Or, shall we say, managing project Clients, Vendors and Resources! Oh My!

Managing the level of engagement from stakeholders on a project involves planning and continued maintenance and monitoring throughout the life of a project. It is managing the interactions between the right people to be involved in the right conversations and activities at the right time on a project. In my opinion, each project’s success is deeply rooted in how stakeholders are managed within it.

The first time I was exposed to the facets of Stakeholder Management was when I came across a stakeholder definition in the BABOK (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge), which stated that a stakeholder was essentially “a group or individual with a relationship to the change, the need, or the solution.”

When I first started as a project manager, the first thing I did was identify stakeholders and start creating an impact matrix. This can take several meetings, emails and chats with project participants to find out who has a stake in the project before, during and after solutions are implemented. The planning steps for stakeholder engagement include:

  • Identify each person or entity impacted by a project and their relevance to the change
  • Identify what the project manager or business analyst needs from them or vice versa
  • Find the best way to collaborate

I have found the easiest method to begin stakeholder engagement is with a project “kick-off” meeting.  Then, facilitate subsequent conference calls to determine roles and expertise, level of stakeholder involvement, their needs in the SDLC (System Development Life Cycle) or project development timeframe as well as during or after implementation. Once the matrix is complete, it must be consistently maintained and monitored throughout the project and utilized by all parties engaged in the project for reference as needed.

Maintenance requires time and effort; tracking items such as personnel and role changes can be quite frequent, and even though it can take time, it is extremely necessary for project communication and success. Also, it is my experience that it is best that one or two people be assigned to maintain the stakeholder list and distribution of it.

Stakeholder management involves enlisting support (for communication or activities) at the right time during a project. This could involve adding external users to test a solution prior to implementation or soliciting feedback afterward. The key is to work with your project manager, and client or vendor to determine the appropriateness of enlisting stakeholder support throughout.

Of course, managing stakeholder expectations, agreements and outcomes is paramount in everyday activities, so constant engagement such as verbal or written communication go a long way in creating project understanding and cohesion.

After successful implementation, it is always a good idea to wrap up stakeholder management by sending out a note of thanks to all stakeholders involved in the project and to engage them again in project lessons learned compilation.

Managing stakeholders involves planning, maintenance and continued follow-up and communication with the right stakeholders at the right time during a project; next time you manage a project – think about Clients, Vendors and Resources! Oh My!