Don’t Forget Your Project Stakeholders!

Recently I received a note from one of my project management colleagues who told me that he, and the project team, never completed a thorough stakeholder analysis at the beginning of the project. The result? There was confusion, anger, and an overall lack of trust on the part of the stakeholder community.

Keep in mind that this statement came from an experienced Project Manager. We all have those moments when we are juggling far too many tasks and something escapes from our purview. I wanted to share this experience because of the potential impact this could have on your project. As my colleague indicated there was confusion as to WHY the project existed. They needed help to understand the problem that was being addressed through this project. This also led to questions about WHAT was being delivered to the end-user community, WHEN it would be delivered, WHO would be impacted and HOW will they be impacted?

I think that these are all reasonable questions, don’t you? Especially from stakeholders that are not, normally, part of the project process.

Identifying stakeholders is just the first step of the process. You also need to understand what the impacts will be to those stakeholders. As a Project Team, it will also be your responsibility to create ways to help address those impacts so that the stakeholders will have a positive experience with the project. I strongly suggest that you don’t wait until the last moment to consider some of these questions, which is why I always recommend identifying stakeholders during the Initiation Phase of your project effort. The Kick-Off meeting agenda should always include a discussion topic for stakeholder identification. It’s beneficial to discuss this topic as a team because of the various experiences team members may have had with respect to stakeholders.

Compile all of the potential stakeholder names, as discussed, during the Kick-Off meeting and begin to record that information into a document that will help you track and manage stakeholder involvement throughout the project lifecycle.

As the Project Lead, you will validate the information compiled to confirm that these stakeholders will, in fact, be impacted by the project effort. A communication plan is also recommended to ensure that the stakeholders are kept apprised of the project progress, any issues, changes, timeline, training activities, and other informational elements that may help to familiarize them with the project and the deliverable.

An implementation plan for the project deliverable is always recommended and, if needed, a training plan would be advantageous as well. Depending on your project deliverable, you may need end-user documentation, Quick Reference Guides, training materials or videos, conferences or webinars, in-person meetings or lunch n’ learns. Whatever your chosen method for communicating to your stakeholders, keep in mind that consistency is important. I have witnessed companies that kick off their stakeholder communication plan with a lot of energy in the form of daily, or weekly, reporting. Unfortunately, that was not sustainable due to the amount of work that was taking place on the project internally. The stakeholders begin to experience some concern when their daily/weekly updates become monthly, then quarterly, then they become non-existent. Again, making sure that your communication plan is effective, consistent and sustainable is one of the most important elements of the stakeholder management process.

If you are looking for additional information on how to get started on the right foot with your stakeholder identification and management process, please check out the process I have provided on my website.

In the meantime, don’t forget your project stakeholders and as a reminder, always include a discussion topic in your Kick-Off meeting agenda for the stakeholder identification. This is a great way to get the process started so you won’t forget your stakeholders!

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Mary Beth Imbarrato
Mary Beth Imbarrato