documenting relevant information regarding their interests, involvements and impacts on project success. PMBOK® suggests using two inputs early in the project for stakeholder identification:

– The first one available is the output from Develop Project Charter, the only other process within the initiation process group. It is the project charter. The project charter may list customers, sponsors, executives, the project team, or public entities that are external to the performing organization participating in the project. It is recommended to hold a separate meeting with those identified in the charter and ask them if they knew of others who should be listed with stakeholder responsibilities.

– If the project is the result of procurement activity or based on an established contract, use the procurement documents to identify all parties within the contract that may be key project stakeholders. Suppliers, participating in the contract, could also be considered for the identification of project stakeholders. Using a contract make the process a little easier as the various contract interfaces should be listed.

These project charter or procurement documents stakeholders’ indications may only yield a normal set of stakeholders. So, let’s further define other stakeholder possibilities and what you need to know about these stakeholders. PMBOK® suggests using a stakeholder analysis tool and technique for gathering information to determine whose interests should be considered throughout the project. Stakeholder analysis helps to place definitions to stakeholders and their roles. The stakeholder analysis power grid is a classification model tool that helps you identify and plot the impact or support of each stakeholder could generate and then is used to classify them to define information to the stakeholder management strategy which is one of the outputs of this process.

What do you need to know about stakeholders? You need to know various levels of data about your identified stakeholders so you can properly manage your relationship with them and set your communications planning. Here are key things to gather:

– Who is the stakeholder by name? Don’t identify any stakeholder as a class of people, such as functional manager or senior executive. Gather their name, contact information and organizational position.

– What is the nature of their stake in the project? Is it personal or professional? Identify what will they gain with success or lose with failure, by clearly stating how much and in what way. Capture their major requirement, main expectation and potential influence in the project or phase within the life cycle.

– What does the stakeholder expect from you? The best way to determine this is by having face-to-face meetings with the key stakeholders, such as clients or project sponsors. This can work out any differences between what they expect and what you believe they should reasonable expect.

– What to expect from the stakeholder? This is the flip side of the previous question. It is definitely needed to set expectations and realize that this is not telling the stakeholder what to do or how to act. If done correctly, you are providing the stakeholder with a description of the support you need.

– What are the stakeholder’s watchdog priorities? This means which of the major elements of success and control the stakeholder most wants to monitor: schedule, cost, performance and/or quality.

Next, perform stakeholder classification on internal and external groups, and their roles within a project.

Internal stakeholders – Most of the key stakeholders are internal people within your organization:

– Internal customers – Normally these are people for whom you’re doing the work and have a particular need that your project can address. Often, the internal customer pays for the project and therefore receives the business impact from the project deliverables.

– Project sponsor – Normally, this is not ordinarily a specific organizational position, rather it is a role played on project. The role of the project sponsor is typically a representative of upper management who has a high stake in the project outcome. This role can be invaluable for you when you face problems or issues that lie beyond your sphere of influence. The sponsor can facilitate decisions and assist with resource assignments. If a sponsor is formally identified on your project and it is large or complex, go and get one! Seek out a member of management who has a stake in the success or failure of the project. Describe to them their role and your expectations. After all, your organizational management should be quite willing to help you succeed!

– Core project team – Core team member roles often tie closely to the work to be done. In most cases, the core team is a relatively small group of people composed from the various departments of work needed to complete the project.

– Functional resource providers – Securing your resources can be dependent upon the functional, matrix or projectized type of organizational structure base of your project. In matrix organizations, you ‘borrow’ resources from other departments by your request to the appropriate functional manager.

– Project Manager’s Supervisor – Your boss is a stakeholder has a big stake in you and your project success. Keep your boss informed at all times and protect him or her from being blindsided.

– Various support groups – These groups exist within your organization such as legal, accounting, data processing and human resources. Their role to your project is more supportive than active depending on the specific needs of your project. Remember to consider if any of these groups should have a representative on your regular core team meetings. When Y2K projects were implemented, a legal representative should have been considered to attend core team member meetings.

External stakeholders – This stakeholder group has their project stake more focused inwardly, although they are not a part of your organization.

– External customers – External customers are typically characterized by contracts.

– User groups – Consider user groups if your project is developing or producing a product that will be marketed and sold to consumers. You can ask this external stakeholder about likes, dislikes, preferences and choices, of consumers that perhaps their marketing strategy have isolated for future or a similarly produced product.

– Suppliers – Your project may require materials that must be obtained from outside vendor companies. Utilize a preferred supplier list, if your company maintains one.

– Contractors and consultants – There is only difference from the supplier role and that is that you use contractor and consultant stakeholder resources for labor and services, instead of materials. Utilize performance-based criteria and a verifiable track record when selecting these stakeholders.

Once you have performed your stakeholder analysis and created a power/interest grid, you need to complete a stakeholder register that will contain all details related to the newly identified stakeholders. Remember, at a minimum, to provide name, contact information, organizational position, role in the project, their main expectation, main requirement, and potential influence in the project, or phase in the life cycle. Last, include the stakeholder classification as either internal or external.

The remaining output is the stakeholder management strategy which defines the approach that should help gather support and minimize negative impacts of the identified stakeholders. A common way of representing the data is within a stakeholder strategy analysis matrix so that elements such as listing key stakeholders who can significantly impact the project, the level of participation desired for each identified key stakeholder and potential strategy for gaining support or reducing obstacles. Since your stakeholder management strategy can contain some data that is subjective and could be considered sensitive, be sure that you use discretion when doing your communications or sharing the data on the documents with read access or included in a shared document.

The stakeholder register and the stakeholder management strategy will be key inputs to the Plan Communications and Manage Stakeholder Expectations project management processes.

One last tip! Beware of other less-human project interfaces that can’t be called stakeholders but can affect your project at least as much as any human interface. These include organizational policies, procedures, culture and politics! Good luck!

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