Stakeholders can make or break a project – particularly in the early stages such as with software selection. Those that support the project can help enormously. But those that wish to block or stop it can easily bring a project to a standstill or kill it off altogether. So it is vital to get stakeholders on your side and manage them well. The stakeholder analysis form can help in this respect. However, as this is such an important topic, here are 20 tips for managing project stakeholders.
- On the stakeholder analysis form – list all individuals and organisations who are interested in (the success or otherwise), impacted by, who have influence or power over your software selection project.
- If in doubt, include them – it’s easier to exclude them later on if they are not key stakeholders, rather than the other way round.
- If you include an organisation as a stakeholder, you will also need to identify the correct individuals within the organisation.
- Work with your project team and collectively brainstorm to identify all stakeholders.
- Once you have a list, group your stakeholders (eg into departments) and identify one key person from each group (who is directly affected and senior enough) to be the link to communicate through to the rest of the group. This could reduce your workload, but only if you are sure that the key person does really represent the views of the other stakeholders they are representing.
Understand your stakeholders
- Initially, to get an idea of how people will react to your project, you could predict each stakeholder’s importance, interest and support. However, this is insufficient. You need to find out precisely each individual stakeholder’s interests, requirements, views and support, which you can really only do by talking to them.
- Create a list of questions to ask - to ensure consistency and to make sure you cover everything.
- Then learn as much as you can about your stakeholders. Talk directly to them. You need to know all about their requirements, their issues with the project, their views and how supportive they are towards the project.
- Meet with the most important / powerful stakeholders first – you are more likely to get their support and resources than leaving them to last.
- Communicate early and frequently, rather than leaving to the later on and infrequently.
- Take care not to raise unrealistic expectations about the project during meetings.
Stakeholder issues with and/or requirements from project
- Carefully document your findings. Amend the stakeholder analysis form accordingly for the levels of importance, interest and support for your project.
- List all stakeholder issues with the project. Note that an individual stakeholder may have many issues and or different levels of support, depending upon the issue eg positive support for the new report they’ve been requesting for the last year, but not for the impact on their departmental processes. Moreover, these may change over time or with a better understanding of the project.
- Similarly list all stakeholder requirements from the project. If the requirements are relevant to the project and within the project scope, treat accordingly and include within the requirements specification.
Requirements for the project
- Identify what your project needs from the stakeholders and who would be best able to provide it. Then, make sure you raise it in stakeholder meetings and that they understand the impact it will have on the project. Equally, the impact any non-delivery will have.
- The individual stakeholder issues, requirements, importance, interest and support for your project will drive your actions. Identify alternative options to resolve issues, meet requirements, win wavering support for your project.
- Determine the most likely option and test it out. If it works, carry on. If not, revise your approach.
- Use team members for specific actions and deliverables, to spread the workload.
- Essentially, managing stakeholders is about managing relationships. You need to take control and manage your stakeholders – admittedly not always easy to do, especially if they are much more senior or powerful than you. So consider using a relationship manager to help with project communications.
- Review regularly. Situations change and people move on to other priorities or jobs. So be flexible and be prepared to revisit issues, waning project support or changing stakeholders, as and when the situation arises.
For more system selection information visit: Selection steps / Stakeholder analysis form / Sample project plan / RACI Matrix / Project initiation checklist / How not to select software / Critical success factors / Software selection time saving tips / Project issue log / Requirements gathering techniques / Reasons to write a good requirements specification / System design review / Simple risk assessment form / Risk assessment worksheet / Software prototyping / Project reporting form / Project Status Report Template / Software selection warning signs