Of all the things a project manager needs to manage—timelines, budgets, change orders and so on—the most important of all may be stakeholders’ expectations. After all, completion of any project depends on stakeholders doing what they’re expected to do, and the final determination of whether a project is a success or failure is made by stakeholders as well.
According to the Project Management Institute, the leading authority in project management standards and PM certification, a project stakeholder is “…an individual, group, or organization who may affect, be affected by, or perceive itself to be affected by a decision, activity, or outcome of a project.” This includes any individual or team who works on or makes decisions regarding a project, such as senior executives, internal team members and outside contractors, just to name a few. Managing and engaging stakeholders is often complex and challenging, especially on large projects, but the guidelines below can help any project manager avoid misunderstandings and keep their projects on track.
Goals and Timelines
When managing project stakeholders, a PM should first ensure that all stakeholders fully understand the ultimate goals and deliverables of the project. This might appear to be a redundant or unnecessary step in the process, but many project managers discover too late that some stakeholders, especially those who have not been included in initial meetings or communications, have an incomplete or mistaken understanding of what the project is intended to accomplish.
For the same reason, project managers should always be sure to clearly communicate the due dates for tasks and final deliverables, so that stakeholders can plan their work accordingly from the very beginning.
Most enterprise projects involve hundreds of meetings, beginning with an initial kickoff meeting and ending, months or years later, with a wrap-up or lessons-learned review. In between the two, stakeholders in every project need to be informed about which meetings they are required to attend, and which they can safely skip. Every communication about a meeting should include the time, location (virtual or physical) and a brief description of the meeting’s purpose and objectives.
Tasks and Responsibilities
In large organizations, employees often work on multiple projects at the same time, forcing them to juggle an ever-changing collection of tasks and deliverables. Team members in this sort of environment need clear descriptions of their assignments in order to stay on track. A powerful project management solution like Clarizen can make it easier for project managers to assign tasks and communicate changes to widely dispersed team members and other stakeholders.
Technology and Resources
In recent years, project managers have placed increased focus on the technological tools they use to manage project information and communicate with stakeholders. It’s important to remember that not all stakeholders will be familiar with modern project management software, so PMs should take time at the beginning of each project to tell stakeholders about the tools they will be using. Fortunately, cloud-based PM software like Clarizen is easy to access and easy to use, so stakeholders can usually begin to take advantage of its capabilities with a minimum amount of training.
If you’d like to keep your stakeholders engaged and informed throughout even the most complex projects, Clarizen’s cloud-based solutions for project managers can help.