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Manage Your Stakeholders or They Will Manage You
By Woody Walker

I have a colleague who is always reminding everyone to identify and manage their stakeholders – he uses this technique in everything he does – whether running a project, an internal initiative or completing tactical tasks. In his mind “everyone is a stakeholder”. He is always thinking about how his actions will impact others. And you know what – he is right…everyone IS a stakeholder in some way, shape or form. So how do we identify the “key” stakeholders for our projects and ensure we are managing them appropriately?

Let’s start with defining “stakeholder”?

A stakeholder is any person or entity involved or affected by the outcome of the project. There are internal and external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders work for the organization and their decisions and actions may impact the project. External stakeholders are outside the organization and can be clients, shareholders, consumers, etc. that may be impacted by the project outcome.

Why is stakeholder management important?

Identifying and managing your stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of the project ensures that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal. Evaluating each stakeholder for influence and impact is of utmost importance if you want to ensure that your project is supported and understood across the organization. This is also a must if you are incorporating organizational change management (OCM) activities into your project because you are going to need to know where they stand to get their buy in and communicate changes in a positive effective manner (read my other blog on my thoughts about OCM). This is your responsibility as the Program or Project Manager.

Where can we start?

  • Identify anyone and everyone that would care about the outcome of your project in the stakeholder register.
  • Are they internal stakeholders (team members/executives) or external (customers/consumers)?

  • What is their role and what are their responsibilities/expectations regarding the project?

  • What is their attitude towards the project, organization and the sponsor?

  • What is their level of influence on the project, organization and the sponsor?

  • Complete a Stakeholder Map charting where your stakeholders fall (influence and impact) on the quadrant.

  • Manage your stakeholders according to the stakeholder map their level of influence and impact.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate as needed to the different stakeholder audiences.

In summary – managing your stakeholders will ensure your project and your organization are successful in the long run. Requirements are based on needs and expectations and if you uncover stakeholders after you complete the requirements phase – you may need to revise requirements, increasing costs and decreasing stakeholder satisfaction. Stakeholders can also communicate positively or negatively about your project so the more you keep them up to date with project status and how it impacts them, the more support you will receive.

Woody Walke is a Senior Director – Project Management Office at Ciber North America. Ciber helps clients solve problems and grow by driving tangible business results from their technology investments.

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