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Why Is Stakeholder Management So Important?
By Michelle Symonds

Even the smallest projects have stakeholders, and most methodologies, approaches and tactics will involve some sort of stakeholder management. Project management training teaches us that managing stakeholders effectively enables you and your entire team to understand exactly how the people involved in the project from the outside will be affected by it. This means you then have a much better ability to plan communication with those affected, meaning you avoid potential issues.

In general, the standard procedure involves gauging interest and involvement, then working to communicate with less enthusiastic stakeholders, engaging them in various styles of communication, letting them know how the project will benefit them.

There are also lots of other reasons you take part in stakeholder management, and here are a few of them;

  • Free help

    Some stakeholders are incredibly proactive, which means you get access to lots of help for absolutely nothing. You can delegate to your stakeholders and get them involved with different tasks, as long as you have ensured from the beginning that they are happy to be involved in this way. Stakeholders can be an extra part of the team, and if they are willing, you should also be willing to involve them in this way. Gage their skillset and interest levels in the project you are doing. If they happen to be experts in budget management, ask them to talk you through it. Perhaps they are social media guru’s, again, tap into this resource and ask them for their involvement. As long as you have clarified terms from the beginning, you can consider them to be an additional part of your team.

  • Find the risk, reduce the risk

    Excellent stakeholder management removes and reduces some issues and then creates other issues in itself. The more active communication you have with your stakeholders, the better your risk management strategy will be. You should also remember that every single person involved in your project has the potential to identify new risks others may not have spotted. The more engaged you are with them, the more likely you are to discover issues or activities occurring that could have an impact on your project.

  • They are more likely to think of a project as successful

    Regardless of how a project ends, stakeholders who have felt involved and who have received honest communications throughout the process, are much more likely to see a project as being successful than those have have been left out.

    If you want your project to be a success, you have to engage with your stakeholders continually throughout, particularly because it will have an effect on how they feel about the project result when you deliver your targets.

    Often a project won’t deliver all the targets expected, so managing stakeholder expectations is a way to prepare them for what they will realistically receive at the end.

  • Closing is easier

    When you come to the transition phase you will find effective stakeholder management has paid off, allowing a much easier handover. This is because you are handing the report over to someone who understands what you have been doing, which is much easier than handing a report to someone who has no idea what you have been doing.

    An engaged stakeholder is also much more likely to accept deliverables when they have been involved in the related discussions, adjustment and production of them throughout.

Of course you will always still need to stick to the usual process of engaging with a stakeholder, but it is always worth expanding on that relationship where possible so you make the most of them, and so that they get the most out of the project. You do need soft skill in project management so they are worth developing as they could improve your project management skills in general but also give your career a real boost.

Michelle Symonds is a qualified PRINCE2 Project Manager and believes that the right project management training can transform a good project manager into a great project manager and is essential for a successful outcome to any project.

There is a wide range of formal and informal training courses now available that include online learning and podcasts as well as more traditional classroom courses from organizations such as Parallel Project Training.

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