Stakeholders have a major effect on projects, which is no big surprise seeing as projects also affect them, as we’ve looked at previously. However, not all stakeholders perform the same roles or want the same things. This is why stakeholder management is so crucial to ensuring that relationships are maintained and support for the project is kept strong.
How Stakeholder Management Can Lead to Success
Sign-off on Budgets and Changes
The most common flashpoints among project stakeholders surround issues of budget and scope changes. Tell them you’re going to migrate all your project management online and there’ll be tumbleweeds, but tell them you’re going to have to switch the plan slightly and frontload the project’s budget and suddenly everyone’s an op-ed writer.
Careful stakeholder management means building support among those with (financial) skin in the game. That way, when the big questions come around, you have enough (if not all) of them in your corner to win the debate.
Input and Expertise
Project stakeholders can be anywhere – local communities, federal government or even the dog pound where you’ve promised to take the team for CSR. Direct stakeholders, however, are those who have a greater interest in your day-to-day activities, such as the company’s executives, major suppliers or a project sponsor. It is from this group of internal and external stakeholders that you can gain one of the great benefits of stakeholder relationships, i.e., helpful input and levels of access to key contacts that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
Support for Delays and Issues
The majority of projects face issues at some time or another, and it can be a trying time for the project managers involved. The best option when having to account for delays and other project problems is to face the issue head-on. In this case, it helps if your stakeholder management has cultivated strong enough trust that your leadership is supported and you receive the approval to make the changes the project needs.
In terms of assessing and managing risk, stakeholders play a two-fold role. Firstly, when putting together the risk register of potential risks for the project, many stakeholders will be able to provide helpful experience of past similar projects. Secondly, project stakeholders should also be included as risks themselves, as their actions or decisions can have a direct bearing on your chances of success. Thus parts of stakeholder management also become risk management.
Defining Successful Outcomes
The parameters for a successful project are usually delineated at the beginning of a project. Project stakeholders will have input into project goals and objectives, but also will be part of the process of reassessing the project’s success or failure should there be any changes mid-project, or if it is brought to a premature end.
Direct stakeholders are ultimately the cohort that must be satisfied for a project to be truly successful. Stakeholder management then becomes one of the most important tasks that any project manager has to fulfill. But when direct stakeholders are fully engaged and informed, projects can soar.