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No project exists in a bubble. Regardless of the size of your project, its success and implementation will involve individuals or organizations. The Project Management Institute describes stakeholders as “individuals and organizations who are actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected due to project execution or project completion.”
If you want to meet your project goals and objectives, you’ll need to know how to manage your relationships with your key stakeholders. Let’s talk about how you can understand your stakeholders and set yourself up for success.
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Types of Stakeholders
Primary and Secondary Stakeholders
A stakeholder’s level of investment in the results and outcomes of your project are going to depend on their interest in or level of importance to the project.
Primary stakeholders are the ones who receive the most impact from your project, positively or negatively. These can include your employees, customers, managers, suppliers, business partners, and more.
Secondary stakeholders are individuals and groups that you and your project don’t directly affect. They’re more difficult to identify compared to primary stakeholders. Project teams don’t always consider secondary stakeholders when planning, because they don’t normally affect project implementation and operations unless they actively involve themselves and become vocal about their positions. When that happens, their impact can be massive.
Examples of secondary stakeholders include governments, trade unions, advocacy groups, and others.
Direct and Indirect Stakeholders
An individual or organization can have the power to influence decisions that the project team will pursue. Direct stakeholders are involved in the team’s activities and can change the project’s direction. Your team, managers, product owners, and others are direct stakeholders.
Individuals or groups that care more about the outcome of your project — rather than its implementation — are indirect stakeholders. These include your customers and suppliers. They aren’t involved in your activities, but they have something at stake for how well (or poorly) you do.
Internal and External Stakeholders
Internal and external stakeholders are those within your organization and outside your organization, respectively.
Internal stakeholders include your board of directors, upper management, and other departments in your company that may influence your flow of resources (e.g., human resources, finance team, etc.).
Your local community, government, prospective clients, competitors, and suppliers, on the other hand, are your external stakeholders.
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How to Maintain Good Stakeholder Relationships
Identify and Understand Your Stakeholders
Technical requirements usually take priority when you’re preparing your project requirements. However, it’s essential to recognize that non-technical communication requirements can also affect your project massively.
Along the way, you’ll need to secure permits, approvals, finances, and others to implement your project. Failing to recognize the stakeholders behind these resources can cause bottlenecks, delays, or worse, project termination. Take the time to identify all the individuals and parties involved in your project as early as possible.
Align With Your Stakeholders
Your important stakeholders can affect your project’s success metrics. At the same time, each stakeholder may have their own definition of success.
After identifying key individuals and organizations, gather insight on what matters to them, their expectations, and how your project will affect them. Discuss concerns and reservations. Communicate the risks you’re facing and the rewards you’re anticipating. Level with them on what they can expect during production, and what support they can expect after production. Good communication will help you gain trust and lessen the possibility of misunderstandings, grudges, and avoidable obstacles.
Evaluate Stakeholders’ Influence and Importance
Prioritization is critical when it comes to all things project management. Stakeholder management is no exception.
Earlier, we discussed what influence and importance mean in relation to your stakeholders. The former is your stakeholder’s ability to affect your team’s day-to-day activities, and the latter is your stakeholder’s level of investment in your project’s results.
You can assign each stakeholder’s influence and importance with a “high,” “medium,” or “low” mark. These metrics can give you a good idea of who to prioritize, as well as help you evaluate change requests that will affect your project’s scope, time, and resources.
Build a Communication Plan
Internal and external stakeholders might prefer different ways of communicating. They can also have different expectations on their level of participation.
Make a plan on how you can accommodate their most important considerations. Identify how actively you need them to participate at every stage of your project, and make sure they’re aware and agreeable to this.
Align on the frequency, channel, and information they want to receive to ensure they are continually updated with your progress. Avoid overwhelming them with too much data. Simply focus on ensuring they have the info they want and need to avoid confusion and maintain clarity.
Once you have everything in place, share your communication plan with involved individuals and organizations. Documenting everyone’s responsibility for the project can aid in ensuring everyone holds up their end of the bargain.
Be in Touch With Your Stakeholders
Once you’ve ironed out a plan, it’s time to follow through with your commitments. Deliver reports and information on the dates you promised them, and include information gathering and report preparation in your task list and timeline.
Make your reports clear, concise, and relevant to each stakeholder you’re catering to. Acknowledge and address their concerns, and make sure they’re constantly updated and aligned regarding changes and important findings. Being true to your word will help you maintain and build trust with the people you work with. It’s also an excellent way to foster effective collaboration and keep things going smoothly despite hurdles.
Read more: Create Useful Project Status Reports: A Comprehensive Guide
Stakeholder Management Is Crucial
Stakeholder management is just as important as all the other aspects of project management. Aside from technical requirements, take time to recognize the non-technical communication requirements vital individuals and organizations may require.
Identify the stakeholders you’re answerable to as early as possible. And as you implement your project, ensure alignment and ample communication. Diligently managing your relationships will help you and your team achieve maximum project impact and success.
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