Stakeholder Management

12/27/2013

This post is part of a series on IT consulting.

Introduction

A stakeholder is anyone that affects or is affected by your project. Stakeholder management is about identifying, analysing and managing their sensitivity to interests, motivations and concerns.

As in risk management, the five steps involved in stakeholder management are as shown below. The process is repeated and refined throughout the project.

Stakeholder Management Process

Each step is discussed in detail below. Briefly though, they consist of the following:

  • Stakeholder Identification allows the project team to identify people who affect, or are affected by the project so that the team becomes aware of their needs, wants, and positions. As the input to stakeholder analysis, stakeholder identification should be undertaken as early as possible and repeated frequently throughout the project.
  • Stakeholder Analysis transforms data about stakeholders identified in the previous step into a form that the team can use to make decisions around approaches to managing stakeholder commitment, expectations, perceptions and risks.
  • Stakeholder Planning takes the information obtained from the analysis and uses it to formulate strategies, plans, and actions. Planning incorporates these plans into the day-to-day project management process by committing resources to manage those stakeholders with the biggest positive or negative impact on the project.
  • Stakeholder Management is the process of executing stakeholder action plans and their associated status reporting, which is the input into the tracking step.
  • Stakeholder Tracking monitors specific stakeholders and the progress in their respective action plans. Monitoring enables visibility of the stakeholder management process within the project team from the perspective of risk levels as opposed to the task completion perspective of the standard project management process. Stakeholder tracking may also bring about project change when changes in action plans result in changes to project features, resources or schedule.

Some approaches add an explicit knowledge or learning step in addition to the track step. I’m assuming that stakeholder management is documented, and that its histories are available to subsequent projects. Techniques should also be assessed and refined during each project review.

Benefits

  • Stakeholder management helps ensure successful change.
  • Understanding the interests of stakeholders identifies possible conflicts, which can then be resolved.
  • It can help identify existing relationships which can be used to create coalitions and partnerships that help the project succeed.
  • The project team can formulate an appropriate development approach.
  • The project team can anticipate responses to design decisions.

Stakeholder Indentification

Your customer is obviously at the top of the list of people to satisfy, but there are many others. You need to know who the other stakeholders are - who can help your project succeed, and who can undermine it and help it fail? Finally there are other interested people - those who are concerned about your project or affected by its outcome, such as user's clients or heads of other divisions.

Stakeholder types

Understanding the situation (see also Transformations) provides a great opportunity for identifying stakeholders. The development process itself is a similarly good source for stakeholder identification:

Software development process

If we consider who is involved in the process shown above, we might conclude that software development project stakeholders include:

  • Customers who fund software development to satisfy an objective.
  • Analysts who elicit software requirements and communicate them to developers.
  • Developers who design, develop, deploy and maintain software.
  • Legal experts who ensure the software complies with laws and regulations.
  • Infrastructure people who build the environment that contains the software.
  • Managers who manage the project's schedule; its finances; resourcing; implementation; compliance; environment; and who communicate with stakeholders not directly involved in the project.
  • Users who interact with software, and those who might be affected by user's interaction with the software.
  • Help desk staff who will support people who use and operate the software.

Stakeholder Analysis

To benefit from identifying stakeholders, a deeper understanding is required. This means discovering and keeping track of stakeholders' goals, concerns, motivations and interests.

The most common approach to discovering the motivations and concerns a stakeholder has is through an interview - a formal or (preferably) an informal meeting. Where this isn't possible, you might try:

  • Observation
  • Research
  • Survey
  • Management reports
  • Company reports

Collected data can be recorded in a spreadhseet or report, like this:

Stakeholder Role Goals Concerns Motivations Interests Power/
Influence
Project
Interest
Project
Disposition
Jane Smith CEO Reduce help desk costs by 25% within 6 months. 50% of help desk calls are for password resets. Shareholder value Running an efficient company. Strong Medium Positive
Paul Jones CIO Reduce IT spend, provide better services. Reliance on third party systems integrators. Delivering business value Maintaining the status quo. Weak High Negative
James Cook CTO Move corporate compute services to the cloud. Cloud security. Keep IT relevant. Bleeding edge IT. Medium High Neutral
Susan Brown COO Running an efficient company. Layoffs. Employee satisfaction. Making the company a fun place to work. Strong Low Negative

Once you've got a list you can start thinking about which stakeholders are require attention, and which don't. After all, you have a limited amount of time and effort to spend on this. One way to do this is to create a matrix that maps stakeholders based on influence and interest:

  Influence
Weak Medium Strong
Interest High Paul James  
Medium     Jane
Low     Susan

Planning

It's time to work out an action plan. The first step is to focus on the right stakeholders. The matrix created in the previous step helps focus effort where it's needed. There's little point, for example, in devoting attention to Paul, because his ability to influence is minimal. James is 50/50 because his influence isn't the strongest, but his interest is high. Jane and Susan however, have a lot of influence, which can impact our project. It makes sense to start with these two.

Now that we know where to focus our efforts, we need to get down to what needs doing to ensure the success of the project. The "what" is easy enough to discern from the analysis conducted in the previous step. We could:

  • Address the stakeholders' concerns
  • Inform the stakeholder about the project
  • Engage the stakeholder in planning and decision-making
  • Inform the stakeholder of project progress
  • Manage stakeholder expectations

That list isn't exhaustive, but it's a start. We'll do Jane first, and then Susan.

Jane has a lot of influence, but only a casual interest in our project. Because of her powerful position in the organisation the project stands better chances of success with Jane fully behind it. This suggests doing something that increases her interest in the project. An action plan for Jane might be:

  • Keep Jane informed of project progress.
  • Educate her about the ground-breaking technology the project will make use of.
  • Demonstarte the cost savings that the project will produce.

Susan similarly has a lot of power, but isn't interested in the project at all. In fact, she expressed negative feelings about the project. Because her staff will be the users of the software being developed, it makes sense to get her support. We'd need to do a fair bit of work here - first, to change her negative perceptions about the project. Second, we want her to get behind the project by increasing her interest. An action plan for Susan might be:

  • Show Susan that reducing help desk staff does not imply a head-count reduction - help desk staff will be re-trained as customer care agents, because customer care is under-staffed.
  • Elicit Susan's opinions on what the project should deliver.
  • Keep Susan informed of project progress.

Management

Stakeholder management consists of initiating and assessing progress along the course of action developed in the previous step. Specific details of stakeholder management plans will vary from stakeholder to stakeholder, but a common assessment process is useful. It is important to continue to identify new stakeholders that may not have been included earlier.

Tracking

Tracking ensures that tasks assigned during the planning stage are completed in a timely fashion. During tracking the principal activity performed by the team is monitoring the stakeholder management metrics to ensure that the planned stakeholder management actions are working.


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